Minister describes ‘profound pressure’ after being targeted by terrorist
Michael Gove has described the “profound pressure” on his family after learning he was targeted by an Islamic State fanatic who went on to murder Sir David Amess.
In a victim impact statement read to the court at the Old Bailey, the Housing Secretary said his experience was “incomparable” to the suffering and loss of Sir David’s family.
He described how he had been visited by counter-terrorism police officers four days after the murder by Ali Harbi Ali last October.
Our security and that of our home was threatened and that has put a profound pressure on our lives Michael Gove
The Conservative MP for Surrey Heath said: “I was advised that the man being investigated for the attack on Sir David Amess was believed to have conducted reconnaissance close to two addresses connected with me.
“I was advised that these visits were conducted on (multiple dates).
“I confirmed to police that on all of the above dates detailed I was at the address.
“It was clear from the information that the police provided that I had in fact been a potential target of the individual responsible for the murder of a colleague.”
He went on: “My experience and that of my family is incomparable to the suffering and loss experienced by David’s family.
“It has, however, had a very disruptive effect on my family.
“Our security and that of our home was threatened and that has put a profound pressure on our lives.
“Like everyone who knew and worked with David, I have found the impact of losing David has been enormous.”
Conservative candidate Mike Freer speaks after winning the Finchley & Golders Green constituency in north London for the 2019 general election (PA) (PA Archive)
Mike Freer, MP for Finchley and Golders Green, told how he and his staff now wear stab vests and carry mobile panic alarms after learning that Ali had scoped out his office in north London.
He described his reaction on being informed by police that Sir David’s killer had carried out reconnaissance on him on September 17 last year.
He said: “I had been due to run a surgery … on that day, but at the last minute my plans had to change and I was not in the office that day.”
In a victim impact statement read to court, he said: “Since the news of the attack and the subsequent visit by police, I have been much more mindful of people around me and keeping distance from people.
“I have been very aware that I was potentially at risk from the individual responsible for the attack and this has played on my mind on occasion.”
Mr Freer said his husband had become “nervous about my vulnerability at advice surgeries” and “anxious” about him walking alone or taking the Tube or bus.
“Due to this he feels that he always has to be with me when outside and won’t allow me to be on my own.
“If he knows I am travelling he needs to know where I am, how I’m travelling and when I will arrive.
“Both my husband and I are now acutely aware of anyone hanging around by my home or at the office,” he said.
CCTV of Ali Harbi Ali in Finchley, in the area of MP Mike Freer’s constituency surgery (CPS/PA) (PA Media)
Because of the seriousness of the incident and the risk to his family and staff as well as himself, Mr Freer said he had introduced new security measures.
He said: “My staff are now wary of opening the door to the constituency office to the public and so we are therefore having an additional internal door installed to create a small secure area for anyone attending.
“My team who receive the attendees at the entrance will be behind glass.”
He went on: “With regards to my team, they have certainly become more heightened when receiving threatening calls and there is anxiety where my staff used to be able to take such things in their stride.
“I have also had to close the office on at least one occasion as my staff feel vulnerable.”
Among the new procedures, anyone attending an advice surgery has to produce identification and confirmation of their address in the constituency, he said.
He added: “I and my staff will now wear stab vests and wear mobile panic alarms.”
Prosecutor Tom Little QC read out the MPs’ statements at the Old Bailey on Wednesday before Ali Harbi Ali, 26, was handed a whole life order for the murder of Sir David.