Neo-Nazi ties probed in slaying of British lawmaker
BIRSTALL, England — Evidence emerged Friday that the reclusive gardener suspected of slaying a popular Labor Party lawmaker had decades-old ties to a neo-Nazi movement and an interest in anarchist weapons literature.
As detectives questioned the 52-year-old suspect for a second day, authorities confirmed they were focused on his alleged links to white supremacists and history of mental illness as they sought a motive for an act of violence that has shocked Britain and brought normal political life to a halt.
Prime Minister David Cameron joined the stunned citizens of Birstall in paying tribute to their slain lawmaker, Jo Cox, as they placed flowers and hand-written notes on a memorial and struggled to comprehend how one of their own could have so viciously killed her.
“Today, our nation is rightly shocked,” Cameron told a crowd that included witnesses to Thursday's killing and many of Cox's friends and colleagues, including lawmakers from Cameron's ruling Conservative and Cox's opposition Labor parties. He urged the British people to drive intolerance and division “out of our public life and out of our communities.”
President Obama called Cox's husband from Air Force One and offered his condolences on behalf of the American people, the White House said in a statement Friday night.
West Yorkshire's police commander, Dee Collins, confirmed that the suspect, Thomas Mair, attacked the 41-year-old lawmaker as she emerged from her car alongside two aides. The attacker, she said, stabbed Cox repeatedly with a hunting knife and shot her as she lay on the ground.
Collins said Mair's history of mental illness was “a clear line of inquiry” as were his alleged links to right-wing extremism and interest in neo-Nazi materials. She said the regional counter-terrorism unit was aiding in the investigation, in part to determine any links with other extremists, but the Birstall native was believed to have acted alone.
Another question for detectives, she said, was how Mair acquired a gun in a country that imposed a ban on handgun ownership following a 1996 school massacre in Scotland, in which a deranged gun club member killed 16 first graders and a teacher.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a U.S.-based civil rights group that monitors hate groups, said Mair had been a supporter of the National Alliance, “the most dangerous and violent neo-Nazi group in the United States for decades.”
On its website, the center published copies of receipts from 1999 to 2003 showing that Mair ordered survivalist weapons guides and other extremist materials from the National Alliance. Among the publications were “Chemistry of Powder and Explosives” and “Improvised Munitions Handbook.”