Jo Cox murder accused said ‘it’s me’ during arrest

An artist's impression of Thomas Mair during an appearance at the Old Bailey

An artist's impression of Thomas Mair during an appearance at the Old Bailey

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A far-right extremist told police “it’s me” before he was rugby-tackled to the ground after the killing of Labour MP Jo Cox, a court has heard.

Thomas Mair, 53, also said “I’m a political activist” as he was handcuffed by the unarmed officers, who had been warned he was potentially carrying weapons, jurors were told.

The gardener is accused of repeatedly shooting and stabbing 41-year-old Remain campaigner Mrs Cox a week before the EU referendum vote.

A leaflet about the referendum was found in a black holdall he was carrying when arrested, along with a loaded sawn-off .22 rifle, and a dagger-type knife, the Old Bailey was told.

Mrs Cox was set upon outside her constituency surgery in Birstall, near Leeds, in front of her staff and shocked passers-by on June 16.

Pc Craig Nicholls told jurors he had been on patrol in a police car with Pc Jonathan Wright when they arrested Mair in Risedale Avenue, around a mile from where the MP was attacked.

Pc Nicholls told jurors they spotted a suspect matching the description of a man wanted in connection with a shooting just after 1.30pm in nearby Leeds Road, carrying a black holdall.

He said: “We drove past him initially. I spun the vehicle around. That’s when he disappeared.”

Pc Nicholls turned into a cul-de-sac and saw the man in the middle of the road.

His colleague leaned out and ordered him “several times” to put the bag down and show his hands.

The West Yorkshire Police officer told jurors: “He dropped the bag to his right-hand side. He turned around and it was very quick, put his hands into his pockets.

“I just remember seeing loose change fall out of his pockets.

“At that point he put his arms out and said ‘It’s me’.”

The officer told jurors that they then “rugby-tackled him to the ground”, at which point he said “I’m a political activist”.

Pc Wright echoed his colleague’s account, saying: “As we ran towards him - I cannot remember getting out of the vehicle - the next thing I remember is running shoulder to shoulder with Pc Nicholls as fast as we could.

“As we reached the male, his arms moved towards his belt line. I was fearful because he had a loose-fitting shirt and I could not see what he had underneath so we both took him to the ground.

“I asked him ‘What have you got on you?’ and he told me ‘I’ve got a knife in my pocket’.”

After searching his pockets, the officer said: “I opened the bag to have a look in it. I saw a firearm.”

He also found a bag of bullets, he added.

Simon Russell Flint QC, for Mair, suggested that the defendant did not shout “It’s me” or claim to be a political activist and had remained silent throughout his arrest.

Cross-examining Pc Nicholls, he said: “There is a lot of radio noise. The (police) car engine is running. You are 20 yards away. Pc Wright is shouting at him (Mair) to drop it (the bag). You are still in the car, as is Pc Wright.

“And you are saying you could both hear something like ‘It’s me’?”

Pc Nicholls replied: “He did say it.”

Jurors were shown mobile phone footage shot by a street resident showing Mair’s arrest.

They were also shown images from the scene, including the holdall containing the gun prosecutors allege was used in Mrs Cox’s murder.

Another showed a baseball cap lying by spatters of blood. Jurors were told that Mair suffered a head injury during his arrest.

A scenes of crime officer found a dagger and sheath inside the black Viking Sports bag, the court heard, and Mair’s library card and a student college card were recovered.

Another blade in a gold-coloured cylinder was among items in the road, jurors were told.

The trial has previously heard that Mrs Cox’s assistant stepped in and hit Mair with her handbag, while 77-year-old Bernard Carter-Kenny desperately tried to intervene but was also stabbed, the court heard.

Throughout the “cowardly” killing, the defendant was heard to rant “Britain first”, prosecutor Richard Whittam QC has told jurors.

Mair had previously looked up right-wing literature in his local library.

Birstall library worker Beverley Fletcher saw Mair visiting on June 15, the day before the killing.

Jurors were shown CCTV of the defendant coming and going on that day.

In a statement read to court, she said: “Thomas Mair only accesses the IT services and I cannot remember him ever getting a book out of the library.

“Thomas Mair does not engage in conversation and he does not give much eye contact. I know Thomas Mair likes his privacy.”

Mair denies Mrs Cox’s murder, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence and possession of an offensive weapon - a dagger.

He has also pleaded not guilty to causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Mr Carter-Kenny on the same date.

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