Jo Cox murder trial: MP told assistants to flee to safety after she was shot

Trial of Thomas Mair, accused of MP’s murder, hears that Cox shouted, ‘Let him hurt me – don’t let him hurt you’.


The Labour MP Jo Cox told her two assistants to flee to safety and leave her to her fate after she was shot and stabbed, the trial of the man accused of her murder has heard.

Sandra Major, the Batley and Spen MP’s constituency caseworker, told the Old Bailey on Wednesday: “She was shouting, ‘Get away, get away you two! Let him hurt me – don’t let him hurt you’.”

She said the attacker had retreated after shooting and stabbing Cox but turned around and resumed his attack after hearing her shout.

Thomas Mair, one of Cox’s constituents, is accused of killing her in Birstall, West Yorkshire. The court heard he had been captured on CCTV carrying out the attack, and that he had been arrested moments later while in possession of the knife and gun used to carry out the murder.

As Cox’s family watched from the back of the court, Major and Fazila Aswat, the MP’s assistant and office manager, described how she was repeatedly shot and stabbed in an attack that lasted seconds.

The three women had driven to a meeting with constituents in the library at Birstall during the EU referendum campaign in June.

Major told the court that as they climbed from the car she could see a man approaching. She said: “He had a gun in his hand. He raised his arm and shot Jo in the head. Then he got a knife out of his bag. It was black.

“Jo was lying on the floor, and she sort of tried to sit up. He just started stabbing her while she was lying on the floor. Jo tried to get away. Fazila was shouting: ‘Get away from her, she’s got two little children.’ I was just screaming. I thought that if some people came, he might go away.”

Cox tried to get to her feet but rolled off the pavement into the road, the court heard. At this point, Major said, the attacker threatened her and Aswat with the knife, and Cox shouted that they should save themselves.

Major said: “He had started to walk away a little bit, but when Jo shouted out, he came back. He started stabbing her again. She was on the floor. She didn’t get up again.”

Occasionally fighting back tears, Aswat said she first realised Cox had come under attack when she saw her lying on the ground.

She said: “A man stood over her with a knife. I knew something was completely wrong. Then there was a gunshot. I said: ‘Jo, you need to run.’ She said: ‘I can’t run, I’m hurt.’ Then he came back.”

Aswat, who told the jury that she retreated behind the Vauxhall Astra in which they had driven to the library, added: “I heard two further gunshots, and you could see his arm going to her. He actually shot her from close range, because he was standing over her.

“It was at the end he stood up and said: ‘Britain first, Britain will always be first.’”

In a statement read to the court, Bernard Carter-Kenny, a retired miner then aged 77, described how he was stabbed when he tried to help Cox.

His statement said that he heard a bang he thought sounded like a gun but must have been a car backfiring. He added: “When I saw Jo roll into the road, I could see blood. I jumped out of the car. My first feeling was he was kicking her and brandishing a knife. She was on the floor and he had a knife in his hand. People were shouting: ‘Get help, get help.’”

Carter-Kenny said he ran across and wanted to jump on the attacker’s shoulder. He said he saw a 9in “dagger” in his hands and that the attacker shoved it into his stomach.

He said: “The blood started pouring out between my fingers. I saw the blood and I thought: ‘Oh my God’.”

“I didn’t turn my back on him in case he came after me. I just flopped on to the steps of the sandwich shop. I was lying on the floor.”

Aswat, who held Cox as she lay dying, said: “Jo was in my arms. It was probably only two or three minutes before the police and ambulance arrived but it felt like a lifetime.”

Earlier, the Old Bailey heard that Mair had thrown his hands in the air and declared himself to be a “political activist” when approached by police moments after the attack.

When he began to lower his hands, two unarmed officers tackled him to the ground.

Craig Nicholls, a constable with West Yorkshire police, told the court that he and his colleague, PC Jonathan Wright, had been instructed to search for a man involved in the shooting. They saw Mair walking nearby, got out of their car and ordered him to drop the black holdall he was carrying, said Nicholls.

“He put his arms up and just said: ‘It’s me,’” said Nicholls. “We ran towards him. He came to put his hands towards his shirt. We rugby-tackled him to the ground.”

When Wright found a firearm in the holdall, Mair said: “I am a political activist,” according to Nicholls.

Mair was handcuffed and arrested on suspicion of murder and attempted murder. He was taken for treatment at Leeds General Infirmary for a head injury before being taken to a police station for questioning.

Simon Russell Flint QC, defending, put it to Nicholls and Wright that Mair had not said anything to police at any time during his arrest. Both officers said he had.

The jury heard that police recovered a sawn-off .22 rifle from the bag. It contained two rounds in its magazine and a third in the chamber, and the safety catch was off. Two knives were also recovered and a plastic bag containing a number of .22 bullets was found in Mair’s pocket.

Mair, 53, an unemployed gardener from Birstall, is charged with the murder of Cox, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an offence, possession of a dagger and grievous bodily harm to Carter Kenny.

He declined to enter a plea when he appeared at the Old Bailey last month. As a result, not guilty pleas to all four charges were entered on his behalf.

As the court viewed CCTV footage showing Mair’s movements on the day of the attack, the defendant sat in the dock, apparently ignoring the screens arranged around the room.

The court heard Cox was shot three times and suffered 15 stab injuries. She was 41, and had two children, then aged five and three. She had been elected in 2015, and had supported the campaign to remain in the EU.

In the days before the attack, Mair allegedly spent time in Birstall library, accessing a string of websites about Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, the Waffen-SS, Israel, matricide and serial killers.

The jury heard Mair had also viewed Cox’s Twitter feed and looked at the Wikipedia entry for Ian Gow, the Conservative MP murdered by the IRA in 1990.

The prosecution says Mair viewed pages about .22 ammunition, including one that offered an answer to the question: “Is a .22 round deadly enough to kill with one shot to a human’s head?”

Items later recovered from his home showed he had strong political and ideological interests, said Richard Whittam QC, prosecuting.

The trial continues.


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