Jo Cox trial: The 'comprehensive' case against Thomas Mair
A 'comprehensive' catalogue of evidence was presented to jurors as the court heard about the events of June 16 and the police investigation which they triggered.
Drawing on CCTV footage, forensics, expert witnesses and the testimony of more than a dozen eye witnesses, the prosecution left the jury in no doubt that Thomas Mair was guilty of murdering MP Jo Cox and stabbing pensioner Bernard Carter Kenny.
Footage from CCTV cameras outside homes and businesses around Birstall allowed the jury to follow Mair’s morning trip to the retail park at Junction 27 and his later walk into the centre of the village, where he laid in wait for Mrs Cox for almost an hour.
Scenes of him browsing newspapers in WHSmith like any other shopper earlier in the day provided a stark contrast to the footage of him casually walking away from the murder scene only a few hours later.
The attack began with moments of Mrs Cox and her two colleagues parking up in Market Street at 12.50pm as they arrived to host one of the MP’s regular surgeries at Birstall Library.
Fazila Aswat, the MP’s office manager, told jurors: “In that instant our lives changed forever.”
She described a man suddenly being over Mrs Cox with a knife, the panic that set in as she saw a gun and screaming for her to run.
The court heard how Ms Aswat urged an injured Mrs Cox to think of her two young children and cradled the MP in her arms as waited for an ambulance to arrive.
Witnesses spoke about having heard a “piercing scream” and a “popping sound” like a single firecracker going off during the first wave of Mair’s assault.
He stabbed Mrs Cox several times before retreating slightly and then returning for a second attack on his victim.
It was around this time that 77-year-old Mr Kenny tried to intervene and was stabbed in the chest by Mair.
Others in the street had shouted at Mair to leave Mrs Cox alone and witness Shelly Morris was among the first to call 999 to raise the alarm.
Meanwhile, Mrs Cox was telling her two colleagues: “Get away. Get away you two. Let him hurt me. Don’t let him hurt you too.”
The court heard from witnesses how Mair moved back towards Mrs Cox, stabbed her several more times and shot her twice before walking away “as if he hadn’t done anything wrong.”
Mair was said to have shouted “Britain first” or “keep Britain independent” during the assault.
In the meantime, Mr Kenny had staggered to the nearby Sandwich and Co shop where staff tended to him until paramedics arrived.
Desperate efforts were also made to save the life of Mrs Cox, including an emergency procedure carried out in the back of an ambulance at the scene.
Dr Ben Rayner told jurors: “No matter what we tried, we couldn’t get her heart to respond. Everyone agreed we had done everything we possibly could to save the patient.”
Mrs Cox was pronounced dead at the scene at 1.48pm.
Just a few minutes earlier, Mair was arrested on suspicion of her murder by two officers who had “rugby tackled” him to the ground less than a mile away from Market Street.
After leaving the scene, Mair had walked along Union Street and discarded the brown jacket he had been carrying over his arm.
A 999 call placed by Darren Playford detailed how Mair then walked on towards the Vaults pub and disappeared out of sight.
It was then that Mair made his way into the overgrown back garden of a house in John Nelson Close, where he dumped the white baseball cap and grey jacket worn during the attack.
When he came back into sight, Mr Playford was able to relay information to police about how Mair was now wearing a black baseball cap and no jacket.
At around 1.10pm, PC Craig Nicholls and PC Jonathan Wright spotted Mair on Leeds Road and followed him into Risedale Crescent.
It was there that one resident filmed Mair’s arrest and the arrival of armed police on their mobile phone.
The court was told both officers heard Mair say “It’s me” as they shouted at him to drop the black holdall he was carrying and PC Nicholls later heard him say “I’m a political activist”.
Inside the black holdall was a .22 German manufactured Weihrauch bolt action rifle and “fighting dagger” with a 177mm blade.
A plastic money bag with 25 unused cartridges, a knife concealed in a gold cylindrical object and a wallet containing a library card were among the other items recovered at the arrest scene.
Mair had suffered a head injury when tackled to the ground, so was taken to Leeds General Infirmary for treatment before being taken into custody later that afternoon.
He would go on to say nothing in his police interviews but already detectives were building the case against him and taking statements from witnesses.
Forensics teams were also busy at work in Market Street, Union Street and Risedale Avenue where physical evidence was being gathered.
Later DNA analysis of the items would find blood stains that were a “billion-to-one” match to both Mrs Cox and Mair on the rifle and dagger.
Mrs Cox’s blood was also found around a hole in a gilet worn by Mr Kenny.
And ballistics evidence “conclusively” determined that two cartridge cases from the scene of the attack and and one found in John Nelson Close were all fired by the rifle.
Pathologist Dr Richard Shepherd carried out a post mortem examination on Mrs Cox, which found she had been stabbed 15 times and shot three times.
Injuries to her hands were consistent with her having tried to shield her face during the attack, he said.
Computers were seized from Birstall Library, which Mair had visited on the night before the attack, and from Batley Library.
The court heard that searches Mair had made online revealed his “strong political and ideological interest”.
This was supported by the discovery of items relating to far-right and white supremacist organisations in his home in Lowood Lane, Birstall.
There was also a dossier about Mrs Cox, including a column she had written about why she was in favour of remaining in the EU.
This difference in political views, the prosecution said, was Mair’s motive in planning the murder of Batley and Spen’s hard-working and respected MP.
Bringing the prosecution case to a close, Richard Whittam, QC, said: “The sheer brutality of her murder and the utter cowardice of her murderer bring the two extremities of humanity face to face.”