Golders Green MP reveals how last minute call from Boris prevented Amess killer from murdering him

Mike Freer said Ali Harbi Ali had visited his constituency office on the day he had been due to be there


An MP has revealed that had he not been called away at the last minute by Boris Johnson, the man convicted today of murdering parliamentarian David Amess would have probably stabbed him to death first.

Mike Freer, 61, the MP for Finchley and Golders Green since 2010, said counter-terror police had told him that Ali Harbi Ali, the killer of late Southend West Conservative MP David Amess, had visited his constituency office on Friday September 17.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with the JC, he said that the night before, the Prime Minister had called to offer him the job of Trade Minister.  

He said: “I would have had my usual Friday surgery next day, but I had to go into the Department of Trade for meetings with my new colleagues, so I had to postpone it.

“If I hadn’t, I would have popped out of my constituency office as I almost always do to get a coffee from the Italian deli round the corner. And if I had, Ali Harbi Ali would have been waiting there for me, armed with a long, sharp knife.”

The murder of Sir David came just four weeks later. “Ali had gone to a lot of trouble to conduct a thorough reconnaissance,” Mr Freer said. “The first I knew about it was when I was in my office at the department one morning when I was told the police wanted to speak to me.”

Mr Freer, it emerged at Ali’s trial, was one of several Tory MPs that Ali, a fanatical “lone wolf” jihadi terrorist, had contemplated killing in the months before he struck at Amess. Others included the Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove. But Mr Freer, the evidence suggests, had the luckiest of escapes.

Mr Freer said he was seen by a detective from SO15, the Met’s Anti-Terrorist Squad.

“He told me Ali had made me a target and had visited Finchley. It came as a bit of a shock.”

A few weeks before the trial, Mr Freer and I had coffee together in the same deli outside which Ali had lurked. He showed me the patch of open ground where Ali told police he had stood, where one of Mr Freer’s staff thinks he spotted him hanging around.

“It was right here,” Mr Freer said, pointing to the spot. “Pretty chilling, when you consider it. He told police he had come armed that day, intent on doing me harm.”

He wouldn’t, he said, have stood much of a chance: “The worrying thing is that even if I don’t have a surgery, I’ll go next door for a coffee if I’m working in the constituency office, and if someone stops me on the street, I’ll always stop to talk to them – indeed, it’s a vital part of the job, of being accessible and accountable.”

MPs, Mr Freer said, “can be a bit blasé. We accept the possible  danger and put a brave face on it; you don’t people to think your worried. But my biggest concern is for my staff. You’re always most concerned about the people around you.”

And the job of representing people in Parliament has, he said, got more dangerous, with two MPs stabbed to death in just five years – the first, of course, was Jo Cox, the Labour MP for Batley and Spen, during the 2016 referendum campaign.

He said: “The internet and social media have fostered the spread of hate. The discourse is much more aggressive; people hide behind their screens and the poison that they spew does, in my view, make the risk of attack greater. There has to be a balance between freedom speech and incitement – and we need international action to tackle it.”

The biggest psychological impact, Mr Freer said, has been on his husband, Angelo: “He didn’t want me to surgeries any more, he was so concerned. Unfortunately, they are something I can’t give up.”

However, following police advice, he taken a range of precautions, some of which, understandably, he preferred not to disclose. “We’re doing what we can to minimise the risk. I have made some changes. For example, if someone wants to make an appointment to see me at a surgery, they must provide proof of their address. And I make sure that wherever I am, I always have an exit route behind me.”

The biggest mystery remains: why did Ali target Mr Freer? “David Amess was a good friend and a wonderful man, but we came from opposing wings of the party,” he said. “There’s just no obvious link – although we did both take a strong line against Assad and the jihadists in Syria.”

Ultimately, only one man knows the answer – Ali Harbi Ali, now facing a life behind bars in maximum security conditions.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive