Sir David Amess murder: what happened to MP, who is killer Ali Harbi Ali and what is a whole life sentence UK?

Ali Harbi Ali, 26, has been handed a whole-life order at the Old Bailey for murdering Conservative MP Sir David Amess

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A homegrown terrorist has been handed a whole-life order at the Old Bailey for murdering Conservative MP Sir David Amess.

Ali Harbi Ali, 26, stabbed Sir David 21 times after attending an appointment at a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on 15 October last year.

He was convicted on Monday (11 April) of one count of murder, and one count of preparing terrorist acts.

At his sentence on Wednesday (13 April), unrepent Ali was handed a whole-life order meaning he will never be eligible for parole and will likely spend the rest of his days in prison.

Other offenders who have been handed a whole-life prison term include sexual predator Wayne Couzens, who raped and murdered Sarah Everard, and far-right extremist Thomas Mair, who murdered Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016.

Ali Harbi Ali has been handed whole-life sentence for murder of Sir David Amess (Photo: PA)Ali Harbi Ali has been handed whole-life sentence for murder of Sir David Amess (Photo: PA)
Ali Harbi Ali has been handed whole-life sentence for murder of Sir David Amess (Photo: PA)

What’s been said?

Prosecutors described the case as “overwhelming” and Ali did not dispute much of the evidence.

The Islamic State fanatic carried out his attack at the backbench Conservative MP’s constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on 15 October last year, telling the trial he had no regrets.

Ali defended his actions by saying Sir David deserved to die because he had voted in Parliament for air strikes on Syria in 2014 and 2015.

The court heard how London-born Ali had become self-radicalised in 2014, going on to drop out of university and abandoning his ambitions for a career in medicine.

The defendant, who came from an influential Somali family and said he had a childhood “full of love and care”, considered travelling to Syria to fight but by 2019 opted for an attack in Britain.

Ali bought a £20 knife from Argos six years ago which he carried in his bag throughout the summer of 2021 as he “scoped out” possible targets, jurors heard.

He carried out research on MPs online including Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, and staked the west London home of Levelling Up Secretary Mr Gove six times, writing detailed notes on how he might get to him.

Scenarios included mingling with media, bumping into him jogging, ringing his doorbell, and causing a scene to “lure” him out. Ali, from Kentish Town, north London, later rejected the plan after Mr Gove split up with his wife and was thought to have moved out of the family home.

By September last year, he had settled on Sir David as an easy target after seeing his upcoming surgery in Leigh-on-Sea on Twitter, and made an appointment through the MP’s office, falsely claiming he was moving to the area and was interested in churches.

On the morning of 15 October 2021, he was caught on CCTV as he made his way by foot and train to Essex. Within minutes of meeting Sir David, he pulled out a 12in carving knife and stabbed him more than 20 times. He then waved the bloody knife and threatened to kill the MP’s two female aides and a couple who had arrived for their appointment.

Sir David’s assistant Julie Cushion told jurors he appeared “self-satisfied” in the wake of the brutal killing.

In police interview, he spoke calmly about his terror plot and admitted allegiance to so-called Islamic State.

Jurors were previously shown footage of the moment Ali was tackled by Essex Police constables Scott James and Ryan Curtis, who ordered him to drop a bloody, foot-long carving knife before charging at him and pinning him to the floor.

Afterwards, Ali said he had Sir David’s blood on his fingernails and jacket: “That seems a bit, I don’t know, satanical almost it’s weird… Obviously I’ve killed someone… There’s no doubt about that but it still doesn’t feel like it. Maybe it’s because I feel justified in what I’ve done.”

He explained that most of his worry was for how his family would be affected, saying: “The only reason I dropped the knife in front of the police officer was ‘cos my sister was on the phone crying her eyes out. It was an intense situation.”

Asked if he thought he had done a “good deed”, he said: “If I didn’t believe it was a good deed I wouldn’t do it.”

Jurors were told Ali had no mental health issues and he accepted much of the evidence against him.

Mr Justice Sweeney said he had “no doubt” that the correct starting point for sentence was a “whole-life order”.

Aggravating features included a “significant degree” of planning, the use of a knife taken to the scene, and the fact Sir David was attacked while carrying out a public duty. The fact the defendant prevented members of the public from trying to help Sir David also counted against Ali.

Who was Sir David Amess?

Sir David was a Member of Parliament since 1983, first representing the area of Basildon and later Southend West since 1997.

He was a vocal Eurosceptic and supported Brexit in the EU referendum in 2016 and a supporter of the pro-Brexit campaign, Leave Means Leave, signing a letter to the Prime Minister in 2017.

During his career, he sponsored many Bills including the Abortion (Amendment) Bill (1996-7), the Protection Against Cruel Tethering Act (1988) and the Warm Homes Bill, which passed into law in December 2000 as the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act.

His main interests and areas of expertise included animal welfare and pro-life issues.

He consistently voted to ban fox hunting and hare coursing, and was a patron of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation.

Sir David had also given his support to many campaigns, including banning cages for game birds, puppy farming and smuggling, and ending the transport of live animals for export.

Since entering the House of Commons, he also generally opposed Bills furthering LGBT rights, including equal age of consent and same-sex marriage.

He was appointed the title of Knight Bachelor in the 2015 New Year Honours for his political and public service, and is a member of the Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor.

The MP picked up several awards in recognition of his commitment to animal welfare over the years, including the Animal Welfare and Environment Champion award in 2011.

In 2014, he was nominated for the Policy Driver for Animal Rights Protection award at the Grassroot Diplomat Awards 2014 for his long standing dedication to animal rights.

His campaigning efforts in the House of Commons in recent years are most closely associated with the Essex coastal town, including his long-running campaign to make Southend a city.

In December 2019, he secured an adjournment debate in the Commons specifically on the campaign and told MPs: “I am not messing around.

“We have got it from the Prime Minister that Southend is going to become a city – and it will become a city.”

Community spirit, the proposed marina and the airport were among his arguments, which have continued in subsequent months.

As a strident supporter of the British monarchy, Sir David saw another opportunity in November 2020 as the Commons considered plans for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee next year, asking for a new statue of the Queen and for a city status competition to ensure Southend is finally elevated.

In March 2021, Sir David repeated his statue calls, insisting the Queen deserved one for being a “great” monarch.

His campaign for a memorial to Dame Vera Lynn on the White Cliffs of Dover also won support from a minister in May this year.

Sir David was married to Julia Arnold and together they have a son and four daughters.

The couple’s eldest daughter, actress Katie Amess, publicly criticised her father for his stance on same-sex marriage after producing a film in support of gay rights in 2013.

Tributes to the MP

Fellow politicians shared tributes to Sir David in the wake of his death, describing him as a “friend to everyone”.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid tweeted: “My heart goes out to Julia, his family, and all who loved him. Let us remember him and what he did with his life.”

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “In a democracy, politicians must be accessible and open to scrutiny, but no-one deserves to have their life taken while working for and representing their constituents.”

Judith Canham, deputy chair of the local Conservative club, described Sir David was a “true constituency MP”. She told Sky News: “I just can’t believe it, how anybody could harm a kind man like David I don’t know.

“Words can’t say, he’s such a lovely man who is liked across the parties… he gets on with everybody.

“I cannot understand how anybody could be so wicked and cruel to hurt this kind man.

“He is a true constituency MP. If there has been anything going on in the town, functions… anything really that he’s been invited to, he’s always turned up to give his support.

“He’s a friend to everyone, he has his strong opinions… (but) he’s got a photographic memory and seems to remember everyone and took an interest in everybody.

“I’m terribly in shock. I burst into tears as soon as I heard because we do love him dearly.”

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps described Sir David Amess as “a true parliamentarian”.

He tweeted: “Awful, tragic news about David.

“A dedicated, thoughtful man and a true Parliamentarian, who lost his life while serving the constituents who he worked relentlessly for throughout his career.

“My thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.”

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