Revealed: UK lawmaker murder suspect held under Terrorism Act

By MARIE JACKSON, BBC News

The man arrested by police following the killing of the UK MP Sir David Amess has been named as Ali Harbi Ali.

The 25-year-old is being held under the Terrorism Act and officers have until Friday to question him.

The BBC understands Mr Ali was referred to the counter-terrorist Prevent scheme some years ago, but was never a formal subject of interest to MI5.

Whitehall officials told the BBC that the man being held was Ali Harbi Ali, a British man of Somali heritage.

Police said a man, who was held on suspicion of the MP’s murder in Essex on Friday, was now being held at London police station after being rearrested under the Terrorism Act.

Officials do not believe anyone else was involved in the attack.

Sir David, Conservative MP for Southend West since 1983, was stabbed multiple times as he held a regular Friday meeting with constituents at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea.

It is thought Mr Ali did not spend long in the Prevent programme – which aims to stop people becoming radicalised.

Teachers, members of the public, the NHS and others can refer individuals to a local panel of police, social workers and other experts who decide whether and how to intervene in their lives.

Engagement in the scheme is voluntary and it is not a criminal sanction.

Mr Ali was initially arrested on suspicion of murder and held in Essex, but has since been transferred to London where he was further detained under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act.

On Saturday, detectives were granted a warrant by magistrates to allow them to keep Mr Ali in custody until Friday 22 October.

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said a knife used in the attack had been recovered at the scene.

Officers spent Saturday searching three addresses in the London area. A post-mortem examination also took place on Saturday, the police added.

Sir David was married with four daughters and a son. A candlelit vigil was held in Leigh-on Sea on Saturday night to mark the 69-year-old’s life.

Speaking to the gathering, Southend councillor Alan Dear said Sir David was “a gentleman and a gentle man”.

Sir David is the second MP to be killed in recent years, following the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox in June 2016.

The latest attack has raised concerns for the safety of MPs, many of whom hold constituency surgeries which anyone can attend.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said security measures were being put in place to protect MPs – but insisted they would carry on serving the country unimpeded.

“We will carry on, we live in an open society, a democracy,” she said during a visit to the scene of the attack, alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

“We cannot be cowed by any individual or any motivation… to stop us from functioning, to serve our elected democracy.”

Ms Patel maintained a balance could be found to allow face-to-face meetings with constituents to continue.

However, Conservative MP Tobias Elwood – who came to the aid of a stabbed police officer during the 2017 terror attack in Westminster – suggested MPs speak to constituents on the phone or over Zoom for the time being.

Labour MP Diane Abbott said she would prefer to meet constituents behind a screen to prevent possible stab attacks.

And Kim Leadbeater, the sister of Mrs Cox, said her partner had asked her to stand down as MP for Batley and Spen after Sir David’s death.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he was working “at pace” with the home secretary and police to find ways to improve safety for MPs.