The killer of Tory MP Sir David Amess planned the murderous assault more than a week in advance, security sources have told The Mail on Sunday.
As police continued to question a 25-year-old British man of Somalian descent last night, sources revealed that the attacker had booked an appointment at Sir David’s constituency surgery before stabbing the politician 17 times.
The suspect was named last night as Ali Harbi Ali, and The Mail on Sunday understands that his father is a former senior member of the Somalian government. Ali may have lived in Sir David’s Southend West constituency in Essex in the past, but his most recent residence is believed to be in London, where officers have been carrying out searches at three addresses.
The security services are providing assistance to Scotland Yard, which is leading the investigation. Last night, detectives were granted a warrant of further detention, allowing them to keep Ali in custody until next Friday.
Police officers were yesterday standing guard outside the North London council house where Ali lives. It is in a street of £2 million three-storey townhouses where neighbours include broadcaster Giles Coren and, formerly, the late actor Roger Lloyd Pack, who played Trigger in Only Fools And Horses.
Sir David, 69, who had been an MP since 1983, met the public every fortnight and advertised the details on his parliamentary website.
Shortly before his killing, one Minister told this newspaper that the Government feared a wave of fresh terror attacks as the country emerged from the Covid pandemic, due to an ‘epidemic’ of ‘bedroom radicals’ who spent lockdown hunched over computers plotting atrocities.
Pictured: Police outside the home of the suspect in Kentish Town
Priti Patel Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle paid their respects to Sir David (pictured above), less than 24 hours after he was fatally stabbed during a constituency surgery
Police officers attend following the stabbing of UK Conservative MP Sir David Amess as he met with constituents at a constituency surgery on October 15t, in Leigh-on-Sea
The Prime Minister lays a wreath of flowers at the foot of a tree in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex and Sir Keir Starmer stands behind him
Well-wishers attend a candle-lit vigil in memory of the Conservative MP David Amess, who was fatally stabbed the previous day, in Leigh-on-Sea
Boris Johnson, Sir Keir Starmer, Priti Patel and Sir Lyndsay Hoyle arrive to the scene of Sir David Amess’s killing in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex to pay tribute Saturday
Members of the public attend a vigil for Sir David on the field where an air ambulance landed as paramedics tried to save the MP for Southend West, after he was stabbed to death in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex
Police officers stand nearby as crowds gather in darkness at Belfairs sports ground in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on Saturday evening to honour the 69-year-old Tory MP, who was killed while meeting constituents yesterday
‘They are very hard for the security services to keep track of before they strike,’ the Minister said in a chilling warning.
Ali – who had not been charged last night – is being questioned by police to establish whether he had links to radical Islamic groups. Whitehall insiders said Ali was not known to MI5, although he is thought to have been targeted by Prevent, the Government deradicalisation programme, some years ago.
It is understood that initial indications point to the attacker being a ‘lone wolf’ who had ‘self-radicalised’ ahead of the attack at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea at Friday lunchtime.
Sources said that the suspect lived in London and travelled to Essex by train to carry out the attack. He had apparently told Sir David’s constituency staffers that he had recently moved to the area.
Ali was yesterday moved from Southend and taken for questioning to a specialised higher-security unit for terror suspects in London. A post mortem on Sir David has also been conducted.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said last night: ‘As part of the fast-paced investigation, officers have attended three addresses in the London area and conducted searches.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid flowers at the scene of the fatal stabbing yesterday along with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle.
The shocking attack, which came five years after the murder of MP Jo Cox, ignited fresh concerns over the protection of parliamentarians.
Sir Lindsay is preparing to launch a review of MPs’ security arrangements amid complaints about a postcode lottery for MPs, with some police forces offering more support than others during their regular constituency meeting.
Sir Lindsay told Channel 4 News: ‘In the end, we have to ensure that democracy survives. These people don’t like our values. They want to stop us carrying out our duties. They cannot win and must not win.’
His review is expected to consider calls to provide a police guard for all MPs’ local surgeries as the ‘only solution’, along with airport-style security. But the move is likely to be resisted by some MPs.
Writing in today’s Mail on Sunday, Sir Lindsay made what will be construed as a thinly veiled reference to Labour Deputy Leader Angela Rayner describing Tories as ‘scum’. He says: ‘The quality of political discourse has to change. The conversation has to be kinder and based on respect… The hate, which drives these attacks, has to end.’
As Westminster reverberated with shock yesterday:
- Sir David’s grieving family were comforting each other at the house of his wife Julia’s mother, four miles from the scene, where they were too upset to comment.
- A friend of Sir David’s personal assistant, Julia Cushion, who witnessed the attack, said: ‘She’s very, very upset. She’s a mess.’
- Former Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood called for face-to-face meetings to be put on hold pending a security review, but Ms Patel said a balance was needed and that MPs should not be ‘cowed’ by terrorists;
- Muslims from Southend’s mosques called the murder an ‘indefensible atrocity’;
- Somali leaders also condemned the ‘senseless murder which has shocked communities across the country’;
- A Labour source said the party will not be standing a candidate in the by-election for Sir David’s seat out of respect, and nor will the Lib Dems.
People during a candlelight vigil at Belfairs Recreation Ground near to Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North, Leigh-on-Sea
People during a candlelight vigil at Belfairs Recreation Ground near to Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex
A much-loved MP and a proud father of five, Sir David gave away his daughter Alex, 31, in marriage just weeks ago
Blue balloons were handed out at a vigil in Southend on Saturday afternoon as constituents paid tribute
The National Police Chiefs’ Council is contacting all MPs about security, while Ms Patel said she had asked all forces to review safety arrangements for MPs immediately.
She will make a statement to Parliament tomorrow.
Some MPs struck a defiant tone as they held constituency surgeries as normal yesterday. Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke met voters in a Yorkshire supermarket, and said: ‘We cannot let events like this diminish the deep relationship between an MP and their constituents.’
Former Cabinet Minister David Davis said suspending public meetings with MPs would be ‘a terrible reflection of what David stood for’.
Tory MP Andrew Percy told The Mail on Sunday: ‘There’s only so much protection you can provide to an MP who lives locally, shops locally and uses other local facilities.’
And he warned: ‘We would need to be careful not to be seen to be being privileged with policing resources over our residents.’