The killer

'Loner with history of mental illness'

Mair (above) was arrested by police (left) shortly after his attack on Mrs Cox.
Mair was arrested by police (above) shortly after his attack on Mrs Cox.PHOTO: GAsif@gasif2016/ Twitter
Mair (above) was arrested by police (left) shortly after his attack on Mrs Cox.
Mair (above) was arrested by police shortly after his attack on Mrs Cox.PHOTO: GAsif@gasif2016/ Twitter

BIRSTALL • Thomas Mair, the 52-year-old man arrested over the murder of British lawmaker Jo Cox, was a loner with a history of mental illness who, his family said, had no strong political views.

But a US civil rights group said it had records suggesting Mair was a "dedicated supporter" of a neo-Nazi group. In 1999, he bought books from the neo-Nazi group on how to make a gun and improvised explosives, said the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Centre.

To Mair's next-door neighbour Diana Peters, 65, who said she had known him since she was eight, he was a great help, though he never had visitors. "I'm totally devastated... He's been very helpful to me. Anything I asked him to do, he did very willingly and sometimes without my needing to ask," she said.

Mr Scott Mair, 50, confirmed his older brother "has a history of mental illness". "But he has had help."

Since Thursday's fatal attack, British police have been investigating Mair's political affiliations following witness accounts that he had shouted "Britain first", which also happens to be the name of a right-wing nationalist group.

But the group's deputy leader Jayda Fransen distanced it from the attack, which she described as "absolutely disgusting".

Evidence that Mair might be linked to neo-Nazi group National Alliance emerged after the Southern Poverty Law Centre said he had spent more than US$620 (S$830) on books from the group, which calls for the creation of an all-white homeland. The Daily Telegraph also reported that Mair subscribed to S.A. Patriot, a South African magazine published by a pro-apartheid group.

But family members said he never had strong political views.

Mair's half-brother Duane St Louis, 41, told The Sun newspaper: "He's never expressed any views about Britain, or politics or racist tendencies. I'm mixed-race and I'm his half-brother; we got on well."

Mair's mother Mary, 69, was struggling to make sense of what happened. "I don't understand it, I just don't understand it," she was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying.

NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2016, with the headline ''Loner with history of mental illness''. Print Edition | Subscribe