LONDON • A Briton obsessed with Nazi Germany and far-right politics was yesterday found guilty of murdering British lawmaker Jo Cox a week before Britain's highly charged Brexit referendum, and sentenced to life in prison.
Jurors at the Old Bailey court took just 90 minutes to convict Thomas Mair, 53, who had been charged under anti-terrorism legislation.
Mair, who had opted not to speak in his own defence at his trial, showed no emotion as the verdict was announced. He was told he would never be released.
Judge Alan Wilkie denied Mair's request to speak after the verdict. He told him: "You are no patriot. By your actions you have betrayed the quintessence of our country: its adherence to parliamentary democracy."
Mair shot Mrs Cox three times and repeatedly stabbed her as the 41-year-old mother of two young children arrived at a library to meet her constituents in the town of Birstall, part of her electoral district in northern England.
The attack occurred on June 16, a week before the British referendum in which Mrs Cox, a Labour Member of Parliament, had been a strong supporter of remaining in the European Union.
The court earlier heard that Mair shouted "Britain first" as he fired three shots at the lawmaker and stabbed her 15 times.
Investigators found an extensive collection of books on German military history, the Holocaust and Nazi race theory and a statue of a bust of the eagle of Germany's Third Reich when they searched Mair's home in Birstall.
After the verdict, Mrs Cox's husband, Brendan, called the murder "a political act and an act of terrorism".
You are no patriot. By your actions you have betrayed the quintessence of our country: its adherence to parliamentary democracy.
JUDGE ALAN WILKIE, on Thomas Mair's crime.
"We have no interest in the perpetrator, we only feel pity for him."
He also said his wife's killing was a self-defeating act of terrorism that was driven by hatred but instead created an outpouring of love.
"Jo was interested in everybody, driven not by her ego but her desire to help," he added.
Mair had declined to enter a plea at a pre-trial hearing in October, so a judge had recorded a plea of not guilty on his behalf.
However, the court was told that when Mair appeared at London's Westminster Magistrates Court after being charged he had given his name as "death to traitors, freedom for Britain".
Judge Wilkie said the jury could draw their own conclusions if Mair declined to offer evidence. Mair's lawyer, Mr Russell Flint, said his client was aware of that.
"The sheer brutality of her murder and the utter cowardice of her murderer bring the two extremities of humanity face to face," lawyer Richard Whittam said as he summed up the prosecution case.
He said Mair's alleged "racist interest" was in stark contrast to that of Mrs Cox, who advanced a fair and diverse society.
Witnesses have said Mrs Cox suffered a ferocious attack when she arrived at the library, and that when apprehended by police, Mair had said "It's me" and described himself as a political activist.
Summing up for Mair, Mr Flint said the attack on Mrs Cox was appalling and she had been "brutally and callously murdered".
He said it was up to jurors whether to return Mair to his "quiet and solitary existence or whether he will be forever remembered as the man who assassinated Jo Cox".
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE