'Fanatical terrorist' found guilty of frenzied knife murder of Tory MP Sir David Amess

11 April 2022, 12:52 | Updated: 11 April 2022, 14:38

'Lone wolf' terrorist Ali Harbi Ali has been found guilty of murdering Sir David Amess
'Lone wolf' terrorist Ali Harbi Ali has been found guilty of murdering Sir David Amess. Picture: Alamy/Met Police

By Asher McShane

A terrorist has been found guilty of murdering MP Sir David Amess in a frenzied knife attack at a constituency surgery last October.

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Ali Harbi Ali, 26, who lived in Kentish Town in north London was described as a 'lone wolf attacker' as he was found guilty at the Old Bailey of murder and a charge of preparing acts of terrorism.

Jurors deliberated for just 18 minutes before returning a guilty verdict. He will be sentenced on Wednesday.

Sir David's family sat in the well of Court Two of the Old Bailey, just metres from Ali in the dock.

In the aftermath of the events that day PC Curtis and PC James were awarded the Essex Police Merit Star by Chief Constable BJ Harrington in a private ceremony.

The accolade is the highest that can be bestowed by the Chief Constable and is given for extraordinary acts of bravery.

Pc James said: "No one knew if there were any other members of the public inside with the attacker. At this point we knew there was no option other than for Ryan and I to go inside without Taser or firearms support.

"We couldn't stand outside if there was a chance other people were getting attacked and we also wanted to get paramedics inside the building as soon as possible to save Sir David.

"Our biggest fear that day was that there were other defenceless people inside with Sir David waiting for the police to come through the door - so any fears we had were put to one side."

Ali told the Old Bailey trial he had no regrets about the murder, defending his actions by saying Sir David deserved to die as a result of voting in Parliament for air strikes on Syria in 2014 and 2015.

He sent a manifesto on WhatsApp to family and friends seeking to justify his actions around the time of the attack, telling Sir David he was "sorry" before plunging the knife into him, causing the politician to scream.

Read more: Dramatic bodycam footage shows moment police swoop on Sir David Amess murder suspect

Sir David died at the scene despite desperate efforts by paramedics to save his life.

Knife-wielding Ali was later apprehended by two police officers armed only with batons and spray.

Essex Police Chief Superintendent Simon Anslow praised his officers' "astounding bravery" in tackling Ali.

He said: "They've basically gone in armed with a stick - something that appears smaller than a deodorant can - to deal with a man that has just committed an absolutely heinous act, still armed with that knife.

"I think it's an astounding act of bravery."

Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill QC said the murder was "the most appalling tragedy", particularly for the Amess family, and an "attack on democracy".

He said: "I'm obviously pleased that at the end of what must have been a very difficult trial for Sir David Amess's family, justice has been served and this individual will now pay the price for his crimes."

Read More: Man accused of murdering Sir David Amess 'scoped out Michael Gove's home to plan attack'

The court heard how London-born Ali had become self-radicalised in 2014, going on to drop out of university, abandoning ambitions for a career in medicine.

The defendant, who came from an influential Somali family and said he had a childhood "full of love and care", considered travelling to Syria to fight but by 2019 opted for an attack in Britain.

Ali bought a £20 knife from Argos six years ago which he carried in his bag throughout the summer of 2021 as he "scoped out" possible targets, jurors heard.

He carried out reconnaissance on the Houses of Parliament but found police there "armed to the teeth".

Ali carried out online research on MPs including Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.

He staked out the west London home of Levelling Up Secretary Mr Gove six times and wrote detailed notes on how he might get to him.

Read More: Chilling CCTV footage shows terror suspect's 'journey to murder Sir David Amess'

Scenarios included mingling with media, bumping into him jogging, ringing his doorbell, and causing a scene to "lure" him out.

Ali rejected the plan after Mr Gove split up with his wife and was thought to have moved out of the family home.

He was later to tell police: "It was... so convenient to go to that address but I just, I don't know why I didn't do that one."

Ali, from Kentish Town, north London, was also spotted lurking outside Finchley MP Mike Freer's constituency office, jurors were told.

By September last year, Ali had settled on Sir David as an easy target after seeing his upcoming surgery in Leigh-on-Sea on Twitter.

He made an appointment through the MP's office, falsely claiming he was moving to the area and was interested in churches.

On the morning of October 15 last year, he was caught on chilling CCTV as he made his way by foot and train to Essex.

Within minutes of meeting Sir David, Ali pulled out a 12in carving knife and stabbed him more than 20 times.

He waved the bloody knife and threatened to kill the MP's two female aides and a couple who had arrived for their appointment.

Sir David's assistant Julie Cushion told jurors he appeared "self-satisfied" in the wake of the brutal killing.

In police interview, he spoke calmly about his terror plot and admitted allegiance to so-called Islamic State.

He told officers Sir David immediately suspected a "sting", having been duped into talking about a fake drug "cake" in the television series Brass Eye.

Read more: Sir David Amess died of 'multiple stab wounds' inquest hears

He went on: "I felt like one minute I was sat down at the table talking to him and the next he was, sort of, dead.

"But, yeah, it's probably one of the strangest days... of my life now, y'know?"

Jurors were told Ali had no mental health issues and he accepted much of the evidence against him.

Sir David was killed five years after Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox was murdered in her constituency.

His death led to renewed concern around the safety of MPs.

Brendan Cox, the widower of murdered MP Jo Cox, said Ali's crimes had only achieved a much wider awareness of the "decency" of Sir David and the causes he championed.

In a statement on Twitter, he said: "The terrorist who killed Sir David Amess has been found guilty of his murder. There was no other possible verdict. Like the killing of Jo, all it has achieved politically has been to allow millions of people to learn about David's decency and the causes he cared about.

"The terrorist will rot in jail and die in ignominy. David's name will be remembered, especially by the people of Southend who he served.

"Terrorists may cite different ideologies. But what unites them is their desire for infamy, their cowardly attacks on the unarmed and the total failure to advance their cause. All of my thoughts & love are with David's family today."