THOMAS Mair’s stabbing attack on Jo Cox was described as ‘calculated’ and ‘quite controlled’ by witnesses alerted to the drama by the sound of gunfire and a woman’s screams.
Michelle Davey and Adam Howard were working across the road from the attack when it started and both described seeing the killer kicking Jo Cox on the ground and stabbing her in different parts of her torso. Ms Davey said: “The stabbing seemed very slow and very precise.’
She said it was as if he knew where he wanted to stab his victim.
Taxi driver Rashid Hussain heard Mair shout ‘Britain first’ and shoot her twice.
David Honeybell had gone to the library to Mrs Cox’s surgery, where another witness, Stephen Connolly, was also alerted to the commotion. Mr Honeybell described seeing a man stabbing someone on the road between two cars.
He said: “He started to walk away down the road, then he came back and got a gun out of a bag. He just stood over her pointing the gun at her head.”
Mr Honeybell said the attacker then re-cocked the gun and shot her again “in the midriff”.
He said the man then walked away “as if he had not a care in the world. He just walked away”.
Julie Holmes was in her shop, It’s A Cake Thing, when she heard the first gunshot and screams. She thought the man was punching Jo Cox until she saw his knife. She told how he got a gun from a black bag at the side of a car, straddled her body and shot her twice.
Local businessman Clarke Rothwell was outside Sandwich and Co when alerted to the attack and he also saw the second shootings and stabbings.
He told the court he followed the assailant down Market Street until he turned towards Union Street, at which point Mr Rothwell got into his van and drove around the area trying to find him.
Louise Keskin said the man in the attack was the same one she had noticed lingering outside the Vape Lounge some time before the killing.
Shellie Morris and Tracey Bywood both witnessed the attack and his escape from the nearby Priestley Care Home.
In cross-examination, Mr Simon Russell-Flint asked a number of the witnesses about their descriptions of the assailant, as there were numerous different accounts of what they recalled he was wearing, plus estimates of his size as being anything between 5ft 5ins and 6ft tall.
The trial continues.
COURT 8 of the Old Bailey sat in shocked silence as CCTV footage from the bottom of Market Street showed Thomas Mair’s attack on Jo Cox.
After the silver Astra driven by Fazila Aswat comes up the street from Bradford Road, they find a parking space just before the library.
Although the incident is in the distance, Mair can be seen crossing the road from the Vape Lounge where he had been lurking since noon on Thursday, June 16.
After what seems to be a coming together of Mair with the group of women, he can be seen on top of Mrs Cox before breaking into a brief jog down and across Market Street. He stops suddenly in the middle of the road, then returns to attack Mrs Cox again, this time between the two cars, before finally walking off more calmly this time.
Footage of the attack had been preceded by multiple recordings of Mair on that fatal day, walking from his home in Lowood Lane to the Birstall Retail Park and back between 9.30 and 10.30am, before at 11.30am he leaves his council house for the last time and walks into the market square, where he takes station on the top corner of Market Street across from the library.
EVIDENCE OF FAZILA ASWAT
The office manager for the Batley & Spen MP, Fazila Aswat told the court how they were running late, Jo having lingered at her earlier appointments at a local primary school and care home.
After the surgery, they were due to attend an EU ‘Remain’ campaign stall in the market place. Although parking was usually tight, on that occasion they found a spot just a few yards down from the library entrance. Mrs Cox got her handbag and some belongings out of the back of the car.
Mrs Aswat said: “I was still on the roadside and Sandra had already walked a few steps further up, and in that instance our lives changed forever.
“The next thing I saw Jo was on the floor and there was a man standing over her with a knife. I was feeling panicked. There was a gun and there was a knife and she was on the floor.”
Mrs Aswat gave an example of Mair’s stabbing motion but said she couldn’t be sure where he was stabbing Jo.
“I shouted, ‘Jo you need to run’. After that first part of the incident the man seemed to have retreated. I said ‘Jo you need to get up and run’. She spoke to me, she was quite modulated and composed. She said she could not get up, she was hurt.”
At that point both Fazila and Sandra Major described how Mair, upon hearing Jo Cox speak, came back to finish her off. The women swung their handbags at Mair, who lunged at them with his knife.
Mrs Aswat said she didn’t think he was trying to stab them, just get them away from Jo so he could get to her again.
“He went between the cars and I heard two gunshots and I could see his arm going at her.
“In the second attack he was standing over her and shot her at close range, and then I could see his arm going.
“At the very end when he stood up he said ‘Britain first, Britain will always come first’.
“Jo was in my arms. It probably only took three or four minutes for the police and ambulance to arrive, but it felt like a lifetime.”
In cross examination, Mr Russell-Flint simply asked Mrs Aswat a few details about the attacker’s appearance and clothing. As she left the witness stand she looked straight at Mair in the dock. He maintained his blank stare, straight ahead.
EVIDENCE OF SANDRA MAJOR
JO COX’S senior caseworker Sandra Major had the clearest view of the beginning of the deadly attack. She had got out of the car’s front passenger seat and walked a few paces ahead of Jo and Fazila Aswat. She told a hushed courtroom: “In my peripheral vision I saw a man walking past me. He had a gun in his hand, he raised his arm and he shot Jo in the head ... in the area of the temple.
“She fell back onto the ground and there was blood pouring down her face. He said something along the lines of ‘keep Britain independent’ or ‘British independence’.”
Mrs Major described the gun as being “short, it wasn’t a shotgun, but it was quite deep”. She said she thought Mair had a shopping bag in his left hand with the gun in his right. He got a knife out of the bag. It was black. Jo was lying on the floor and she sort of tried to push herself up using her right arm but he just started stabbing while she was lying on the floor. He was stabbing her.
“Fazila was in between two parked cars. We started to hit him with our handbags. Fazila said ‘get away from her, she has two little children’. I was just screaming. I thought if people came he might go away.
“Jo could not get up but she did a sideways roll and went into the road. He went towards both of us. We were quite close together. Jo was in the road and she shouted ‘get away you two, get away. Let him hurt me, don’t let him hurt you’.
“He’d started to walk away a few feet but when Jo shouted out he came back. Then he shot her twice more and started stabbing her again. She was on the floor. She did not get up again.”
Mrs Major said that Mair then walked away, down Market Street in the direction of Bradford Road.
EVIDENCE OF BERNARD KENNY
THE evidence of Mr Kenny, the pensioner who was stabbed trying to tackle Thomas Mair, was given by written statement after the court heard he was not well enough to attend.
Mr Kenny, 78, had taken his wife Doreen to the library and popped into the market to buy some bananas and returned to his car when he saw Mrs Cox and her staff arrive and park up just across the road from him.
His statement said: “The next thing I heard was a bang. I thought it sounded like a gun but that it could not have been maybe a car backfiring.”
He then saw Jo Cox roll into the road and saw Mair with the blade.
“My first thought was that he was kicking her and then I saw a knife. He said people were shouting ‘get help’.”
He told police: “I intended to jump onto his shoulders. If I could jump on the back of him I could take him down.”
He said he thought Mair was punching Mrs Cox but then he saw the knife, which he described as a dagger, with a blade up to nine inches long.
“Just as I got short of him he turned around and he hit me in the stomach. I put my hand over it and saw blood pouring out through my fingers and I thought ‘oh my God’.”
Mr Kenny said he staggered backwards, still facing Mair in case he came after him. He collapsed on the shop step. People from inside tried to staunch the bleeding.
He went on: “My wife came across from the library and saw me. I could still see what was going on. The man was still at Jo Cox. His hand was going up and down in a punching motion with the dagger.”