The murder trial of Thomas Mair, the man suspected of killing British lawmaker Jo Cox in June, began this week. Cox’s murder by gunshot and knife wound just days before the referendum on the European Union shocked a country where gun violence is rare. Mair was charged with murder, as well as possession of a firearm with intent to commit an offense, possession of a dagger and and grievous bodily harm to a second victim. Here’s what to know:
Who was Jo Cox and what happened to her?|
Jo Cox was a Labour Party Member of Parliament (MP), who represented the constituency of Batley and Spen in Yorkshire, in the north of England. A vocal humanitarian who had previously worked for charities including Oxfam and Save the Children, Cox was elected to Parliament in 2015 and was married to fellow campaigner Brendan Cox, with whom she had two young children. On June 16, Cox was stabbed 15 times and shot three times outside her constituency surgery in Birstall. She was taken by air ambulance to hospital and pronounced dead later that day.
Why was she murdered?
The court heard on Monday that the murder of Cox was politically motivated. Prosecutor Richard Whittam QC told the jury that “It was a cowardly attack by a man armed with a firearm and a knife,” the Guardian reports. “It was a premeditated murder for a political and/or ideological cause,” Whittam said.
According to the BBC, the prosecution referred to an account of the incident from Cox’s manager, Fazila Aswat, who allegedly heard the defendant shouting “This is for Britain. Britain will always come first.”
What were the reactions to her death?
Cox, who was 41 years old, was seen as one of the rising stars of the Labour Party, advocating for the U.K. to aid refugees and to take a more active role in the crisis in Syria. She was also a strong supporter of the ‘Remain’ campaign, who worked to promote the cause for Britain to stay in the European Union. Following Cox’s death, tributes were paid to her by members of all parties in the British government and abroad.
Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, also a victim of a shooting at a constituency meeting in 2011, tweeted her own message of support following the incident. Cox’s death took place one week before the Brexit referendum on June 23. Campaigning was suspended by both the Leave and Remain sides out of respect.
Since her death, Cox has been posthumously honored with a major peace prize awarded by the Rising Global Peace Forum. She will be awarded the prize later this week as a joint winner alongside the White Helmets, the humanitarian group working in Syria whom Cox had nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
What is known so far about Thomas Mair, the man suspected of murdering Cox?
Thomas Mair, 53, was arrested shortly after the attack in Birstall, a market-town in West Yorkshire where he has lived for most of his life. The unemployed gardener gave his name as “death to traitors, freedom for Britain” at his first court appearance two days after the attack in June.
What is the case against him?
Reports from the court noted that Mair had researched Cox’s Twitter account at the local library in Birstall in the days before the attack, and had researched where the MP was due to hold her surgery. Jurors were told by the prosecution that items from Mair’s house showed he had “strong political and ideological interests,” and that he had recently viewed websites relating to Nazi material and the Ku Klux Klan before Cox’s murder.
The jury was shown photographs of a .22 Weihrauch bolt-action gun and a knife, with the prosecution noting that blood matching the DNA profile of Cox was found on both weapons. The prosecution also said that there were many witnesses at the scene, with 77-year-old passerby Bernard Carter Kenny sustaining injuries as he attempted to intervene.
Whittam reportedly told the court: “There is no credible suggestion that she was not murdered. Jo Cox was murdered by being shot and stabbed. He did it. Thomas Mair held views that provided him with a motive – utterly misplaced of course – to kill her. The prosecution suggests that he killed her because she was an MP who did not share his views.”
The defendant declined to enter a plea himself at an earlier hearing last month, the Guardian reported, and his lawyers entered not guilty pleas on his behalf.
When is a result due?
The trial is expected to last for up to three weeks.