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The man accused of the terrorist murder of Sir David Amess allegedly began plotting to kill an MP two years ago, a court has heard.
Ali Harbi Ali, 25, appeared in the dock at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday accused of stabbing to death the Conservative MP for Southend West during a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex.
He was not asked to enter pleas to charges of murdering Sir David, 69, and preparing acts of terrorism between May 1 2019 and September this year before he was remanded in custody.
The court heard Ali allegedly settled on a plot to kill an MP two years ago, focusing on two MPs other than Sir David.
He is said to have carried out reconnaissance at one of their homes, the surgery of another and the Houses of Parliament.
Prosecutor James Cable said on Friday Ali travelled by train from his home in Kentish Town, north London, to get to Belfairs Methodist Church after making a midday appointment by email, claiming he was moving to the area.
During the meeting, he was allegedly seen to use his mobile phone before standing up, producing a large knife from his pocket and stabbing Sir David in the stomach.
The veteran MP was pronounced dead at the scene at 1.10pm and a preliminary post-mortem report gave the cause of death as multiple stab wounds to the chest.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) alleges the murder has a terrorist connection because of its “religious and ideological” motives.
Prosecutors allege Ali was affiliated with the so-called Islamic State proscribed terrorist organisation and targeted Sir David over the MP’s voting record in support of air strikes on Syria.
The defendant, wearing a grey prison-issue tracksuit and black rimmed glasses, stood to confirm his name, address and date of birth during the hearing, which lasted around 13 minutes.
He then sat with his arms folded, occasionally glancing towards the full press bench.
He nodded at Chief Magistrate Paul Goldspring as he was remanded in custody ahead of a hearing at the Old Bailey on Friday.
Earlier, Nick Price, of the CPS, said: “We will submit to the court that this murder has a terrorist connection, namely that it had both religious and ideological motivations.”
Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Matt Jukes said: “Today’s charge is a significant milestone in the case, but the work from my colleagues in the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command will continue apace.”
Speaking outside New Scotland Yard, Mr Jukes added: “A large team of detectives have been working around the clock to find out as much as we can about what happened and why.
“That work has included searches at a number of London addresses.
“Our advanced forensics team analysed digital devices and carried out a painstaking review of CCTV footage.
“If there are members of the public who have further information that might help the investigation, I would urge them to come forward.
“Every piece of information in investigations like these is important and you will not be wasting our time.”
On Monday, Parliament paid tribute to Sir David as it was announced that Southend would be granted city status, in recognition of his decades-long campaign for the seaside town to be given the honour.
His death has revived a debate on MPs’ safety as they go about their work, with Home Secretary Priti Patel telling the House of Commons on Wednesday that intelligence officers had upgraded the threat level for politicians to “substantial” but there was no “specific or imminent threat”.
Mr Jukes also confirmed security arrangements at Parliament remained under review.
He said: “We’ve been working closely with Parliament’s own security team and with the Home Office to review existing arrangements for MPs’ security, and that work will continue.
“Police forces across the country have been working with individual MPs to review their specific arrangements.”