a powerful new documentary tells the tragic story of the murder of mp Jo Cox
On the afternoon of 16 June 2016, Jo Cox was heading to a meeting with her constituents in Birstall, West Yorkshire, when she was brutally murdered.
Jo’s death at 41 came as Britain was preparing to vote in the EU referendum. This week, a new BBC2 documentary, Jo Cox: Death of an MP, tells the heartbreaking story of how the tragedy united her grief-stricken community.
‘Jo had so much energy and was so determined to help people,’ says Sandra Major, who began working as Jo’s assistant when she became the Labour MP for Batley and Spen in 2015.
‘Jo was so proud to be representing the community where she’d grown up. Keeping up with her was hard work, but she was also down to earth and had this ability to bring people on a journey with her. She really connected with people.’
During the run-up to the referendum, Jo Cox had been passionate in her support of the Remain campaign, and her outspoken views on Syrian refugees caught the attention of Thomas Mair, a local man who held extreme views on immigration to the UK.
After a surgery for members of the public at her local library, Jo was approached by Mair.
‘As we got out of the car I saw a man coming towards us,’ says Sandra, who was with Jo on that fateful day.
‘He got a gun out of his bag and shot Jo in the head. He didn’t say a word, and as Jo fell back there was blood everywhere. Then, while she was on the floor, he started stabbing her, before standing over her and shooting her twice, and then walking off calmly and saying: “That’s for Britain”.’
Jo’s office manager, Fazila Aswat, rushed to help the injured mother of two, and fights back tears as she recalls how her friend lay dying in her arms. ‘I just didn’t want Jo to be on her own,’ says Fazila. ‘I held her and there was so much blood. I told her to think of her children, but she told me
she couldn’t move. She said; “I can’t make it, I’m in too much pain”. It seemed to take an eternity for the ambulance to arrive.’
after stabbing an elderly gentleman who tried to assist Jo, Mair then wandered off, before being arrested by two unarmed police officers less than half-an-hour later.
‘We questioned Mair for nearly six hours and he said nothing,’ says Detective Supt Nick Wallen of West Yorkshire Police. ‘He didn’t react to anything we said. To this day we have no idea why he did what he did.’
For Jo’s widower Brendan, who has been left to raise two children Cuillin, six, and Lejla, four, alone, the pain will never go away.
‘It’s tough enough that her death has shattered my life,’ he says. ‘But it’s done the same to the kids. They will grow up without a mum because of one man’s hatred towards someone who only wanted to help people. Thinking of them gives me strength to keep going, because I want them to know what a great person their mum was.’
Jo was so proud to be representing the community where she’d grown up sandra Major, jo’s assistant
Determined to help people: The member for Batley and Spen
Shattered: Jo’s husband Brendan with cuillin and Lejla