PM’s phone call saved me from David Amess killer, says Golders Green MP

Ali Harbi Ali visited Mike Freer’s constituency office last September


The MP for Finchley and Golders Green has revealed how a phone call from Boris Johnson probably saved him from being stabbed to death by the man convicted on Monday of murdering parliamentarian Sir David Amess.

Mike Freer, 61, said counter-terror police had told him that Ali Harbi Ali, the killer of the Southend West Conservative MP, had visited his constituency office on Friday 17 September.

The night before, he added, the Prime Minister had called to offer him the job of Trade Minister. He said: “I would have had my usual Friday surgery the 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 around 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 has been the MP for Finchley and Golders Green since 2010, which has one of the biggest Jewish populations of any constituency.

Mr Freer, it emerged at Ali’s trial, was one of several Tory MPs that the fanatical “lone wolf” terrorist had contemplated killing in the months before he struck Sir David. Others included 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 showed the JC the patch of open ground outside Mr Freer’s constituency office where Ali told police he had stood and where one of Mr Freer’s staff thinks he spotted him hanging around. He wouldn’t, he said, have stood much of a chance: “The worrying thing is that … if someone stops me on the street, I’ll always stop to talk to them. Indeed, it’s a vital part of the job.”

MPs, Mr Freer said, “can be a bit blasé. We accept the possible danger and put a brave face on it; you don’t want people to think you’re 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 of 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 hold surgeries anymore, he was so concerned. Unfortunately, they are something I can’t give up.”

However, following police advice, he has 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.

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