Sir David Amess suspect ‘looked self-satisfied after stabbing him’, court told

Witnesses said Ali Harbi Ali appeared ‘remorseless’ after plunging his knife into the veteran Southend West MP in October last year.

23 March 2022

An alleged terrorist had a look of “self-satisfaction” as though he had “achieved something” after stabbing MP Sir David Amess to death at a constituency appointment, eyewitnesses told a murder trial.

Political aide Julie Cushion recalled the “piercing scream” coming from the vestry room of Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, as 26-year-old suspect Ali Harbi Ali plunged his carving knife into the veteran Essex politician, five minutes into a constituency surgery appointment.

Two members of the public who ran to the rescue said Ali appeared in the doorway between them and the prone victim, clutching his bloodied knife and warning them not to come closer, the Old Bailey trial heard on Wednesday.

In a video interview with police, four hours after the stabbing, witness Yvonne Eaves told police: “He (Ali) knew what he had done – he’d achieved something, like: ‘I’ve done it.’

“He wasn’t remorseful, he wasn’t like: ‘Oh my god.’

“He’s like: ‘I’ve achieved something.’”

David Amess death
Ali Harbi Ali walking between Leigh-on-Sea railway station and Belfairs Methodist Church (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Sir David, an MP since 1983, suffered more than 20 stab wounds during the frenzied attack shortly after midday on October 15 2021, and was pronounced dead at the scene.

His Westminster assistant Rebecca Hayton described to police how Ali kept playing with his phone during the appointment, at which she was present, trying to talk about foreign policy despite father-of-five Sir David’s attempts to steer him towards local matters.

She said she then saw Ali stand up, say “sorry”, pull a knife from his clothing, and stab Sir David.

In her police video interview, played to jurors, the junior staff member wept as she said: “He (Ali) leans over and stabs him straight in the stomach.

“David screamed, and sort of panicked.

Sir David Amess death
Sir David Amess was stabbed to death in October last year (Chris McAndrew/PA)

“I think he stabbed him again.

“I could see David screaming.”

She added: “I saw it (the knife) go in once and as I got up he (Ali) kept going.”

Ms Hayton said Ali had been “smiling” during the meeting with Sir David, adding: “He seemed relaxed and nice.”

Giving evidence from behind a screen at the Old Bailey, Ms Cushion, who made the first 999 call from the scene at 12.07pm, said she had engaged in “chit-chat” with Ali when he arrived, before being led into the back room to meet Sir David.

Her voice cracking with emotion, she said: “A piercing scream was the first thing I heard.

“And then a very loud crash which I assumed was furniture going over.

“I got up and walked through, I assumed something structurally had happened.

“Rebecca came running towards me screaming that Sir David had been stabbed, he was on the floor.

“At that moment I picked up my phone to call for help.”

Asked how Ali looked, Ms Cushion said: “Self-satisfaction, I would describe it.”

Sir David Amess death
Emergency services at the scene at the Belfairs Methodist Church (Yui Mok/PA)

Ms Hayton said she ran outside to raise the alarm and returned to the church with two members of the public, Ms Eaves and her partner Darren King.

Ms Hayton said: “(Mr King) was trying to speak to the guy and he (Ali) was saying: ‘Don’t come any closer, don’t come any closer’.

“I heard him say ‘Don’t come anywhere near, I’m not going to hurt anybody else, call the police, call the police.’

“I basically told him (Mr King) to come out.

“Then he (Ali) was going: ‘Call the police, call the police’.”

Ali had managed to arrange an appointment with Sir David by duping his office into believing he was a healthcare worker moving to the area, who wished to discuss local matters.

The trial previously heard how Ali had allegedly spent years hatching his plot, researching a number of potential high-profile political targets including Michael Gove, Dominic Raab and Sir Keir Starmer, before settling on 69-year-old Tory backbencher Sir David.

Ms Cushion, who described Sir David as a “close friend”, said meetings had traditionally been held in his constituency office where there was a certain amount of security in place, but he decided to hold surgeries in other locations locally after coronavirus restrictions were lifted because he “wanted to be accessible to his constituents”.

The court heard Ali had a “warped” ideology and sought to exact “revenge” over Britain’s recent foreign policy, notably the bombing campaign on Syria in the mid-2010s, allegedly telling bystanders at the scene: “I want him dead. I want every Parliament minister (sic) who signed up for the bombing of Syria who agreed to the Iraqi war to die.”

Ali, from Kentish Town, has denied preparing terrorist acts and murder.

The trial continues.

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