London: A London jury on Monday unanimously found Daesh (Islamic State) follower Ali Harbi Ali guilty of murdering UK lawmaker David Amess in a ferocious knife attack in October last year.
“It cannot have been easy to listen to the evidence you have listened to,” judge Nigel Sweeney told jurors, saying he would sentence Ali, 26, on Wednesday.
Ali had told the trial that he had no regrets about murdering father-of-five Amess after he voted in parliament for air strikes in Syria in 2014.
The court at London’s Old Bailey heard that Ali stabbed Amess more than 20 times with a foot-long carving knife in Leigh-on-Sea, southeast England.
Members of Amess’s family were in court as the verdict was read out, during which Ali refused to stand on religious grounds.
Ali, from north London, arranged an appointment with Amess, 69, by telling the politician’s office that he was a healthcare worker and wished to talk about local issues.
Knife-wielding Ali was apprehended at the scene of the murder in a church by two police officers armed only with batons and spray.
He had sent a manifesto to family and friends to try to justify his actions around the time of the attack.
The court heard that Ali said “sorry” to Amess before killing him, after which his assistant Julie Cushion said he appeared “self-satisfied”.
During police interviews, Ali had told police that Amess suspected a “sting”, having been duped in the 1990s into talking about a made-up drug “cake” during a satirical television series.
Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill said the murder was “the most appalling tragedy” for the family and an “attack on democracy”.
The court heard how Ali had become self-radicalised in 2014, going on to drop out of university, abandoning ambitions for a career in medicine.
Ali, who came from a Somali family and said he had a childhood “full of love and care”, considered travelling to Syria to fight but opted instead for an attack in Britain.
He bought a knife 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 parliament but found police there “armed to the teeth”, the court heard.
Ali carried out online research on MPs including Labour leader Keir Starmer, deputy prime minister Dominic Raab and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.
He staked out the west London home of MP Michael Gove but rejected plans to murder him after Gove split up with his wife and moved out of the family home.
Amess was a long-serving member of parliament for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ruling Conservative party.
His killing, the second of a British MP in five years, shocked the country and led to calls for better security for elected representatives.
In 2016, a right-wing extremist who shouted “Britain first” shot and stabbed Labour lawmaker Jo Cox to death in the febrile run-up to the Brexit referendum.
‘Desire for infamy’
Cox’s widower, Brendan, said after Ali’s verdict that all the murder had achieved politically was “to allow millions of people to learn about David’s decency and the causes he cared about.”
“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,” Brendan Cox tweeted.
A post-mortem examination showed Amess suffered 21 stab wounds to his face, arms, legs and torso, as well as injuries to both hands that were consistent with defending himself, the court heard.
Amess was first elected to parliament in 1983, initially representing Basildon in Essex, then nearby Southend West.
Hundreds of locals turned out in the seaside town to pay their respects after his death.
Pope Francis praised the Catholic lawmaker’s “devoted public service” in a special message read out at his funeral.