How terrorist Ali Harbi Ali got appointment with MP David Amess to carry out 'calculating' murder
Watch report from ITV Meridian's Kit Bradshaw
When Ali Harbi Ali emailed Sir David Amess' office setting up a routine meeting he secretly planned to use to murder the MP, he signed off claiming it would just be "nice" to see him.
The killer wrote to the veteran Southend West politician's office on September 27, 2021, : "I will be moving to the area from a Labour-held constituency and wanted to get to know my future MP.
"Since I work in healthcare, I would like to know his plans, if any, for the hospital and workers.
"Also, as someone interested in Christianity, I have seen many churches in my area losing attendances and struggle with upkeep, eventually becoming at risk of being demolished or repurposed.
"I wanted to know if the situation in Southend is similar and, if so, what are the solutions."
He added: "Looking forward to seeing you soon. If all appointments are taken, let me know if there's a cancellation.
"I'll be in the local area and will be able to drop by."
Sir David's aide Rebecca Hayton responded by requesting Ali's address and full name to check he was a constituent.
Ali gave a postcode in Southend and told her: "I'll be in the local area on Friday so it would be nice to see him regardless, although I know he's a very busy man so I can appreciate if that's not possible."
Ms Hayton told Ali all the appointments had been taken but she would be happy to book him in for October 15, which they then arranged for noon.
Ali told Ms Hayton: "I don't really know how long the appointments are but I don't think I'll take too long. Thanks for all the help so far."
On 15 October he travelled from his home in Kentish Town to Leigh on Sea, to the Belfairs Methodist Church, where Sir David held his surgeries so he could be accessible to this constituents.
999 call handler receives a distressed call from constituent
Moments after the stabbing, Yvonne Eaves who, with her partner Darren King was due to have the next appointment, called the emergency services.
She told the operator that the attacker had killed Sir David and was threatening to kill them and two of the MP's female staff at the church.
In the call, she said: "Please, please, quick. Now the man is wielding a knife, he's threatened me... He's killed David Amess at Belfairs Methodist Church."
Ms Eaves described the weapon as a "big kitchen carving knife".
"We tried to get it off him. He won't. He's threatened myself, he's threatened four people here.
She said Mr Ali had said he "wants to get shot".
'Drop that knife'
Plainclothes police officers Scott James and Ryan Curtis were in the area trying to find an unrelated wanted suspect when they were called to Belfairs Methodist Church.
The PCs arrived at 12.19pm to be told the 69-year-old politician had been “stabbed several times”.
The pair, armed only with batons and incapacitant spray, ran into the building and came face to face with the suspect who was still clutching the knife.
The officers shouted: “Drop that knife.”
On warned: “It’s only going to go one way. Please drop that knife.”
The pair then charged at Ali, who is said to have been on a 14-minute phone call with his “hysterical” sister at the time.
Ali then said: “My phone’s rung, it’s the family.”
Shouting, as if to ensure the caller could hear, he added: “Don’t worry. The police got me. They’re not gonna shoot.”
Essex Police Chief Superintendent Simon Anslow praised his officers’ “astounding bravery” in tackling Ali.
He said: “They’ve basically gone in armed with a stick – something that appears smaller than a deodorant can – to deal with a man that has just committed an absolutely heinous act, still armed with that knife.
“I think it’s an astounding act of bravery.”
Terrorist swore allegiance to Islamic State
As Ali was taken into custody at 12.44pm, he told the booking-in officer the incident was both “terror” related and had “religious” motivations.
In a formal incident room with detectives he admitted it was a terrorist attack, and said he'd "bottled it" on earlier occasions.
In police interview, he spoke calmly about his terror plot and admitted allegiance to so-called Islamic State.
Ali told officers Sir David immediately suspected a “sting”, having been duped into talking about a fake drug “cake” in the television series Brass Eye.
He went on: “I felt like one minute I was sat down at the table talking to him and the next he was, sort of, dead.
“But, yeah, it’s probably one of the strangest days… of my life now, y’know?”
Later however, he pleaded not guilty - opting to go to trial.
Max Hill QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, remarked at the time: "Despite what he said initially, He went back on what people might have thought was going to be a guilty plea.
"Our specialist team needed to prove every element of the offences we charged and I'm pleased for the Amess family and for everybody, that we have that clarity today."
Who is Ali Harbi Ali?
The trial allowed prosecutors to illustrate how London born Ali had become an Islamic State fanatic with murderous ambitious.
The court heard how Ali, from Kentish Town, north London, had become self-radicalised in 2014.
He went on to drop out of university - abandoning ambitions for a career in medicine.
The defendant, who came from an influential Somali family and said he had a childhood “full of love and care”, considered travelling to Syria to fight but by 2019 opted for an attack in Britain.
Ali bought a £20 knife from Argos six years ago which he carried in his bag throughout the summer of 2021 as he “scoped out” possible targets, jurors heard.
He carried out reconnaissance on the Houses of Parliament but found police there “armed to the teeth”.
Ali carried out online research on MPs including Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.
He staked out the west London home of Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove six times and wrote detailed notes on how he might get to him.
Scenarios included mingling with media, bumping into him jogging, ringing his doorbell, and causing a scene to “lure” him out.
Ali rejected the plan after Mr Gove split up with his wife and was thought to have moved out of the family home.
He was later to tell police: “It was… so convenient to go to that address but I just, I don’t know why I didn’t do that one.”
Ali was also spotted lurking outside Finchley MP Mike Freer’s constituency office, jurors were told.
By September last year, Ali had settled on Sir David as an easy target after seeing his upcoming surgery in Leigh-on-Sea on Twitter.
Sir David’s assistant Julie Cushion told jurors Ali had appeared “self-satisfied” in the wake of the brutal killing.
A 'cold and calculating' murder
Ali told jurors at the Old Bailey he had no regrets about the murder.
The killer defended his actions by saying Sir David deserved to die as a result of voting in Parliament for air strikes on Syria in 2014 and 2015.The murder was described to the trial as “cold and calculating”.
Ali had sent a manifesto on WhatsApp to family and friends seeking to justify his actions around the time of the attack, telling Sir David he was “sorry” before plunging the knife into him.
Witnesses described the horror of hearing the MP scream in the frantic moments before he died at the scene.
Jurors in the murder trial were told Ali had no mental health issues, and that he accepted much of the evidence against him.
The homegrown terrorist was found guilty of stabbing Sir David to death and plotting to attack other MPs, including Mr Gove.
Mr Justice Sweeney said Ali, who refused to stand up in the dock on “religious grounds” as he was convicted, would be sentenced on Wednesday.
Sir David was killed five years after Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox was murdered in her constituency.
His death led to renewed concern around the safety of MPs in public.
The murdered MP and father-of-five was remembered by his Westminster peers, friends and family as a devoted MP and fierce advocate for Southend.
The Pope paid special tribute to Sir David, issuing a call to the world to "reject the ways of violence," in response to the MP's murder.
Following Sir David's death, his ambition of winning city status for Southend was finally officially granted, as a special tribute to his life's work.
His widow, Lady Julia Amess, labelled it a "dream come true" that she only wished her husband had lived to see.