Saturday, June 18, 2016

Suspect Charged in Connection With Jo Cox Assassination
Jim Pickard, Tom Burgis and Leila Haddou
Financial Times
London and Andrew Bounds in Leeds

Police have charged a man with a suspected history of ties to far right groups and mental illness with the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox.

Thomas Mair, 52, was charged with murder, grievous bodily harm, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence and possession of an offensive weapon, West Yorkshire police said.

He is due to appear at Westminster magistrates’ court on Saturday. Mr Mair was arrested after the mother of two was fatally shot and stabbed outside her constituency surgery on Thursday.

On Friday afternoon British prime minister David Cameron and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn appeared together in a rare display of cross-party solidarity as they called for the nation to unite in the wake of the murder of Cox.

Laying wreaths in Birstall, West Yorkshire, where the 41-year-old was shot and stabbed on Thursday, the two politicians expressed their sorrow at the death of one of parliament’s brightest young stars.

Mr Corbyn announced there would be a recall of parliament on Monday for MPs to pay tribute to the former aid worker, raising questions of when campaigning for the UK’s referendum on EU membership would restart. The vote is due to take place on Thursday.

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The Labour leader said that Cox, a former policy chief of relief charity Oxfam, had been killed in an “act of hatred” that amounted to an “attack on democracy”.

“We all need to come together, to understand that everyone must have protection and security in order to function in a democratic society,” Mr Corbyn said. “It is a tragedy beyond tragedy what happened.”

Mr Cameron said that people should recognise that politics was about public service; despite their disagreements, MPs wanted to act in the national interest and make the world a better place.

“The most profound thing to have happened is that two children have lost their mother, a husband has lost his wife and parliament has lost one of its most brilliant campaigners,” the prime minister said.

Mr Cameron called for “tolerance” in a nation of 65m people who enjoyed peace, stability and economic wellbeing.

“Where we see hatred, where we see division, where we see intolerance we must drive it out of our public life and politics,” he said.

Cox died on Thursday after being shot and stabbed while meeting constituents in the northern English town of Birstall near Leeds. Witnesses said her assailant shouted “Britain first” as he attacked her in the street outside a library.

Police arrested a 52-year-old man soon after, named as Mr Mair, and later searched his home. They said allegations that Mr Mair was linked to rightwing extremism were “a priority line of inquiry which will help us establish the motive for the attack on Jo”.

Temporary chief constable of West Yorkshire police Dee Collins said in a statement that the suspect’s link to mental health services was another “clear line of inquiry”. She said the attack appeared to be “an isolated but targeted attack upon Jo” with no one else involved.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a US civil rights group, on Friday published invoices dated 1999 and addressed to Mr Mair for publications about homemade weapons from the National Alliance, a US neo-Nazi group.

Mr Mair subscribed in the 1980s to a pro-apartheid magazine called SA Patriot, said Alan Harvey, who now edits the publication from the UK, “in exile” from South Africa.

Labour politician who was born and killed in the Yorkshire town she represented
The newsletter also said that the people of London had “brought shame and humiliation” on themselves and Britain by “electing a non-white Muslim”, Sadiq Khan, as mayor.

In a statement sent to the FT on Friday, Mr Harvey said his group had lost contact with Mr Mair when his brief subscription to SA Patriot lapsed in the mid-80s, and had not been in touch with him since. He offered “sincere condolences” to Cox’s family.

Mr Mair also appears to have suffered mental health problems. The Huddersfield Daily Examiner in 2010 reported that he was one of the volunteers working at a country park outside Birstall. Mr Mair had been referred to the park by a nearby day centre for adults with mental health problems, the newspaper said.

The report does not give any further details of Mr Mair’s mental state and both the park and the day centre declined to comment.

Duane St Louis, Mr Mair’s half brother, told reporters he had mental problems, which he believed to be obsessive compulsive disorder.

Scott Mair, his brother, said Mr Mair was a peaceful man without strong political views.

“We are struggling to believe what has happened”, he was quoted by media as saying. “My brother is not a violent man. We don’t even know who he votes for.”

The killing of Cox brought an abrupt halt to the increasingly heated campaign for next week’s referendum on UK membership of the EU.

A vigil was held in London’s Parliament Square on Friday evening.

Gordon Brown, the former Labour prime minister who had worked closely with Cox, said her death was a “devastating blow for democracy”.

Sir John Major, former Conservative prime minister, said: “I think what people will be concerned about is, is this the act of a single deranged man or is this emblematic of an angry feeling that has grown up not just in our country but all over Europe. I hope and believe it’s the former.”

Cox was elected to parliament as a Labour MP for the Batley and Spen constituency last year. A senior Tory aide confirmed that the party would not contest the upcoming by-election for her seat as a mark of respect for the murdered MP.

Cox was a vocal advocate for the victims of the civil war in Syria. She founded the all-party parliamentary group on Syria, and late last year she strongly argued for British military involvement in the conflict to protect civilians.

However, she ultimately abstained from a House of Commons vote on whether to involve British troops in air strikes.

Her husband Brendan and two small children took part in a pro-EU flotilla on the river Thames the day before the shooting. Mr Cox called on everyone “to fight against the hatred that killed her”.

Additional reporting by Kate Allen

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