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The Thomas Mair Affair – Part I

Thomas Mair has been convicted of the murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox (Batley and Spen). His sentence was a whole life tariff which makes it very unlikely that he will ever be released.

There is something distinctly odd about this case for the reported facts of the case do not seem to hang comfortably together. That Mair killed Cox is clear and his ostensible motive for committing the murder, namely that she was a supporter of the remain side in the EU referendum, is established, but precious little else is satisfactorily explained.

Mair has no revealed previous history of violence, yet his attack on Cox was both sustained and involved not only the shooting of Cox but multiple stabbings. For a supposed first time killer Mair showed surprisingly little panic or squeamishness when confronted with the actuality of attacking someone in such a physically intimate manner. Instead, he was remarkably self-possessed during the attack and afterwards, according to media reports, so much so that when a man called Rashid Hussain tried to intervene during the attack on Cox Mair coolly told him “Move back, otherwise I’m going to stab you”  He also reloaded his .22 gun twice, shot Cox three times and stabbed her 15 times. Such determined and unflustered behaviour is unusual, to say the least, for someone who had never done anything like it before. About the only thing amateurish about the attack was the fact that he did not kill the MP quickly.

After the attack, Mair made no meaningful  attempt to flee – he was arrested a mile away from the murder – and he did not disguise himself either during or after the attack. A number of people witnessed his attack As the killing was near Mair’s home the odds against him not being rapidly identified were vanishingly small.

After being arrested Mair refused to answer questions put to him by the police, including questions about his political  leanings. Again he appeared very self-possessed. Photographs showing him in a custody booth could have been taken of a man waiting quietly in a hospital before he is called for an examination.

During the act of killing he was reported to have shouted “Britain first”, “this is for Britain”, “Britain always comes first” and “keep Britain independent” and when he made his first appearance in court he gave his name as Death to Traitors, Freedom for Britain”. There is some dispute about the exact words but the discovery of a good deal of hard right literature in his home makes such statements plausible. Mair’s behaviour up to this point suggested that he wanted to be caught and to use his trial as a platform to complain about the EU and the support MPs such as Cox gave to it.

At his trial everything changed. When called upon to plead he refused to do so and pleas of not guilty to the various charges were entered on his behalf, as is usual in English courts. The refusal to plead could be interpreted as Mair doing what many politically motivated people do when placed on trial, namely, attempt to remove legitimacy from the court by refusing to acknowledge it. However, people who take that course generally make it crystal clear what they are doing. All that Mair offered was silence until he had been convicted, for he did not give evidence in his own defence.

What his attitude or strategy was in behaving in this manner is debatable because he can have had no meaningful expectation that he would be found not guilty. Hence, he would have had no reason to fear cross examination because the fact that he killed Cox could not be reasonably said to be in dispute and prosecuting counsel would have had little to get hold of or a theme to develop. Mair would have been able to have his own barrister lead him through whatever Mair wanted to say without much fear of the prosecution making him look silly in cross-examination.

After conviction  Mair did try to speak before sentence but was refused leave to do so by the judge Mr Justice Wilkie. The ground for the refusal was Mair’s failure to give evidence. This struck me as very rum, so I asked an experienced lawyer whether such a refusal was sound judicial practice and their answer was an unequivocal no. The refusal seems more than a little strange, not least because little if any mitigation was presented by his barrister. Nor, as we shall see later, was Mair’s sanity being brought into his defence.

After sentencing there was one last loose end put into the public arena. The police announced that they were trying to find the person, if any, who sold Mair the gun with which he shot Cox. The gun was legally held by someone other than Mair before it was stolen in August 2015. The police  have had more than four months to do that and it is somewhat surprising that they have made no progress to date. It may even be that the police have only just started looking because the Daily Telegraph on 23 November 2016  stated that “ A major manhunt was underway on Wednesday night for the person who handed the 53-year-old loner the modified bolt-action rifle, which was stolen almost a year before the murder.”

Mair’s silence

What are we to think about Mair’s failure to give evidence? If the man  was driven by his politics his natural course would surely have been to make a statement to police detailing his reasons for killing Cox. Moreover, he was  distinctly bullish about his motives and politics during the killing and at his first court appearance. He might have been overwhelmed with what he had done and the reality of the circumstances he found himself in. But his calm demeanour after arrest and during the trial itself makes this unlikely and in any case he wanted to speak before sentence.

It is possible although  improbable that Mair decided he would refuse  to acknowledge the legitimacy of the court by failing to either plead or give evidence until he was convicted, and then give whatever message he wanted to put before the public. If so he was thwarted by the judge. However, I can find no media report which either carried details of a protest in court by Mair at being denied an opportunity to speak or of his barrister making representations on his behalf that he should be allowed to speak. It is conceivable that the media collectively decided not to carry details of Mair protesting or his barrister arguing that he should be allowed to speak, but that would surely  be stretching credulity past breaking point.   

The only really plausible explanations for Mair’s behaviour would seem to be that he is either mentally ill or that he was intimidated by the authorities into not giving evidence.

[Ed: Part II of this essay will be published on Monday, 5th December 2016]

Photo by James Cridland

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About Robert Henderson (108 Articles)

Robert is a retired civil servant with a history and politics degree. He lives in London and runs the England Calling Blog amongst others

18 Comments on The Thomas Mair Affair – Part I

  1. Hey Guys,

    I am sorry but I am not going to go down that line of the state being behind this horrendous murder, as I have said I did chew it over for a long time and my conclusion is I think not.

    Thomas Mair was filled with hate and bitterness, it may not even had that much to do with the referendum itself, in his twisted mind she deserved to die because in his eyes she was championing causes for ‘foreigners’. How ever you may look at this sad situation you cannot deny that he was ‘mad and evil’, just the same as I have alluded to Lee Rigby’s killers are.

  2. It will take much to convince me that this was not a government sponsored act designed to shift the vote. It has happened before with Anna Lindh and others.

    • David,

      That thought did cross my mind as she was a Labour MP for a start, they were not going to kill one of their own were they? But then I thought surely, they would not sink so low would they? but it is still going on we are constantly being reminded of that event and I do feel very sorry for her family and friends believe me.

      However, clever evil people know this plays on the publics’ mind, and know how to manipulate them to think the way they want them to, even to the point of convincing them that only ‘nasty’ people want to leave the EU- look what they are capable of.

      I have been trying to think back and do not remember a record being released to raise money for Lee Rigby, although I know they have put a plaque near to where he died in tribute to him. But we have not heard much about his family since they don’t keep giving interviews like Mr. Cox does, perhaps it is part of his way of grieving and I would not like to take that away from him.

      I was thinking if the family wanted it they could get the regiment that he belonged to, to do their own recording for Christmas the ”Little Drummer Boy’, I am sure people would want to buy that I know I would, and then the proceeds can be spent on his family or a charity of their choosing, I cannot think of anything else more fitting in respect for and in remembrance of him.

      I wish I could think of a clever counter argument to all this, but when it ends with an innocent person being murdered in such a manner

      • DD,

        “But then I thought surely, they would not sink so low would they? ” Exactly what they depend on to get away with it as they have become used to doing.

    • I’ve never been one to think along these sort of lines. But on the day Jo Cox was murdered I was horrified to notice her husband tweeted her photo just hours after her murder, and then the very same day wrote “Today is the beginning of a new chapter in our lives.”

      I know everyone grieves differently of course, but this seemed so unnatural to me, I have never been able to fully believe anything that was said about this case since.

      Time and time again, something else strange and inexplicable happens like detailed in this blog and the comments below. I can’t find a way that any of this story makes sense.

      I just hope that one day we will know the truth. This really can’t be the explanation and many in the press must be as unconvinced as we are. This is one time I actually wish the press to be as intrusive as they can be!

  3. The murder of Jo Cox was tried as a terrorism case. The judge made a political statement against Thomas Mair but refused him the same right. This sets a bad anti – free speech precedent. As is intended.

    • I feel the whole case, regardless of Mair’s guilt or not, is being used by many to quiet any dissent, even the mildest of questioning.

  4. Robert Henderson, it was interesting to read your further comment regarding Mair’s right to speak before sentence.

    And I fully agree again, the statement read out from Stephen Kinnock was very strange indeed. It felt to me that privilege was over-riding protocol. And perhaps worse than that.

    You might like to read this guy on the subject:

    He also talks of the Stephen Kinnock statement and the lack of a psychiatric case.

    On both these counts and many others, I was shocked the defence made no challenge. Is the only explanation, that their client instructed them not to? Again this wouldn’t add up to the character of someone so aggrieved by politics as to murder.

  5. I completely agree. It does’t add up at all.

    How can one person who’s never been violent ever in his life, be so cool and collected in murder? Did you read the evidence that he was calmly eating a Flake just minutes before the murder!?

    How can someone who’s so angry, passionate enough to kill, just leave it at that and barely say a word about it again.

    How can someone who feels so aggressively about Britain being independent, be obsessed with Nazi Germany. Last I heard they weren’t that keen on our independence!

    If he does have strong Nazi leanings why has he kept hold of a book criticising Holocaust deniers, why has he kept hold of a Schindler’s List DVD? Why are there no “White Power” books and texts and why is he such a loner. No such thing as a one-man race war is there, especially if he barely does a thing about it?!

    I have also read that psych assessments can be requested after verdict and before sentence. In the case of Zack Davies (also Neo Nazi motives), he was assessed before trial, was found fit to stand trial, no mental health issues were put forward as defence, he never claimed mental illness – however, the judge sent him for 3 months assessment again before sentence.

    It made me very suspicious about the handling of Thomas Mair. Surely someone who doesn’t speak at all, who acts in the way that Mair has acted, calls for a few extra checks? What harm can it do?

    I am also suspicious that none of the press are commenting on the strange elements of this case. Surely they poke holes in anything and everything, they have no sensitivity usually. Is there some sort of press restriction going on here?

  6. Some further information about the refusal to allow Mair to make an unsworn statement after conviction but before sentence.

    The right to make an unsworn sentence before conviction was abolished in England in 1982 (by section 72 of the Criminal Justice Act. However, the Act gave a convicted defendant the right to speak in mitigation, viz:

    “2 Abolition of right of accused to make unsworn statement.

    (1)Subject to subsections (2) and (3) below, in any criminal proceedings the accused shall not be entitled to make a statement without being sworn, and accordingly, if he gives evidence, he shall do so [F1(subject to sections 55 and 56 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999)] on oath and be liable to cross-examination; but this section shall not affect the right of the accused, if not represented by counsel or a solicitor, to address the court or jury otherwise than on oath on any matter on which, if he were so represented, counsel or a solicitor could address the court or jury on his behalf.

    (2)Nothing in subsection (1) above shall prevent the accused making a statement without being sworn—

    (a)if it is one which he is required by law to make personally; or

    (b)if he makes it by way of mitigation before the court passes sentence upon him.”

    Plainly Mair could have been making a plea in mitigation and it would almost certainly have been a plea of mitigation in the sense that he wished to explain his actions which would whatever they were bear on mitigation even if he was to say he thought his action justified because Cox was a traitor for supporting the EU.

    The refusal to allow him to speak should have been challenged by his barrister but appears to to have been.

    Another oddity of the trial was the reading into evidence, ie, before Mair was convicted, of Stephen Kinnock’s statement about how praisworthy he thought she was. That was simply bizarre because it could have no bearing on Mair”s guilt or innocence. Again Mair’s brief appears to have made no protest.

  7. I really do not want to say to much about this horrific murder but just have this one query and this is not to do with the trial, but what is happening now.

    Her friends and colleagues have now released a record in her memory to raise money for her foundation, I have no problem with that and wish them well with it. But what about another horrific hate crime committed against Lee Rigby why has this or something similar to it been done for him? Is his life any less important? He has family as well and what’s more he put his life on the line for this country, he may not have agreed with going to war but did his duty, it was not a choice for him.

    Can someone tell me if they also find all this unbalanced and unfair, poor Lee seems to have been forgotten, as have the ones he left behind.

  8. I have regarded the Jo Cox murder as having something fishy about it from the beginning. That it took place a week before the Referendum and brought all campaigning to a screeching halt seemed to be more significant than a random act. That ‘Britain First’ attitudes were ascribed to the killer appear bizarre. Why, if he were in his right mind, would someone want to risk the referendum outcome by killing someone opposed to it? My suspicion is that he was not in his right mind and could have been persuaded to perform an irrational act in order to throw discredit on the Leave cause.

    The Remainers certainly made as much capital out of it as they could. There was much shroud-waving and concerted attempts to hagiographise Jo Cox as a martyr to the pro-EU cause. This continues: on today’s news was the announcement of musicians and singers producing a Jo Cox charity song for sale.

    In the days before she was murdered, the Leave campaign was steadily gaining momentum and I believe that the establishment already knew what the outcome would be unless something drastic happened. The predictions of ‘Apocalypse Now’ weren’t working and time was running out.

    It is the unremitting resistance to the democratic majority Leave vote for the last six months by politicians of both Houses, ex-PMs, judges, rich businessmen, the enemedia and elitist celebrities that makes me inclined to believe that Remainers with the power to do so would sanction anything – including murder – to keep Britain in the EU.

    Am I a paranoid conspiracy theorist or merely someone who doesn’t trust anything I’m told anymore by those in authority, and suspect that they are capable of going to any lengths? My distrust is based on nearly 69 years of observing lies, betrayals, mad or self-serving decisions, and the corruption that power and money invariably engenders.

    • There is a more plausible possible explanation than state murder Panmelia.

      It’s no secret that the state encourages agent provocateurs to discredit opposition to state policy. This is not new. JB Priestley wrote about it in the period after Waterloo when the government wanted to crush demands for reform of voting.

      Was Mair a hopeless man manipulated into doing something outrageous but harmless to discredit the dreadful leavers? But they lost control of him and he murdered an MP.

      We may never know but we should be alert to this sort of thing which is undeniable since the unmasking of the undercover policeman among the Greens who encouraged them to do illegal things. No paranoia here. The police were so embedded one of them procreated with someone he was watching. Big damages paid.

      • I agree that the most plausible line of thought with regard to the authorities is that they manipulated Mair into doing something they thought would be harmful to the leave cause but not physically harmful to any individual then lost control of him. However, even if that was the case those acting on behalf of the state would be as culpable as if they had incited him to kill Cox because no incitement can have a guaranteed outcome.

    • I’ve shared Panmelia’s concerns since the incident happened.

      The timing wcould not have been worse for the Leave campaign & better for Remain. The groundswell of support for the Leave campaign, which had been evident to those of us involved at the grass roots, was finally becoming evident in the polls and, with barely a week to the vote, an embarrassing defeat for the establishment was looking increasingly likely. It was going to take a game-changer to turn the the campaign around. Also, the EU just didn’t seem to be one of those emotive issues which rallied the left or excited young people.

      Almost on cue comes the murder of Jo Cox, which was shamefully exploited politically by the Remain came and has been since. I couldn’t help but note that Jo Cox was not some ageing, overweight grizzled male MP, but young, female, peitie and attractive – almost a perfect poster girl as a martyr to ignite the Remain & pro-migrant causes.

      There are striking parallels between the Mair case as Robert Henderson describes it and that Mark Chapman who shot John Lennon – a psychologically vulnerable loner with no previous history of violence who dropped into a professional sniper’s position to calmly carry out the murder and waited at the scene for police to arrive. That trial also had peculiarities which limited the amount of information which was scrutinised in court.

      You can probably guess where in going here… Some kind of patsy or Manchurian Candidate? Ah, but that would make me a paranoid conspiracy theorist.

      When one looks at the anomalies in certain historic events, I think the main thing stopping people believing outlandish “conspiracy theories” is a belief that, while our rulers may be flawed, the powers-that-be in Western democracies just aren’t so evil as to do something as nasty that.

      Personally I think they are.

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