A homegrown terror suspect accused of murdering veteran MP Sir David Amess said he wanted to kill the politician to ‘help Muslims by stopping him from voting again’ after he backed the bombing of Syria, a court today heard.
Ali Harbi Ali told jurors at the Old Bailey he wanted to ‘make hijrah’, to travel and fight in support of the terrorist organisation Islamic State, but he found it too difficult to get there.
He also described Kuwaiti-British terrorist ‘Jihadi John’ – infamous as the masked knifeman videotaped beheading western hostages in Syria in 2014 and 2015 – as a ‘brother.’
The 26-year-old stabbed Sir David more than 20 times with a foot-long carving knife at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, shortly after midday on October 15 2021, the court was told. Sir David died at the scene.
Ali Harbi Ali (seen after his arrest) told jurors at the Old Bailey he wanted to ‘make hijrah’, to travel and fight in support of the terrorist organisation Islamic State, but he found it too difficult to get there
The 26-year-old stabbed Sir David more than 20 times with a foot-long carving knife at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex
The university drop-out is said to have been motivated to kill the veteran Southend West Conservative and father-of-five because of a grievance with MPs who voted in favour of bombing Syria. His previous targets included Cabinet minister Michael Gove.
Giving evidence from the witness stand today, Ali said he decided to kill Sir David because of his previous voting record on the UK’s foreign policy, including air strikes on Syria.
Ali told the court: ‘I decided to do it because I felt that if I could kill someone who made decisions to kill Muslims, it could prevent further harm to those Muslims.
‘He voted previously in Parliament, not just him… I decided if I couldn’t make hijrah, if I couldn’t help the Muslims (in Syria), I would do something here.’
Asked what difference killing Sir David would make, Ali said: ‘For one, he can’t vote again.
‘If he had previous for doing votes like that he won’t do it in the future, and perhaps send a message to his colleagues.
‘You need a certain number of votes for these things to pass and that is one off the list and for his colleagues to realise you can’t just carry out wanton destruction overseas.’
Ali was asked why he had a note on his phone about his ‘plans’ to kill Mr Gove.
Ali said: ‘That was plans I had to attack and hopefully kill Michael Gove at the time.
‘I believe he was someone who was a harm to Muslims.
‘I thought if I couldn’t go join Islamic State, I should try and do something here to help Muslims here.’
Ali said he ‘deeply’ regretted not being able to join the terrorist group and did not think the attack was wrong.
Tom Little QC, prosecuting, asked Ali: ‘Do you regret anything you did on October 15?’
‘No,’ Ali said.
‘If you could turn the clock back to the morning of October 15, you would leave your property in London and head to Leigh on Sea intending to kill Sir David Amess?’
‘Yes,’ Ali replied.
‘You are utterly shameless about that?’ Mr Little asked.
‘I wouldn’t use the word shameless but I don’t feel any shame,’ Ali said.
Ali (seen in a court sketch) told witnesses he wanted to be shot by police and die a ‘hero’ after stabbing the Tory MP for Southend West 21 times, the jury were told
‘You regret nothing?’ Mr Little asked.
‘Nothing,’ Ali replied. ‘If I thought there was something wrong, I wouldn’t have done it.’
Seeking to justify his actions on the day, he added: ‘I consider myself a Muslim who went out and killed someone who killed Muslims.’
Prosecutor Tom Little QC asked: ‘You don’t regard yourself as a radical?’
Ali replied: ‘I am a moderate Muslim.’
Mr Little said Sir David ‘posed no risk’ but Ali insisted: ‘He posed risk to the ummah. In Islam we have the concept of the global Muslims.
‘He posed a risk of harm to me as a result of posing harm to the Muslims.’
Mr Little told him: ‘You stabbed him solely because of how he had voted in the British parliament?’
‘Yes and also he was a member of the Conservative Friends of Israel as well,’ Ali added.
‘You didn’t like the way he voted because it resulted in the very significant destruction of your beloved ISIS and that is why you murdered him, you murdered him in the cause of ISIS,’ Mr Little said.
‘I killed him in the cause of Muslims and for the sake of Allah,’ Ali said.
Ali captured on CCTV walking around the gates of the Houses of Parliament on September 22 last year – around a month before the fatal stabbing of Sir David Amess in Essex
Ali said he killed Sir David ‘for Islam’ and described Jihadi John as a ‘brother.’
He told the court: ‘It was done for Islam. Not necessarily Islamic State.
‘I said in interview if it is said it was [done for] Islamic State I would be fine with that.’
On terrorist Jihadi John, he said: ‘He is a brother, you can’t say anything bad about him.
‘To criticise a brother in a room full of non-Muslims is something I would not be comfortable about at all.’
Ali had managed to arrange an appointment with Sir David, 69, by duping the politician’s office into believing he was a healthcare worker moving to the area and wished to discuss local matters.
The trial previously heard how Ali allegedly spent years hatching his plot, researching a number of potential high-profile political targets including Mr Gove, Dominic Raab and Sir Keir Starmer, before settling on Sir David.
Mr Little said Ali had taken the ‘deliberate decision to kill an MP’ in 2019 and had also gone to the home of Michael Gove intending to attack him if he had seen him.
‘It was more than just an idle thought, you had taken steps to prepare for such an act?’ Mr Little said.
‘Yes,’ Ali replied.
Ali’s police interviews were played to the jury two weeks ago, in which he told officers: ‘It sounds like what a terrorist act is. I went into an MP’s surgery and I killed him with the idea of vengeance in a way.’
But giving evidence he changed his mind saying: ‘If it was just revenge it would be self-gratification, nothing beyond that.
‘Response would be a better word. I wanted a holistic thing to happen as a result rather than just a feeling.
‘I wanted something to happen afterwards. I don’t think revenge was the best word to use in that instance.’
Ali, from Kentish Town in north London, denies preparing terrorist acts and murder.
The trial continues.