By SEWELL CHAN
NOV. 23, 2016
Photo: An event in London celebrated the life of Jo Cox, a Labour Party lawmaker, a few days after she was killed in June. Credit Justin Tallis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
LONDON — A man with a history of extremist right-wing beliefs was convicted on Wednesday of murdering Jo Cox, a Labour Party lawmaker, one week before Britain’s referendum in June on leaving the European Union.
A jury convicted the man, Thomas Mair, 53, of murder after a seven-day trial at the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales, commonly known as the Old Bailey. He was immediately sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of a parole. He had declined to testify at the trial.
Mr. Mair shouted “Britain First” during the attack, but in imposing the sentence, the judge, Alan Wilkie, called Mr. Mair a terrorist, not a patriot.
“It is clear from your internet and other researches that your inspiration is not love of country or your fellow citizens — it is an admiration for Nazism and similar antidemocratic white supremacist creeds where democracy and political persuasion are supplanted by violence towards, and intimidation of, opponents and those who, in whatever ways, are thought to be different and, for that reason, open to persecution,” Justice Wilkie told Mr. Mair.
Justice Wilkie said that Mr. Mair had betrayed the sacrifices of the generation of Britons who helped defeat Nazism during World War II. “By your actions you have betrayed the quintessence of our country, its adherence to parliamentary democracy,” he said.
Sue Hemming, the head of the special crime and counterterrorism unit at the Crown Prosecution Service, said in a statement that Mr. Mair’s “premeditated crimes were nothing less than acts of terrorism designed to advance his twisted ideology.”
Photo: A police photograph of Thomas Mair after his arrest in November. Credit West Yorkshire Police
Prosecutors told the jury that Mr. Mair had stabbed Ms. Cox, 41, 15 times and shot her with a sawed-off .22-caliber hunting rifle on June 16 on a street in Birstall, a town in northern England. The killing stunned Britain, where gun ownership is tightly regulated. It was the first assassination of a sitting member of Parliament since 1990, when members of the Irish Republican Army killed a Conservative lawmaker, Ian Gow.
Ms. Hemming, of the Crown Prosecution Service, described Ms. Cox as “a defenseless mother of two young children who served her constituents with passion, exuberance and vitality and was proud to represent a diverse community.” She noted that several people had tried to come to Ms. Cox’s aid, including a 77-year-old man, Bernard Kenny, whom she said Mr. Mair stabbed and seriously injured.
In addition to murder, Mr. Mair was convicted of grievous bodily harm of Mr. Kenny, a retired coal miner, as well as possession of a firearm with intent to use it, and possession of a dagger.
“Our thoughts are with Jo Cox’s family, who attended the court hearing and have behaved with real strength and dignity throughout,” Ms. Hemming said in her statement, adding that the prosecutors’ office “will continue to work with criminal justice partners to combat those who seek to sow hatred and division by advancing extremist ideologies.”
Ms. Cox’s husband, Brendan, told the BBC that he felt only pity for Mr. Mair, and said in a statement that he hoped “that Jo’s death will have meaning” by focusing attention on her belief “that we hold more in common than that which divides us.”
Like most members of Parliament, Ms. Cox, who was elected in May 2015 to represent Batley and Spen, a district with a large number of retirees and many residents of South Asian origin, argued against leaving the European Union. But on June 23, nearly 52 percent of voters decided that Britain should leave the 28-nation bloc. Prime Minister David Cameron resigned, leaving his successor, Theresa May, with the weighty task of negotiating Britain’s departure from the union, a process that is just beginning to unfold, creating uncertainty in one of the world’s largest economies and beyond.
The jury was not asked to consider Mr. Mair’s motivations. He had declined to respond to the charges, but his lawyers entered pleas of not guilty on his behalf.
Mr. Mair, an unemployed gardener, had a longstanding obsession with Nazi propaganda, white supremacist ideologies and the apartheid era in South Africa, according to evidence presented in court. The Southern Poverty Law Center, in Alabama, reported soon after the killing that Mr. Mair was a “dedicated supporter” of the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi organization in the United States.