Angela Rayner tells of distress over abusive messages after David Amess death

Stuart Kelly and Michael McGrath pleaded guilty to sending offensive and menacing messages to the Labour deputy leader after the Tory MP was killed.

17 March 2022

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner “burst into tears” and was left “scared out of her wits” after being blamed over the alleged murder of Sir David Amess, a court heard.

Stuart Kelly, 53, and Michael McGrath, 70, both pleaded guilty on Thursday to sending offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing messages to the MP for Ashton-under-Lyne in Tameside.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that both men linked her comments at the Labour Party conference, calling Conservatives “scum”, in September last year to Sir David, 69, being stabbed to death at a surgery in his Leigh-on-Sea constituency in Essex.

2021 deaths
Sir David Amess was stabbed to death during a constituency surgery in September 2021 (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/PA)

On the day of his death, Kelly left three voicemail messages for Ms Rayner, 41, at her constituency office during a 30-minute period.

One said: “I hope you get shot. You contributed to his death, you dirty scum”, and in another he told her: “Well done, he’s a father-of-five. Well done, you’re a great MP.”

In the third message, Kelly said: “Murderer, f****** murderer.”

Former barber McGrath sent an email to Ms Rayner’s office in the early hours of the following morning in which he branded her a “vile bitch” and “tasteless lefty scum”.

“Hope it never happens to you,” he wrote. “I bet you will be celebrating.”

Ms Rayner said in a statement that she is “no stranger” to criticism, which she usually sees as “people exercising their right to free speech”.

“When I saw the contents of the email together with the voicemails I burst into tears,” she said. “It made me feel extremely upset.

Prime Minister’s Questions
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said the emails and messages had left her fearing for her safety and that of her family (House of Commons/PA)

“I believe I have quite a thick skin when it comes to name-calling and nasty comments, but this was in a completely different category.

“I am scared out of my wits, not only for my own safety but also the safety of my family, children and staff.

“This has left me frightened and caused me to question the job I do.”

She added: “The fact these people are trying to link the death of an MP to me is absolutely devastating.

“For people to say I’m responsible for the death of David Amess has caused me genuine distress.”

The court heard that, after he was arrested, Kelly, from Halifax, West Yorkshire, said he had “been out for a few drinks” when he left the voicemails and had been feeling “quite angry and sad” about Sir David’s death.

He told police he woke up the next morning, “remembered what he done and felt regret”, said prosecutor Jonathan Bryan.

Chief Magistrate Paul Goldspring granted Kelly, who has been to court 27 times for 50 offences, unconditional bail as he adjourned sentencing to April 14, but warned him he faces time in jail.

The court heard that McGrath, from Sheffield, who has bowel cancer, later sent an apology email to Ms Rayner.

He was handed a six-week prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to pay a total of £413 in costs and compensation, including £200 to the MP.

Mr Goldspring told him: “There is no doubt in my mind, whether you are in public service as an MP or perhaps as a judge or a member of the royal family, it does not make you any less susceptible to attack or any less susceptible to feelings about that.”

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