The manager of MP Jo Cox pleaded with her to think of her children in a desperate bid to keep her alive as she lay dying after the “cowardly” attack on her in Birstall, a jury was told.
Fazila Aswat was with the murdered mother-of-two and her senior case worker Sandra Major and had been due to take part in a surgery at Birstall Library on the afternoon of June 16.
But, a jury at the Old Bailey was told, the Batley and Spen MP was attacked by 53-year-old gardener Thomas Mair within minutes of her arriving in the town in her car in what prosecutors say was a “dynamic, fast moving and shocking” attack.
Richard Whittam QC, prosecuting, said of the ‘cowardly’ attack in Market Street just before 1pm: “Fazila Aswat saw the defendant approach Mrs Cox from behind. Her recollection is that she saw the defendant stab Jo Cox and then remove a firearm and shoot her, and then take out the knife and stab both Jo Cox and the man who intervened, and shoot Jo Cox again.”
In the first 999 call to police, witness Shelly Morris described hearing a loud bang and a loud piercing scream, and seeing Mair ‘swing the knife in a stabbing motion’.
She allegedly saw a man with a large steak knife with a jagged blade, which he wielded in a “stabbing motion”. The attacker stood over a figure and fired a gun twice, according to her account. Ms Aswat saw Mair come up behind the MP and stab her, then shoot her with the gun.
You just go away otherwise I’m gonna stab you.What Mair is alleged to have said to a witness to the attack.
He proceeded to attack Mrs Cox and Mr Carter Kenny with the knife before firing again at the politician, Mr Whittam said.Ms Aswat hit Mair repeatedly with her handbag but was forced to retreat.
She allegedly heard the defendant shouting: “This is for Britain, Britain will always come first.”
Ms Major heard him say “we’re British independence” and “Keep Britain independent”, jurors were told. Another witness, taxi driver Rashid Hussain, challenged Mair and told him to leave Mrs Cox alone. Mair is said to have replied: “You just go away otherwise I’m gonna stab you.”
Sandra Major, Mrs Cox’s senior case worker, described the firearm as being ‘brown wood with a metal tube at the end’.
She said Mair shot Mrs Cox then stabbed her, before shooting her again as she tried to get away, the court was told.
The jury of eight men and four women heard that desperate attempts were made to save Mrs Cox’s life, including an emergency thoracotomy, where an incision is made into the chest wall, performed by medics.
Mr Whittam said: “Fazila Aswat tended to her and pleaded with her to think of her children in a desperate bid to stimulate her so she would stay alive.”
A post-mortem examination showed Mrs Cox had injuries consistent with having used her hands to protect herself while she was being shot.
Darren Playford, a witness who had been at the nearby shop Sandwich and Co, saw the defendant leaving the scene and followed him towards the Vault pub.
He saw Mair disappear wearing a light jacket and baseball cap, but re-emerge without the jacket, carrying a holdall, the court heard.
Mr Whittam said Mair had not gone into the pub car park, but the street behind. Items were recovered by police later in an overgrown garden - a cap and a jacket.
A US confederate badge was said to have been pinned on the jacket, with gunshot particles, consistent with the gun being used, and DNA belonging to the defendant on them.
Mair said “it’s me” when he was arrested by two police officers less than a mile from the scene of Mrs Cox’s murder, the court heard.
Shortly after 1pm, PC Jonathan Wright and PC Craig Nicholls were travelling along Leeds Road when they saw Mair walking in the direction of Morley.
After he was cuffed he was searched and ammunition was found in a clear plastic bag. He is then said to have told the officers the knife and gun were in a black holdall he was carrying, the court heard.
When one of the officers pulled the sawn-off gun from the bag, Mair turned to him and said: “I am a political activist”, Mr Whittam told the jury.
Mair refused to speak when asked to enter a plea at an earlier hearing, so pleas of not guilty to murder, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence, possession of an offensive weapon and grievous bodily harm were entered on his behalf.
The trial continues.