The neo-Nazi terrorist Thomas Mair has been found guilty of the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox. The jury also found the 53-year-old guilty of possession of a firearm with intent to commit and indictable offence. And for the possession of an offensive weapon. Both weapons were used to shoot and stab Mrs Cox outside Birstall Library on June 16.
Due to the severity of the offence, Mr Justice Wilkie imposed a whole life term on Mair. Only the Secretary of State has the power to release him. Mr Justice Wilkie added that the murder was an attempt to advance the cause of violent white supremacism.
Sue Hemming, Head of Special Crime and Counter Terrorism at the Crown Prosecution Service said: “Mair has offered no explanation for his actions but the prosecution was able to demonstrate that, motivated by hate, his pre-meditated crimes were nothing less than acts of terrorism designed to advance his twisted ideology.”
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: “The shocking and senseless murder of Jo was an attack on all of us and the
values we share of democracy and tolerance.
“As Home Secretary I am determined that we challenge extremism in all its forms including the evil of far-right extremism and the terrible damage it can cause to individuals, families and communities.”
A statement from Mrs Cox’s husband said that her killing was a “political act and an act of terrorism”.
The jury found him guilty of causing grievous bodily harm to pensioner Bernard Carter-Kenny. Mair had stabbed Mr Carter-Kenny when attempted to stop the attack. A victim statement on behalf of Mr Carter-Kenny was read out by Mr Whittam QC. It read: “What you did to me that Thursday afternoon not only threatened my life but changed me as a person and those around me”.
During the trial, jurors saw glimpses of Mair’s home in Lowood Lane, Birstall, in West Yorkshire. Police had searched the semi-detached property, where Mair lived alone.
Statements read to the jury from officers revealed that Mair kept a golden eagle bearing a swastika atop a bookshelf in the upstairs bedroom. The books on display show an obsessive interest in Nazi Germany, German military history and white supremacism. Mair had several books on collecting Third Reich antiques and militaria. Various books detailed the helmets and uniforms of Nazi officers. Several books on Reinhard Heydrich – the notorious Nazi police chief and leading architect of the Final Solution – appeared on his bookshelf.
Other titles included “Fascism in Britain”. Next to a copy of Deborah E. Lipstadt’s “Denying the Holocaust” was “Nuremberg: The Last Battle” by the Holocaust-denying historian David Irving. In 2000, Irving lost his libel case against Lipstadt whom he had sued when she called him a Holocaust denier. Her book “History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier” was later adapted into a 2016 feature film titled ‘Denial’.
Stuffed inside a draw was a copy of the book “Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture” and a Nazi Waffen SS book on race theory and mate selection guidelines. Other contents of the draw included a copy of the far-right magazine ‘The Scorpion’. Resting above was a newsletter for S.A. Patriot-in-Exile. The text references the 2012 London Olympics. The Springbok Cyber Newsletter blog stated that no.37 of the magazine was printed in December 2012.
A printout of a Wikipedia entry on the White Patriot Party was found in his drawers along with information on a South African neo-Nazi organisation named Die Blanke Bevrydingsbeweging (BBB) – the White Liberation Movement.
He owned various Nazi badges, a “Deutschland” cap, and a bag of Nordic runes.
Various copies of the white supremacist National Vanguard magazine were also found. The most visible edition is dated May 2009. In June, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) had published receipts of Mair’s order. A member of National Alliance corroborated this claim on the neo-Nazi hate forum Stormfront. A press release from National Alliance organisation stated they had ‘no relationship’ with Mair. Nor did they ‘remember’ his name after the SPLC had published the book receipts.
Nor should we discount Mair’s proclivities towards conspiracy theories. He owned copies of “Conspiracy Culture: From Kennedy to the X Files” and “Who Shot JFK?” Perhaps the most asinine example of his conspiracy literature was his copy of the antisemitic text “Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion”. Other books owned by Mair included “March of the Titans: A History of the White Race“. A book some have described as ‘pseudo-history’.
Police found newspaper clippings of Anders Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who killed 77 people in 2011. The clippings are from the Daily Mail articles published following his conviction in 2011. In the absence of Mair’s testimony, we are left with guesswork. But of all the news coverage concerning Breivik, why did Mair keep these 2011 articles? Why keep an article headlined “Mummy’s boy who lurched to the Right”? Perhaps in a twisted way, Mair shared an affinity with Breivik. Not only for their shared Nazi sympathies. Or even his murderous terrorism. Perhaps there was something deeper. What if Mair saw something of himself within Breivik? Friends of Breivik had described him as a ‘loner figure’ who did not leave home until he was thirty. Another ‘loner’ inspired by Breivik was the Munich shooter and Hitler-admirer Ali Somboly.
Breivik was an obsessive internet user. It’s where he purchased bomb ingredients, weapons and armour from eBay. Social Media platforms were the means to spread propaganda. His manifesto relied heavily upon online sources. Breivik was a noted user of far-right internet forums like Stormfront. Nor was he the only far-right terrorist to play violent video games. Breivik played Call of Duty to practise his aim and play out tactical scenarios. A failed author, Breivik had attempted and failed to work his way into the growing ‘counterjihad’ movement. Evidence of his anti-Muslim and far-right views date back to forum posts in 2002. If Breivik had radicalised online, Mair’s own extremism was pre-internet. He was an early subscriber to the pro-apartheid magazine “South African Patriot in Exile”. The magazine published two pieces of correspondence from Mair – first in 1991 and then in 1999. Alan Harvey, who edits S.A. Patriot-in-Exile, insists that his last formal contact with Mair was in 1997. But a blog post in 2006 asked subscribers of the magazine to update them with details of Mair’s current address.
Anders Breivik and Thomas Mair share Nazi sympathies and worldviews. Yet their targets were not minorities, but the politicians they perceived as ‘traitors’. Breivik’s real target was the former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. She had, however, left the island of Utøya before his arrival. Breivik’s plan was to behead her with a bayonet attached to his rifle and then filming the execution on an iPhone. This would then be broadcast online. Nor did he take issue killing children. Breivik said: “I believe that all political activists who choose to fight for multiculturalism … and have leadership positions are legitimate targets.”
In his first court appearance, Thomas Mair gave his name with the fascist bravado of “death to traitors, freedom for Britain”.
Jurors were later told how Mair had kept a ring-binder with clippings about Jo Cox. Its contents included her visit to a children’s hospice and a pro-Remain article she had written during the referendum campaign. He also retained a printed copy of her biography from her website. Mair had printed off an op-ed Cox had written about the Syrian Civil War.
In the days before Cox’s killing, Mair visited public libraries in Birstall and in Batley. He looked up the Wikipedia page for the antisemitic and white supremacist publication the Occidental Observer. Two days earlier, at the same library, he viewed Cox’s Twitter profile. Mair also researched the Wikipedia page of Conservative MP Ian Gow – who was assassinated by the IRA in 1990. His search extended to a fellow Remain campaigner in the region – the Conservative MP William Hague.
His online searches also concerned .22 ammunition. He found an online page which answered the question: “Is a .22 round deadly enough to kill with one shot to a human’s head?”
On June 14, he looked up Nazis, the death penalty in Japan and serial killers. On June 7, the prosecution outlined how Mair had watched a 41-second YouTube of an American man loading and firing a sawn-off .22 calibre gun.
Months earlier, Mair had used the library computers to visit neo-Nazi sites like the Daily Stormer. Another curious online search was for Dylann Roof. Roof is the white supremacist accused of murdering nine black Americans in a South Carolina church in 2015.
The prosecution outlined how the killing of Jo Cox was a premeditated murder for a political and/or ideological cause. When police first apprehended him, Mair said: “I am a political activist”.
During the trial we would learn how Thomas Mair would wait patiently for the MP as she emerged from her constituency meeting on that fateful day. The prosecution described Mair as ‘hovering’ outside the library. She was with her constituency manager, Fazila Aswat, and case-worker Sandra Major.
Her final moments were captured on CCTV. The prosecution described a “dynamic, fast-moving and shocking” attack. Mair shot Cox twice in the head and once in the chest. She suffered 15 stab wounds to her heart, lungs, abdomen and right arm. She had defensive wounds to her hands in the hope of saving her own life.
In a final act of selflessness which typified her political career, Cox did her best to protect her staff. Major told the court how Cox had shouted ‘get away, get away you two. Let him hurt me. Don’t let them hurt you’ when Mair motioned towards her staff with a knife. Per her testimony, Mair then returned to Cox after hearing her shouts, opened fire once again and stabbed her several more times.
Ms Major told jurors that Mair had shouted ‘keep Britain independent’ or ‘British independence’. Ms Aswat, stated that Mair had said ‘Britain first, this is for Britain, Britain will always be first’.”
Thomas Mair opted not to give evidence during the trial. The judge informed the jury that they may draw conclusions from his decision not to give evidence.
In closing, Simon Russell Flint QC, defending Thomas Mair, said: “She was brutally and callously murdered and there is no issue or dispute about that.” He added: “You and you alone will determine whether Thomas Mair can return to his quiet and solitary existence or will be forever remembered as the man who assassinated Jo Cox.” In contrast, Richard Whittam QC for the prosecution, argued: “The sheer barbarity of her murder and the utter cowardice of her murder bring the two extremities of humanity face to face”.
Mair was charged with Cox’s murder, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an offence, possession of a dagger. A separate charge of grievous bodily harm was added following his assault on the passerby Bernard Carter-Kenny. The blood stains around a cut on a gilet worn by Mr Kenny contained his own blood and that of Ms Cox.
The decision to ‘depoliticise’ Mair’s actions in the pro-Leave newspapers is not without controversy. Take, for example, the front pages of the Daily Mail on June 17 and June 18. Both emphasised Mair’s alleged mental health issues. His extreme political views were passed off as “unconfirmed evidence”. The Sun’s initial coverage took a similar approach. Mair was simply “a mentally ill loner”. The Daily Star, a newspaper which favoured the Leave vote, in contrast, described Mair as a “Brexit nut”. In the Telegraph on June 17, Juliet Samuel’s article sat under the headline: “It’s time to call the killing of Jo Cox what it is: ‘an act of far-Right terrorism'”. The article, however, maintained the unhelpful line concerning Mair’s apparent mental health issues.
The Saturday editions of the Guardian and Evening Standard on June 18 highlighted Mair’s neo-Nazi views on their front pages. The front pages for the Mail on Sunday, Daily Star Sunday, and Sunday Express on June 19 emphasised Mair’s ‘death to traitors’ line. A day later, the Evening Standard front page again returned to the subject of Mair’s extreme political views.
It was during this time that members of the Mair family had expressed their sadness and disbelief. Mair, who was described as ‘quiet, polite, reserved’ had lived alone since the death of his grandmother in 1996. Despite living in the same house for 40 years, his neighbours knew little about him. Local newspapers had interviewed him about the benefits of volunteering when faced with long-term unemployment. Nor did he have any previous criminal record.
It seemed that Mair hid his extreme views from most, even from familial bonds. The news of his Nazi sympathies and beliefs gave the Leave campaign room to distinguish and disassociate itself from Mair. Campaigning had been suspended for three days following the killing of Cox. Yet it returned with gusto. Boris Johnson MP made clear that: “The other reason for taking back control is that I don’t like extremism. I don’t like the far-Right parties that you see coming up across Europe”. To take back “control” for Johnson, was, in part, a counter-extremist move as “You can only spike the guns of the extremists and the people who are genuinely anti-immigrant if you take back control.”
Parts of the Left did attempt to provide a ‘gotcha’ moment to the media. But it would fall flat. Nor did it stop a litany of social media posts and blogs from presenting ‘evidence’ of Mair’s overt fascist beliefs. A ‘smoking gun’ had been found, they claimed. Mair was no ‘timid gardener,’ but a neo-Nazi hidden in plain sight. One photo attributed to Mair had depicted a man performing a Nazi salute. His arms covered in far-right tattoos, wearing a Blood & Honour shirt. Yet, the person in question was not Thomas Mair. Photos of Mair’s arrest revealed a man with no tattoos on either arm. Nor did the man share the same mole on his left cheek. Despite such facts, Facebook posts and tweets with this false informed gained thousands of shares.
A second photo claimed to prove Mair ‘links’ to the far-right Britain First party and street defence movement. This evidence was based on a single photo from their activities in Dewsbury in 2015. One source claimed that the black baseball cap was the same worn by Mair on the day of the murder. But again, the poor quality of the photo made verification impossible. The man alleged to be Mair in this photo, however, appears to wear a navy-blue coloured cap. On the day of the murder, CCTV footage of Mair showed him in a white baseball cap. Others described him wearing either a black or dark cream baseball cap. Once again, despite the uncertainties of the evidence, this second piece of ‘evidence’ gained hundreds of online shares.
Unlike other acts of far-right terror, there was no power salute, rambling manifesto or desire to start a ‘race war’. His appearance gave no hint to the extremes of his beliefs. One simplistic characterisation gave birth to another. Such activities were not only inaccurate, but irresponsible given the active nature of the Contempt of Court Act. During the trial, arguments were made that the political motivations of Mair’s actions should be front page news. And to an extent they were. Both the Mirror and Guardian gave prominence to this fact on November 15.
In the end, however, Mair never admitted nor denied his crimes. Nor did he display any remorse or contrition. Gone was the fascist bravado. His final act of cowardice was to deny the Cox family and her loved ones the chance to learn what drove him to such violence.