The man accused of murdering Conservative MP Sir David Amess has told a court he did not have “any shame” as he admitted to killing the Conservative MP because he had voted seven years ago in support of a military campaign in Syria.
Ali Harbi Ali, 26, stabbed Amess more than 20 times with a foot-long carving knife at Belfairs Methodist church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, shortly after midday on 15 October 2021, the Old Bailey heard.
Telling the court he considered himself to be a “moderate Muslim”, he said he had previously hoped to kill Michael Gove, now the levelling up secretary.
He denies preparing terrorist acts and murder.
Dressed all in black, the bespectacled defendant told jurors: “I decided to do it because I felt that if I could kill someone who made decisions to kill Muslims, it could prevent further harm to those Muslims.”
Ali said Amess had previously voted along with other MPs in support of airstrikes on Islamic State-controlled territories in Syria, a vote that took place in 2015 under the former prime minister David Cameron.
Cross-examined by Tom Little QC, Ali was asked what difference killing Amess would make. He replied: “For one, he can’t vote again.
“If he had previous for doing votes like that he won’t do it in the future, and perhaps send a message to his colleagues.”
Little put it to Ali that on the day of the attack, Amess was trying to help him.
Ali replied: “Oh, because of the surgery? I guess, yes. I killed him because he harmed Muslims. If he helped me after that [voting on Syrian airstrikes] then it doesn’t really matter.”
Little said: “He posed no risk at all to you.”
Ali replied: “He posed risk to Muslims.”
He agreed that Amess’s membership of the Conservative Friends of Israel group was another “big problem” for him.
Ali admitted he had previously been asked why he had a note on his phone about his “plans” to kill Gove.
Ali said: “That was plans I had to attack and hopefully kill Michael Gove at the time. I believe he was someone who was a harm to Muslims. I thought if I couldn’t go join Islamic State, I should try and do something here to help Muslims here.”
Ali told the court he had no regrets over killing Sir David, who he referred to as simply “David”.
He denied being “utterly shameless”.
He said: “I wouldn’t use the word ‘shameless’ but I don’t have any shame.”
Little said: “You don’t think you did anything wrong.”
And Ali replied: “If I thought I did anything wrong, I wouldn’t have done it.”
Ali said he “deeply” regretted not being able to join Islamic State and did not think the attack was wrong. I consider myself a Muslim who went out and killed someone who killed Muslims,” he said.
Asked if he regarded himself as a radical, he replied: “I am a moderate Muslim.”
Ali had managed to arrange an appointment with Amess, 69, by telling the politician’s office he was a healthcare worker moving to the area and wished to discuss local matters.
The trial previously heard how Ali allegedly spent years hatching his plot, researching a number of potential high-profile political targets including Gove, Dominic Raab and Sir Keir Starmer, before settling on Amess.
Describing his childhood, Ali told the jury it was “full of love and care”.
“I had a big family who used to come around all the time,” he said. “I don’t recall any bad memories at the time.”
He told the jury he dropped out of university as he felt “as a Muslim” he was obliged to do something during a period when there was fighting in Syria.
“I felt I was railroading myself into a normal life,” he said.
The trial continues.