‘Islamist terrorist’ accused of MP’s murder also targeted Gove, trial told

A “fanatical” and “radicalised Islamist terrorist” murdered Tory MP Sir David Amess after plotting other potential attacks, including scoping out the home of cabinet minister Michael Gove, a London court was told on Monday.

Ali Harbi Ali, 26, of Kentish Town, London, is on trial at the Old Bailey accused of the murder last year of Sir David Amess, then Tory MP for Southend West. He also faces an allegation of preparing acts of terrorism between May 2019 and September 2021. He denies the charges.

Tom Little QC, prosecutor, told the jury that the “cold and calculated murder” of Amess during a constituency surgery held in a church at Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, was carried out because of Ali’s “warped and twisted and violent ideology” and was “nothing less than an assassination for terrorist purposes”.

The defendant had researched and planned potential attacks on MPs and the Houses of Parliament since at least May 2019 and had made reconnaissance trips to a constituency surgery of Mike Freer, Conservative MP for Finchley and Golders Green, and to the home of Michael Gove, the levelling-up, housing and communities secretary, the trial heard.

Ali, who told police in an interview that he had acted alone, had scoped out the London home of Gove in 2021. Notes on his mobile phone showed that he had considered ways to attack Gove, including bumping into him whilst jogging, the trial heard.

Little told the jury that the defendant “had for a number of years been determined to carry out an act of domestic terrorism”.

Ali “tricked his way” into Amess’ constituency surgery in October 2021 by pretending to be a new constituent who was moving to Southend and who wanted to discuss healthcare and local churches, the trial heard.

Amess, 69, was first elected as an MP in 1983 and became MP for Southend West after 1995, the trial was told. The court heard that since the terrorist murder of Jo Cox in West Yorkshire in 2016, some changes had been made to security arrangements to MPs seeing their constituents.

Amess had a “very strong desire” to get out in the community and held many surgeries in churches after the coronavirus pandemic had made it difficult for his constituents to see him, the trial heard.

Ali, who travelled from London with a knife he had bought five years earlier, arrived at the church shortly before midday on October 15 2021 and was escorted to see Amess where he sat on a chair opposite the MP and asked him about the Iraq war, the trial heard.

The defendant’s phone made a sound and Ali said “sorry”, pulled out a knife and stabbed the MP. A postmortem later found that the MP had suffered 21 stab wounds, the jury was told.

Two other constituents arriving to see the MP heard Ali say he wanted “every parliament minister” who signed up for the bombing of Syria and agreed to the Iraq war “to die”. The defendant was then heard on his mobile phone saying: “I’ve done it because of Syria.”

Little told the jury that the defendant appears to have assumed he would have been shot at the scene and become “a martyr for the terrorist cause” but the first police officers on the scene were unarmed, the court heard.

The trial, which is due to last three weeks, continues.

Source: Financial Times