Jo Cox trial: Harrowing evidence will stay with us all
AS THE jury were sworn in at Court Eight of the Old Bailey last week, they knew nothing about why the unimposing middle-aged man was sitting in the dock.
Moments earlier he had been led in by two security officers and taken his seat under the gaze of a packed press bench and public gallery.
Reporters scribbled notes about his suit, the greying beard and his impassive expression, scrutinising Thomas Mair for any signs of emotion as he prepared to stand trial for the brutal murder of MP Jo Cox.
The tremendous responsibility placed upon the eight men and four women of the jury in delivering a verdict in this most shocking of cases should not be underestimated.
Likewise, the emotional toll on those witnesses who were being asked to relive scenes that will doubtless haunt them for years to come.
A shaking hand as they took the paper setting out the oath, the tissue clutched tightly as they recalled the horror of that day, the loud exhalation of breath after they uttered their most difficult evidence.
These are the little things that have stayed with me after the days I spent in court reporting on the first week of proceedings.
I am still astounded at the strength shown by Mrs Cox’s colleagues as they spoke about her final moments and the selfless plea she made for them to save themselves from harm.
As the testimony from those who were in Birstall on that day continued, we were given a glimpse of the panic, terror and shock they must have felt as they realised what was happening in front of their very eyes.
They recalled their disbelief that the loud popping sound was a gun being fired outside the village’s library; turning away as Mair loomed over Mrs Cox to fire the gun for a second and third time, or seeing the knife plunge into the chest of Bernard Carter-Kenny as he tried to come to her aid.
Each day brought chilling moments, whether it was seeing the CCTV footage of Mair calming walking away from scene or the internet search he had made earlier about whether a .22 bullet to the head could kill someone.
When the rifle itself was brought into court, the clanking sound of its metal bolt echoed around courtroom as a demonstration was given of how it would be reloaded.
We also heard a recording of the 999 call made by witness Darren Playford as he walked down Union Street, believing Mair was following him and could be planning to hurt others.
Many of those who read the coverage coming out of the courtroom have described it as harrowing – and they are right to do so.
I cannot begin imagine what it must have been like for Mrs Cox’s parents and sister, who have spent almost every day in court listening to the evidence.
Of all the remarkable things the court has witnessed in this past week or so, the dignity with which they have carried themselves is the most remarkable of all.