On October 16, 2021, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, the senior national coordinator for counter-terrorism policing, officially declared Sir David Amess's murder as an incident of terrorism. According to Haydon, the Metropolitan police's early investigation revealed "a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism."
Sir David Amess, a conservative MP, has died from multiple stab wounds. Sir David was holding a constituency surgery in Essex when the attack happened. Friendly, and lacking in malice, he has had friends in all sides of the House of Commons. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Sir David had an "outstanding record of passing laws to help the most vulnerable." "We've lost today a fine public servant and a much-loved friend and colleague," the prime minister added.
Ben Julian Harrington, Essex Police Chief Constable, said they received reports of a stabbing incident after 12:05 BST (British Summer Time). Within minutes, officers responding to the reports found Sir David with multiple injuries, later identified as stab wounds. Paramedics who arrived at the scene "worked extremely hard" to save him, but he died at the scene," Harrington added.
On Saturday, October 16, police said they arrested a 25-year old suspect and recovered a knife at the scene. The suspect, a British citizen with Somali heritage, is in custody and was later identified as Ali Harbi Ali. The Guardian reported on the same day that the suspect "has the same details as someone who had previously been referred to the Prevent scheme."
During his arrest, Ali was said to have been calm and was just sitting at the scene waiting for the police to arrive. Colleagues of Sir David believe that it was a planned attack. Councillor Daniel Nelson of the Southchurch Ward of the Southend-on-Sea Borough said, "We know he stabbed David and waited for the police." "It was completely premeditated. He knew he was going to do it," Councilor Nelson added.
An emergency responder at the scene claimed that Ali was "dead behind the eyes" after carrying out the attack. Counter-terrorism cops who conducted the initial investigation believed that Ali boarded a train from London to Essex to carry out the attack by himself. Authorities, including the MI5, are now looking closer into the possibility that Ali was radicalized online since multiple extremist materials were found on his phone.
The son of a former Somali communications adviser, Ali lived in a two-million euro house in London street. The police believed that he was radicalized by al-Shabaab, a jihadist al-Qaeda offshoot in Somalia and Kenya.
Ali is not listed in MI5's subject of interest but was referred to Prevent's anti-terror program.
On Tuesday, October 19, 2021, The Guardian reported that Ali Harbi Ali was referred to the counter-terror scheme called Channel in 2014 and has received extensive support from the program. The UK government's Channel program receives referrals from a similar program called Prevent. Channel offers more intensive support to individuals with "terrorism vulnerability." A panel of experts oversees the program on deradicalization with the intention of helping those deemed vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism.
Before his referral to the Channel program, Ali voluntarily received assistance from Prevent. The Guardian reported that a source privy to the case said that Ali "went through the process and was discharged." "He was not thought to pose a threat of terrorist violence, and the case was closed," the source added.
The UK parliament is now looking closely into the Channel and Prevent programs, planning to expand the police's involvement in decision-making and bring MI5 into the programs' planning.