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Sir David Amess killing: What we know about Ali Harbi Ali who is being held on suspicion of murder

Written by on 19 October 2021

Ali Harbi Ali, a British man with Somali heritage, is being questioned by counter terrorism police over the murder of Conservative MP Sir David Amess.

The veteran politician, who was a member of parliament for 38 years, was stabbed to death during a surgery for his constituents at a church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on Friday.

Ali, who lives in north London, was initially arrested at the scene of the attack on suspicion of murder and has since been detained under terrorism legislation. Police have until this Friday to quiz him.

Ali Harbi Ali Image: Ali Harbi Ali is being questioned by counter terrorism police

Early years: Ali sang hymns at his Christian school

Ali was born in the UK after his family fled the war-ravaged African nation of Somalia in the 1990s, it is thought.

The son of a former senior Somali government official, Ali grew up in Croydon, south London.

As a young boy he happily took part in morning assembly and sang hymns at his Christian junior school, according to his former teacher.

Ali and his younger siblings were among the first Muslim pupils at the Parish Church Junior and Infant school – now Minster Junior – in Croydon.

It is thought Ali joined the infants school, a short walk from the family home, in the early 2000s and then moved up to the junior school. His brother and two sisters followed him there.

“They were quite happy at a Christian school and took part in our regular worship,” said the teacher who did not want to be identified.

Police remove items from the property in north London Image: Police remove items from the property in north London

“Ali wasn’t a high-flyer, but was a hard-working child, especially good at maths. We had plenty of naughty boys, but he wasn’t one of them. He was a good boy, polite and friendly and readily joined in with the other children. I think he was a chess player.

“I would never have said he was on course for anything other than a positive outcome. He wasn’t an isolated child and engaged with his classmates.”

Lived in a small terraced house and played football in the street

A neighbour where Ali grew up said he lived in a small terraced house in Croydon with his mother and three siblings.

Ali later went to Riddlesdown Collegiate School in Purley where he passed A-levels before leaving for university in 2015.

The neighbour, who did not want to be identified, described him as “a friendly kid who used to kick a ball around in the street”.

The man said he remembered him as a young boy who lived in the quiet street for many years until he left for university.

The neighbour said Ali’s father had not lived in the house “for a long time”.

Father used to work for Somalian PM

Ali’s father, Harbi Ali Kullane, declined to comment when asked by Sky News about his son, in an exchange of written messages on Saturday, other than to say that he was “traumatised”.

Mr Kullane previously worked as director of communications at the office of the prime minister in Somalia. But he is thought to have been living in the UK for the past three years.

A vigil in Leigh-on-Sea for Sir David Amess Image: A vigil in Leigh-on-Sea for Sir David Amess

Ali had been referred to Prevent

Ali was previously referred to the government’s Prevent scheme, which is a programme to stop radicalisation, a Whitehall source said.

However, he is not thought to have been on the radar of the security service, MI5.

The suspect was not, and had not previously been, a subject of interest (SOI) for the security agencies, it is understood.

MI5 investigates around 3,000 SOIs and has about 600 live investigations at any one time.

The police investigation into Sir David’s murder

Sky News understands Ali had made an appointment to see the MP through his constituency office and had not just turned up.

Scotland Yard said the early investigation revealed a “potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism”.

It is thought a clear reason for the MP being targeted is yet to emerge.

This leaves open the possibility it may have been a random attack.

Police have been at a house in north London, which is thought to be linked to Ali.

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David Amess murder suspect on CCTV

Meanwhile, Sky News has obtained CCTV footage showing a man understood to be Ali walking along a north London street just hours before the killing of Sir David.

Ali is seen walking slowly along the pavement last Friday morning.

With a backpack across his right shoulder he is seen wearing a green parka jacket and spectacles, with his hand in his left pocket.

The video footage was filmed from outside a convenience store on Highgate Road at 8.44am.

Ali, who lived a few streets away, is thought to have been walking to Gospel Oak train station at the time.