Jo Cox fell ‘like sack of potatoes’ before attack, court told

An artist's impression of Richard Whittam QC, prosecuting, as he questions Thomas Mair in court
An artist's impression of Richard Whittam QC, prosecuting, as he questions Thomas Mair in court
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An eyewitness to the murder of Jo Cox today told a court the MP fell to the ground “like a sack of potatoes” before being kicked, stabbed and then shot.

Mother-of-two Mrs Cox, 41, was attacked by a gunman who dragged her off the pavement and down to the ground by her hair, jurors heard.

Thomas Mair is accused of carrying out the politically-motivated “pre-meditated” murder outside a library in Birstall, West Yorkshire on June 16.

The 53-year-old is said to have accessed extreme far-right material, including about the Nazis and white supremacists, on library computers in the days leading up to the attack.

Jurors have been told he shouted “Britain first” and “keep Britain independent” as he attacked the pro-EU MP.

After he was rugby tackled to the ground by police he told them he was a “political activist”, the Old Bailey was told.

Tracey Bywood, who worked in Priestley Care Home near the library, said she had heard lots of screaming while drying the dishes, and looked out of a window and saw the commotion.

Prosecutor Tom Little said: “Did you see the man grab the woman’s hair and, in your words, almost wound his hand around her hair?”

She interjected: “To drag her off the pavement.”

Asked what she saw the man do next, Ms Bywood said: “As he dragged her down, it was horrible. He just repeatedly started kicking her.

“He wanted her off the pavement.

“There was lots of shouting. I am fairly certain I heard someone shout ‘Britain first’.”

Mr Little asked: “What about any other sound that you heard?”

She replied: “Popping. I won’t buy Pringles anymore because I don’t like the sound of it when you take the seal off.”

After the attack, she said the gunman “walked all the way down the road”.

Another man tried to follow him on the opposite side of the road, she said.

Ms Bywood told the court: “He turned, and when he turned, I don’t know what was said, but the guy started running back up the street.”

She said the attacker carried on walking off, before quickening his pace and then running as he reached a side street.

She said the gunman wore a red t-shirt, which was “like a football shirt”, and a pair of khaki three-quarter length trousers.

Simon Russell Flint QC, defending, asked if she was sure about all of the account she had given.

She replied: “I am 100 per cent sure.

“She went down on the floor like a sack of potatoes.

“It was awful to see a woman have such animosity shown towards her.”

After she came off the witness stand, she hugged Mrs Cox’s mother, Jean Leadbeater, who sat in the well of the court with Mrs Cox’s father Gordon and sister Kim.

The court also heard from Michelle Davey, who worked in the same street as the library.

She said: “There was a bang, a very loud bang. A scream, and then just a bit of noise commotion.”

He kicked Mrs Cox violently about ten times, and Ms Davy said to her colleagues, “he is kicking the sh*t out of her”.

The court also heard from Shellie Morris who worked in the same care home and was on a break outside when she heard a “loud bang”.

Mr Little asked: “Did you hear a very loud, piercing scream?”

She replied: “Yes.”

Ms Morris looked over the wall from the care home and saw the commotion near the library entrance, and spotted a man waving a knife.

Mr Little asked: “Could you also see this knife swung out towards an Asian lady who had walked towards the man?”

She confirmed that she had.

The knifeman then went over with a gun, the court was told.

Mr Little said: “And you saw him aim towards the floor, towards the ground. And shoot. Is that right?”

She said: “Yes.”

The prosecutor continued: “At point, did you hear a loud bang?”

Ms Morris said that she did.

Mr Little said: “Is it right that he turned away and moved in a way that you thought was reloading the gun? Having done that, was there a third shot?”

She said: “Yes. It was like he was reloading.”

Ms Morris made a 999 call at 12.52pm, she told the court.

She said the gunman then walked off down Market Street after the attack.

Mair, of Birstall, West Yorkshire, denies murder, grievous bodily harm with intent, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence and possession of an offensive weapon - namely a dagger.