A man has been found guilty of the murder of Sir David Amess MP, and of plotting to commit a terrorist attack in the UK.
Ali Harbi Ali, 26 (1.02.96) of Kentish Town, NW5, attacked Sir David with a kitchen knife shortly after midday, on 15 October 2022, during a constituency surgery event in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.
Following his arrest and during interview, Ali explained to officers that he had long held a desire to attack a Member of Parliament who had previously voted to support airstrikes in Syria.
He also told detectives that he had researched other political figures as possible targets, with his planning stretching over a period of more than two years.
An investigation by the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command uncovered evidence of Ali carrying out hostile reconnaissance around the Houses of Parliament weeks before the murder.
Detectives found evidence and CCTV footage showing that in 2019, he also visited the home address and the constituency surgery of two other MPs. Officers also found attack planning notes on his phone, as well as extremist content he had accessed.
Ali was found guilty of murder, and of preparation of terrorist acts on Monday, 11 April following a trial at the Old Bailey.
He will be sentenced at the same court on Wednesday, 13 April.
Detective Chief Superintendent Dominic Murphy, Head of Operations for the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, said:“Sir David Amess was a dedicated public servant who was greatly respected and admired by everyone in his local community, and amongst his peers. His senseless murder shocked and appalled the nation.
“Sir David’s family have been left utterly devastated, but they have shown remarkable courage and dignity throughout the investigation and this trial.
“I want to give a special mention to the two Essex Police officers who were first to respond to the 999 call, and brought what was a terrifying incident under control. They showed immense bravery in walking into this situation unarmed, and their decisive actions ensured no-one else could be hurt.
“I also want to highlight the incredible bravery of the members of the public who tried to help Sir David.
“Following the murder, our officers worked extremely hard and at pace to firstly ensure there was no existing threat linked to the attacker, and then to put together a compelling package of evidence which showed his extremist mind-set, and the lengths he went to in order to plan and commit the attack.”
The investigation found that Ali took an early morning train to Leigh-on-Sea from north London on 15 October 2021, to attend an appointment at Sir David’s constituency surgery being held at Belfairs Methodist Church in Southend-On-Sea.
Ali pre-booked a meeting with him the previous week, after falsely posing as a future resident of Sir David’s Southend West constituency.
Upon being brought into Sir David’s meeting room and in the minutes before the attack, Ali’s attention had been focused on his mobile phone.
From the subsequent investigation, detectives found that Ali was sending a message apologising to his family, and detailing his motive for what he was about to do, to a number of contacts.
Ali’s phone then started ringing, and at this point he took out a 12-inch kitchen knife and said “sorry” before stabbing Sir David in the stomach, and inflicting further wounds.
Immediately after, a member of the public asked Ali why he had done it, to which he replied: “I wanted to kill David and every MP who voted for bombings in Syria, I wanted to die, be shot and be a hero.”
Two officers from Essex Police attended the scene within minutes of police being called. When they arrived, they encountered Ali who was in the main church hall holding the knife.
After an exchange of words and ordering Ali to drop the knife, he eventually complied and was arrested.
A post-mortem examination the day after the murder gave cause of death as multiple stab wounds to the chest.
The Met’s Counter Terrorism Command were handed the investigation in the hours after the murder, and the incident was later formally declared as terrorism.
Detectives analysed Ali’s devices, and found that Ali had downloaded extremist Daesh propaganda online as early as 2016 – when he says he had become radicalised and wanted to travel to Syria to fight for terrorist groups there.
He then decided to commit an attack in the UK against an MP, and began to research possible targets in 2019.
Over several months in 2021, and as the COVID restrictions began to ease, Ali carried out hostile reconnaissance on two Members of Parliament – one at their home address on six separate occasions, and the other at their constituency surgery.
He also travelled to the Houses of Parliament on three separate occasions to see whether there were opportunities to attack an MP that he might have come across around the Parliament buildings, but he was deterred by the presence of armed officers.
Detectives were able to obtain Oyster Card data and CCTV footage which confirmed that he made these trips.
He told officers during interview that he bought the murder weapon in 2016, with the intention of carrying out a terrorist attack with it.
Detective Chief Superintendent Dominic Murphy, added: “This senseless murder was a stark reminder that terrorism very much remains a threat. Counter terrorism officers across the UK are working around the clock to deal with this threat, and the help of communities remains vital to the efforts of police and other agencies involved in public safety and national security.”
+ Communities defeat terrorism, and information from the public is vital to counter terrorism investigations. If you see or hear something unusual or suspicious and think someone may be engaging in terrorist activity, trust your instincts and act by reporting it in confidence at gov.uk/ACT. Always dial 999 or in an emergency.