The man who was charged with the murder of Sir David Amess has allegedly been plotting to kill a member of Parliament since 2019.
Ali Harbi Ali, who was charged on Thursday with murder and preparation of terrorist acts, appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on the same day.
The 25-year-old was arrested on Oct. 15 after Amess, a 69-year-old MP for Southend West, was fatally stabbed while meeting local voters at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea.
During a short hearing that lasted for just over 13 minutes, the court heard that Ali allegedly settled on a plot to kill an MP two years ago, focusing on two MPs other than Amess.
He is said to have carried out reconnaissance at one of their homes, the surgery of another, and the Houses of Parliament.
In the UK, most MPs hold so-called “surgeries”—often on a weekly basis—where their constituents can meet them to raise issues.
Ali allegedly murdered Amess while the two met in one of such surgeries.
Prosecutor James Cable said Ali travelled by train from his home in Kentish Town, north London, to get to Belfairs Methodist Church after making a midday appointment by email, claiming he was moving to the area.
During the meeting, he was allegedly seen using his mobile phone before standing up, producing a large knife from his pocket, and stabbing Amess in the stomach.
The veteran MP was pronounced dead at the scene at 1:10 p.m. and a preliminary post-mortem report gave the cause of death as multiple stab wounds to the chest.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) alleges the murder has a terrorist connection because of its “religious and ideological” motives.
Prosecutors allege Ali was affiliated with the ISIS terrorist group and targeted Amess over the MP’s voting record in support of airstrikes on Syria.
During the hearing, Ali only spoke to confirm his name, address, and date of birth.
He has not been asked to enter pleas to the charges against him.
Earlier on Thursday, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Matt Jukes said “a large team of detectives” had been “working around the clock” to find out as much as they can about what happened and why.
“That work has included searches at a number of London addresses,” he said.
“Our advanced forensics team analysed digital devices and carried out a painstaking review of CCTV footage,” he added.
Jukes also urged the members of the public who have potentially useful information to come forward.
Also speaking on Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he couldn’t comment on the case, but he hopes Amess’s family and “all those who love him” can “get the justice they deserve as fast as possible.”
Ali is due to appear at the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales on Friday.
PA contributed to this report.