Jo Cox murder suspect tells court his name is ‘death to traitors, freedom for Britain’
Thomas Mair, 52, of Birstall, appears in Westminster magistrates court on multiple charges over killing of MP
Thomas Mair has given his name as “death to traitors, freedom for Britain” during his appearance in court charged with the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox.
Mair, 52, from Birstall, was formally charged at Westminster magistrates court on Saturday with the murder of Joanne Cox, grievous bodily harm, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence and possession of an offensive weapon.
Asked to confirm his name, Mair said: “My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain.” The judge then asked the defendant’s lawyers to confirm that his name was Thomas Mair, which they did.
Mair was not required to enter a plea and his lawyer Keith Allen said there was no indication of what plea would be given. He also told the court that legal aid had been applied for.
The deputy chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot ordered that Mair be remanded in custody until his next appearance, at the Old Bailey on Monday. He will be held at Belmarsh prison and Arbuthnot suggested that a psychiatric report be prepared, saying: “Bearing in mind the name he has just given, he ought to be seen by a psychiatrist.”
Cox was killed on Thursday lunchtime outside Birstall public library, where she had been planning to run a constituency surgery. The 41-year-old MP for Batley and Spen was declared dead at 1.48pm after being shot several times and stabbed.
Prosecutor David Cawthorne, from the counter-terrorism division of the Crown Prosecution Service, told the court that Cox had visited a primary school and care home on Thursday morning, before heading to the library with colleagues for a pre-arranged surgery with her constituents. She was stabbed and fell to the ground, where she was shot and stabbed further.
Bernard Kenny, 77, was waiting for his wife in his car outside the library, Cawthorne said.
Kenny had recognised Cox and saw a man approach and stab her. He intervened and was stabbed in the abdomen and retreated into a nearby sandwich shop, the court heard.
No indication was given as to how Mair would plead and he was remanded in custody until a bail application hearing on Monday. The prosecution later confirmed that, because of the nature of the offence and the victim, the protocol was to hear the case in London.
Vigils for Cox were held in her constituency and around the country on Friday as tributes were paid across the political spectrum.
Her party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said the MP had been killed by a “well of hatred”, and the prime minister, David Cameron, insisted society must redouble its efforts to embrace the values of tolerance and community that Cox triumphed.
Parliament has been recalled on Monday to allow MPs to pay tribute, and the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Ukip have all said they will not contest Cox’s vacant seat of Batley and Spen at a byelection.
The EU referendum campaign was paused for a second day on Saturday, with both sides agreeing not to hold events until Sunday at the earliest.
An appeal in Cox’s name raised more than £260,000 in less than 24 hours to support charities working to counter loneliness, challenge extremism, and fund search and rescue workers in Syria.
The US president, Barack Obama, phoned the late MP’s widower, Brendan, from Air Force One to offer his condolences. According to a White House spokesperson, Obama said: “The world is a better place because of her selfless service to others, and there can be no justification for this heinous crime, which robbed a family, a community, and a nation of a dedicated wife, mother and public servant.”
Doreen Lawrence, the Labour peer whose son Stephen was killed in 1993, said there were no words that could express what it feels like to have a young person whose “life is still full of possibility, brutally snatched away from you”. Writing in the Guardian, she said the hopes and dreams of Cox’s family had been “shredded in one foul afternoon”.
Lady Lawrence warned that a message of hatred against foreigners or people with different religions had been getting louder in the UK and US, citing the Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump. She criticised comments by Boris Johnson about Obama’s ancestry and said a poster unveiled by Nigel Farage on Thursday was reminiscent of Nazi propaganda.
The Vote Leave campaign has cancelled events, including a rally in Birmingham where Johnson was due to speak, while Britain Stronger In Europe said it was scrapping more than 2,000 events, including street stalls and a speech by Corbyn in Manchester. When the campaign did resume, it was unlikely to be fought at the same intensity as before, sources said.
In the light of the killing, some politicians have questioned the tone of the referendum debate. Writing in the Guardian, Gordon Brown said: “Unless we strive for a culture of respect to replace a culture which does too little to challenge prejudice, we will be learning nothing from what happened to Jo.”