Islamic State fanatic Ali Harbi Ali given whole-life order for murder of Southend MP Sir David Amess

  • Ali Harbi Ali winked at the public gallery as he was jailed for life, reports ITV News' Chloe Keedy


The Islamic State fanatic who stabbed an MP to death will die in jail, after a judge imposed a rare whole-life order.

Ali Harbi Ali was convicted of the murder of Sir David Amess and preparing terrorist acts on Monday by jurors who spent just 18 minutes in retirement at the Old Bailey.

Prosecutors described the case as “overwhelming”, and the 26-year-old Londoner himself did not dispute much of the evidence.

Given the murder conviction already carried a life sentence, the decision facing the judge Mr Justice Sweeney was whether or not to impose a whole-life sentence on Ali - meaning he would never be released.

Ali was handed a whole-life term for murder, and life with a minimum of 30 years to run concurrently for preparing terrorist attacks.

The sentence was welcomed by both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Ali Harbi Ali in the dock during his trial at the Old Bailey in London Credit: Elizabeth Cook/PA

Mr Justice Sweeney said the murder of Sir David Amess was carried out “in revenge” for losses by so-called Islamic State in Syria, and that he had "no doubt" a whole-life order was the correct starting point.

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, he said.

The fact the defendant prevented members of the public from trying to help Sir David also counted against Ali Harbi Ali.

“This was a murder that struck at the heart of our democracy," he said.

What is a whole-life order?

Sentence means terrorist will die behind bars

Whole-life orders are the most severe punishment available in the UK criminal justice system for those who commit the most serious crimes.

Homegrown terrorist Ali Harbi Ali joins a string of some of the country’s most dangerous offenders who are expected to die behind bars, including disgraced police officer Wayne Couzens and necrophiliac David Fuller.

There were 61 criminals serving whole-life orders, according to government figures to the end of 2021.

They will never be considered for release, unless there are exceptional compassionate grounds to warrant it.

Other notorious criminals serving whole-life orders include: Gloucester serial killer Rose West; Michael Adebolajo, one of Fusilier Lee Rigby’s killers; Mark Bridger, who murdered five-year-old April Jones in Wales; neo-Nazi Thomas Mair, who killed MP Jo Cox; Grindr serial killer Stephen Port; and more recently the Reading terror attacker Khairi Saadallah, who murdered three men in a park.

Before they died, Moors murderer Ian Brady and his girlfriend Myra Hindley, Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, and doctor Harold Shipman, thought to be one of Britain’s most prolific serial killers, were also among those serving whole-life orders.

In the past, home secretaries could issue whole-life tariffs and these are now determined by judges.

Back to top

He said he had no doubt it was an “exceptional case” as he handed Ali a whole life order.

Ali's barrister Tracy Ayling QC told the court she had been “specifically instructed” by her client not to address the judge in mitigation.

The sentence has been passed on only a handful of prisoners in England and Wales, including Thomas Mair, the far-right killer of Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016, and ex-PC Wayne Couzens, who last year raped and murdered Sarah Everard in south London.

Sir David Amess was stabbed to death while hosting a constituency surgery Credit: Chris McAndrew/PA

Sir David's widow Lady Julia Amess said there was "no elation" in hearing the sentence, and reiterated the family's call for "everyone to treat their fellow human beings with kindness, love and understanding".

"We will wake each day and immediately feel our loss," she said in a statement.

"We will struggle through each day for the rest of our lives. Our last thought before sleep will be of David. We will forever shed tears for the man we have lost. We shall never get over this tragedy.

"It breaks our heart to know that our husband and father would have greeted the murderer with a smile of friendship and would have been anxious to help. How sickening to think what happened next. It is beyond evil."

Mr Johnson said he welcomed the sentence, adding: "We will never allow those who commit acts of evil to triumph over democracy."

The home secretary also tweeted her support, writing: "This attack on our democracy, which took the life of a man who so many held so dear, is deserving of the whole life order handed down."

Islamic State fanatic Ali carried out his attack at the backbench Conservative MP’s constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on 15 October last year.

Ali told the trial he had no regrets about the murder, defending 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 that Ali became known to authorities around this time as his school performance plunged and he was referred to the government’s Prevent strategy, but continued plotting in secret.

The so-called “lone wolf” sent a manifesto on WhatsApp to family and friends seeking to justify his actions around the time of the attack, and told father-of-five Sir David he was “sorry” before plunging the 12in carving knife into him, causing the 69-year-old politician to scream.

Sir David received more than 20 stab injuries and died at the scene.

Knife-wielding Ali was later apprehended by two police officers armed only with batons and spray. They have since been handed bravery awards.

Body-worn camera footage of them tackling the knifeman was played to the court.