How Jo Cox’s alleged assassin was influenced by neo-Nazism

Mair talked to a local newspaper in 2011 about volunteering. Image of Cox from her Facebook.

Since Jo Cox, a Labour member of Parliament, was shot and stabbed to death in the UK last week, evidence has mounted that the killing was a planned assassination.

A suspect was charged with Cox’s murder the following day.

Thomas Mair, initially described by some media as a “loner with a history of mental health issues,” has had links to violent far-right organizations dating back decades.

At his first court appearance last weekend, Mair declared “death to traitors, freedom for Britain.” According to prosecutors, Mair told police “I’m a political activist” upon his arrest, and white supremacist material was found in a police search of his home.

Receipts were also published purporting to show Mair had bought magazine subscriptions and books from a neo-Nazi group in the US. One of these was a guide on how to make improvised explosives and firearms.

A former FBI informant claimed that he met Mair during his time inside the hate group, at a meeting in London intended to expand the group into Europe.

It has also emerged that Mair wrote at least two letters in the 1990s, published in South African Patriot in Exile, a pro-apartheid white nationalist magazine, denouncing “White liberals and traitors” and alluding to the need for a “very bloody struggle.”

The case against Mair is being brought under the terrorism protocol and so the charges can be described as terror-related. Critics say much of the press would have described the attack as terrorism if the suspect had been Muslim.

But the the press, almost uniformly, has not called this political assassination “terrorism.”

Kashif Malik of the Crown Prosecution Service told The Electronic Intifada on Thursday that the charges against Mair reflect the seriousness of the alleged crimes.

When asked why no charges for preparation of a terrorist act had been brought, he said police investigations were ongoing and further charges could be brought.

“Political activist”

Mair appeared via video link at London’s central criminal court, the Old Bailey, on Tuesday. He was charged with murder, grievous bodily harm, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offense and possession of an offensive weapon.

Prosecution lawyer Mark Dawson told The Electronic Intifada that the counterterror office was assisting West Yorkshire Police with its investigation. The case is being handled under the terrorism protocol – which is why it is being heard in London and not where the killing took place.

A written Crown Prosecution Service summary of the case indicates that Mair was waiting for Cox as she arrived in Birstall for one of the regular advice meetings MPs hold with their constituents.

Bernard Kenny, aged 77, saw a man approach Cox as she got out from her car. Almost immediately, the man began to attack her with a knife, according to the prosecutor’s summary. Kenny attempted to aid her, but the man stabbed him in the stomach. Kenny then escaped, seeking assistance.

The summary says that according to witness accounts, the defendant then shot Cox three times as she lay on the ground. He then allegedly continued to stab her, and while doing so “the defendant was heard to say words to the effect of ‘Britain first, keep Britain independent, Britain always comes first, this is for Britain.’”

Cox was pronounced dead an hour later. As Mair was arrested, he told officers “it’s me” and “I’m a political activist.” He gave his name as Thomas Mair of Birstall in Batley – a small town near Leeds in the north of England.

Searching his home, the police found newspaper articles relating to Cox and “ideological material relating to extreme right-wing and white supremacist organizations.”

Police in a statement on Monday said Kenny had been discharged from hospital after treatment for the stabbing.

“Death to traitors”

According to press reports, when Mair was asked his name at his initial magistrate’s court appearance on Saturday, he replied “my name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain.”

Under UK law, local media are often barred from reporting many details from criminal court hearings until the conclusion of a case.

One detail they are permitted to report is the defendant’s name. So it seems possible Mair knew giving his name as a slogan would be a sure way to get his message across to supporters via the media.

As a Labour MP, Cox advocated for refugees, particularly Syrians, to be allowed into the country and treated humanely.

She was also part of the Labour Friends of Palestine group, and opposed government moves to legally restrict boycotts of Israel.

The Conservative, Liberal Democrat and UK Independence parties all said they would not stand candidates against Labour in the by-election which will decide Cox’s replacement.

But Jack Buckby, a former British National Party member, said he would stand on behalf of Liberty GB, a far right anti-Muslim party that wants to ban all immigration for five years.

Party leader Paul Weston told the Daily Mirror that Cox was “was more interested in solidarity with Palestinian people than gang rape” – a common Islamophobic trope.

The far right on both sides of the Atlantic have reacted with joy at Cox’s killing.

Notts Casuals Infidels, an offshoot of the collapsed Islamophobic street gang the English Defence League, reacted to the killing on Facebook by claiming that they “knew it was only a matter of time before we take it to the next level.”

Photos of Cox holding a Palestinian flag and posing with campaigners from the Palestine solidarity organization Friends of al-Aqsa were posted on the Facebook page of the South East Alliance, a group describing itself as “angry, white and proud.” A comment beside the photos called Cox a “dirty bitch” and expressed the hope that a Muslim had killed her.

Killed for her beliefs

On Thursday at the Old Bailey, judge John Saunders set Mair’s trial date as 14 November. It is expected to last three weeks. Mair appeared via video link and made notes throughout the hearing.

On Tuesday, Jo’s husband Brendan Cox said that “she had very strong political views and I believe was she killed because of those views.”

Jo Cox had been due to launch a report on the rise of anti-Muslim hatred and the far right by the Islamophobia monitor Tell MAMA next week.

In the US, the Southern Poverty Law Center published receipts from 1999 and 2003 in Mair’s name from the book ordering service of the National Alliance, a hardcore neo-Nazi organization.

The receipts show purchases totalling $390 of books, magazine subscriptions and back issues. One of these is the Improvised Munitions Handbook. Originally published by the US Army in 1969, the manual contains detailed instructions on how to build improvised explosives and firearms.

One witness to the assassination reportedly stated that the gun was “an old gun, like a musket.” The Times reported on Friday that a second witness, Hichem Ben-Abdallah, described it as “a makeshift gun.”

Neo-Nazi links

The National Alliance said in a statement Friday that they have “no connection with Thomas Mair any more than with any other book customer; we did not work with him, were not familiar with him.”

But the group’s current leader, Will Williams, appeared to justify the killing, saying that Cox “put a target on her back.”

The receipt for the manual was dated May 1999, one month after the London bombing campaign undertaken by the neo-Nazi David Copeland. He killed three people at a gay bar in the Soho neighborhood and injured many Black and Asian people in Brixton and Brick Lane.

Copeland admitted being influenced by The Turner Diaries, a “white power” novel written under a pseudonym by William Pierce, the National Alliance’s founder.

The book has been described by the FBI as the “bible of the racist right.” It was also said by prosecutors to have inspired Timothy McVeigh, whose Oklohoma City bombing killed 168 in 1995.

The SPLC does not say how it obtained internal National Alliance documents. But the organization is known have contact with a former FBI informant within the neo-Nazi group.

A second SPLC blog posting on Mair published on Sunday states that “according to Todd Blodgett, an American who was then a paid informant for the FBI and also met with [UK spy agency] MI5,” Mair was present at a 2000 National Alliance meeting in a London pub. The group was hoping to expand into Europe.

Obsessed by books

“From what I could surmise, Tommy Mair was loosely affiliated with the Leeds chapter of the National Alliance,” Blodgett said. “He was a working class kind of guy who I think was very well read. He was self-educated.”

Blodgett said he mentioned Winston Churchill, Britain’s prime minister during the Second World War, to Mair during the meeting. “He kind of made a face and he referred to Churchill as a kike-loving bastard,” Blodgett added.

“Mair was easily the quietest, best-mannered guy there,” Blodgett said. “But once he got going — i.e., discussing Blacks, Jewish people and other minorities — he was what I’d call ‘all in’ — just like everyone else who attended that gathering.”

Mark Cotterill, the white nationalist who organized the London meeting that Mair allegedly attended, responded Wednesday that Blodgett was a “criminal liar, fantasist and traitor.” He also claimed Blodgett made parts of the story up and sold it to the SPLC.

Cotterill disputed many of the details of the FBI informant’s account, claiming that Mair (an “armchair nationalist”) was not at the meeting (which he says actually took place in 1998, not 2000). He also says the National Alliance never had a Leeds chapter and “may have had 20 to 30 members in the whole of the UK, and that’s tops.”

Speaking anonymously, a neighbor of Mair’s told The Guardian that “he was obsessed with books … his house is full of them.”

But she said the killing was “totally out of character” and that he had never been in trouble with police before. She said he “practically lived in the library,” where he would regularly use the computers. Mair was unemployed and lived in a council house.

Mair has a half-brother Duane St Louis, whose father is from Grenada. Asked if Mair was a racist, St Louis told the Metro “no chance.” The Guardian said St Louis insisted his brother had never expressed any racist views and seemed fine with having a mixed-race sibling.

But a driver from the Oakwell and Rex taxi firm in Birstall gave a different account of Mair. Speaking anonymously to the International Business Times, the driver said Mair had been blacklisted by Asian cabbies for his racism. “They picked him up and he would give them racist abuse,” the driver said. “They asked us to blacklist him, said they would rather not bother with his fare.”

White “collaborators”

As The Electronic Intifada reported last week, Mair had also subscribed to South African Patriot in Exile, published by a pro-apartheid group which rejects “multicultural societies” and “expansionist Islam,” and dubs Nelson Mandela a “terrorist.”

“Release Clive Derby-Lewis, political prisoner,” the magazine’s front page once advocated. Derby-Lewis was a hard-right politician who later served a life sentence for his role in the 1993 assassination of Chris Hani. A member of both the Communist Party and the African National Congress, Hani was one of South Africa’s most prominent Black political activists.

A 2006 edition of the group’s “cyber newsletter” states that Mair “was one of the earliest subscribers and supporters” of the magazine, but that it had since lost contact with him. The group asked for help in reconnecting with him.

On Monday the SPLC published two letters by Mair that had been published in the magazine. In the first, from 1991, Mair wrote “I still have faith that the White Race will prevail, both in Britain and in South Africa, but I fear that it’s going to be a very long and very bloody struggle.”

He also wrote that he had received back issues “via the British National Party,” the white supremacist group that Soho bomber Copeland was once a member of.

In the second, from 1999, Mair wrote that he was “glad you strongly condemned ‘collaborators’ in the White South African population. In my opinion, the greatest enemy of the old Apartheid system was not the ANC and the Black masses but White liberals and traitors.”

This rhetoric is a clear echo of his slogan in court advocating “death to traitors.”

In a statement, the magazine’s editor Alan Harvey said he had “never met Mr. Mair, and apart from brief contact way back in the mid-1980s when he briefly subscribed to our magazine we have had no contact with him.”

But he did not reply to an email from The Electronic Intifada asking to explain the discrepancy between this account and the fact that he published Mair’s letters in the 1990s.

Lone wolves?

A new report published by the Royal United Services Institute shows that “right-wing extremists kill and injure more people in lone wolf attacks than Islamist terrorists acting alone,” The Guardian reported on Wednesday.

A commentator with Media Diversified, an organization promoting writers of color, wrote that “Jo Cox’s murder was the inevitable, tragic consequence of a steady flow of fascistic bile that has permeated the mainstream political discourse,” and that “fascistic discourse begets fascistic violence.”

A debate over Thursday’s referendum on membership of the European Union has been raging in the UK for months. The mainstream Leave campaign has championed anti-immigrant sentiment as its main tactic.

Although far-right and white nationalist groups are a minority, they almost universally despise the EU, mainly because they perceive it as encouraging non-white refugees to arrive in the UK. Cox was active in the Remain campaign.

The day after Cox’s assassination, a man was arrested for allegedly making a death threat to another Labour MP, Ben Bradshaw.

Bradshaw told The Guardian that the voice mail message was the culmination of a series of abusive calls to his office making homophobic and racist remarks.

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Guess who was also a BNP and EDL groupie/fan? Little Miss Goy-Chick herself, Pamela Geller Oshry. So much so she is persona non grata in the UK.

There are several good reasons for Brexit. Immigration and race are not among them.

Western Europe should look east and south for its future. There is no future in being a vassal state.

RIP Jo Cox and Collin Thomas (of Universal Auto World).

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Thanks for this well-researched report on the long and extensive fascist connections of the alleged killer. The corporate media have largely excluded these details from their coverage of Jo Cox's murder, just as they have sought to portray the crime as an inexplicable act of a deranged individual. This was clearly a planned political assassination carried out in the final days of the referendum campaign. Now, in the immediate aftermath of Britain's vote to exit the EU, the far right is rejoicing in country after country, and the violent death of a defender of immigrants and a proponent of EU membership merely sweetens the outcome for them.

But again, thanks for giving us a chance to read the truth.

Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London. He is an associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He first visited Palestine in 2004.