Jo Cox´s Bosnia Connection

Jo Cox
Jo Cox

Thursday brought the horrible news of the murder of Helen Joanne “Jo” Cox. Mother of two, member of British Labour as well as Member of Parliament and one of the most prominent members of the British “Remain” movement, fighting to keep England and UK in the European Union and sadly fighting against an increasingly not only openly, but at times vicously xenophobic “Leave” movement. By all accounts Cox was killed as a result of her outspoken belief that Great Britain should remain in the EU. According to the Guardian one witness who lives nearby said he heard the man shout “Britain first” before shooting and during his arrest. According to eyewitnesses Cox was shot three times and stabbed multiple times by her attacker. The police soon after arrested a one Thomas Mair. Soon after photos of Mair standing togheter with members of the far-right Britain First, holding their banner emerged on social media.

The Guardian also reported that special police units who searched Mair´s home found samples of Nazi regalia and far-right literature. Mair was also known to have bought books from a US-based neo-Nazi group, including guides on how to build homemade guns and explosives. American Hate-watch group; SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) published receipts that showed Mair bought, among other books, a manual on how to make a homemade pistol from the National Alliance. Some of the receipts go back to 1990´s showing that interest in and involvement with the far-right goes back at least 2 decades. According to SPLC: National Alliance was the premier neo-Nazi organization in the United States, going back decades. In 1999 Mair bought a manual from them on how to build a gun. SPLC´s investigation into Mair´s purchases in the US showed that he spent over 620 dollars for material from the National Alliance according to invocies from National Vanguard Books, which serves are NA printing imprint, according to SPLC:

Mair purchased subscriptions for periodicals published by the imprint and he bought works that instruct readers on the “Chemistry of Powder & Explosives,” “Incendiaries,” and a work called “Improvised Munitions Handbook.” Under “Section III, No. 9” (page 125) of that handbook, there are detailed instructions for constructing a “Pipe Pistol For .38 Caliber Ammunition” from components that can be purchased from nearly any hardware store.

The NA may be best-known for the work of its now-deceased founder, William Pierce, a former physics professor who also wrote racist novels. One, The Turner Diaries, tells the post-apocalyptic fictional story of a white man fighting in a race war that may have provided inspiration for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh

On Saturday media in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Balkan Insight reported that aside from Cox strong involvement in the Remain campaign as well as her Syria activism she had taken a passionate interest in the Balkans, specially Srebrenica, site of Europe´s biggest post WW2 massacre by among other things running a camp for orphans from the Bosnian town. Cox also gave her first-born child a Bosniak name; Lejla. According to Kate Proctor of the Yorkshire Evening Post she and her husband helped run the camp for families and orphans connected to the massacre. According to Proctor, the spirit of the Bosnian people had a lasting impact on them and the couple named their first child Lejla.

During his first appearance before a judge on Saturday, Mair said that his name was “death to traitors, freedom for Britain”. Mair was also formally charged with the murder of Jo Cox on Saturday. Cox´s murder, the brutality, and the timing didn´t go unnoticed in Sweden. Shortly after Cox´s murder, dozens of Swedes and others across Europe took to social media saying how much the murder reminded them of the murder of Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, 13 years earlier. She was killed by a young Swedish-Serb with an apparent fascination for knives and possibly a grudge against Lindh. According to the killers friends who spoke to Ed Vulliamy, the man who did the reporting for the Guardian, Mijailo Mijailović, Lindh´s killer, decided to kill her after a speech she made in support of NATO´s military intervention against Serbian troops in Kosovo and the NATO-bombings of strategic targets in Serbia and in order to cripple Milošević´s military and it´s movement from Serbia to Kosovo. Aside from her support for NATO´s intervention against Milošević, she had previously supported Bosnia as well.

However in 2011 Mijailović gave an interview for one of the country´s biggest newspapers, Expressen, where he claimed that his attack on Lindh had nothing to do with the NATO intervention, but a general disliking of politicians, both Swedish and Serbian and blaming them for his personal failures. He also said that he attended a political rally with then leader of Folkpartiet, the Swedish liberal party (Ostensibly  anyway) but that he did not have a knife on him, if had he might have attacked him instead.

In the interview he also admitted that he had faked having psychological issues in order to avoid jail. As Vulliamy pointed out in his article from 2003 Mijailović had asked to be represented by Tom Cruise, and claimed that he was Cruise himself. In the interview for Expressen in 2011 he said  that he made all that up, saying that the more you rant the more the doctors will listen, he also said that he played Anders Forsman ( late, renowned professor of forensic psychiatry, at Sahlgernska University Hospital, Gothenburg,) for a fool, adding that  “if you can trick a professor of psychiatry then anything is possible. You say that you hear voices during the attack and he buys it and makes a diagnoses based on made up symptoms. Some psychiatrists are so enthusiastic and kind that they swallow it all up.” He admitted that he wanted to end up in a forensic psychiatric care unit because he believed that you could have a better standard of living there then in prison.

Unfortunatly for him the courts mostly didn´t buy it and sentenced Mijailović to life in prison, Stockholm´s district court sentenced him to life in prison, while a court of appeals changed the verdict to forensic psychiatric care, a verdict that was finally squashed by the Swedish Supreme Court which re-instated the life sentence.

His interview with Expressen also showed that the murder of Anna Lindh was premeditated, he admitted that he saw Lindh on the street before she entered the NK department store and decided then and there that he would kill her. He had a knife on him and followed her into NK looking floor after floor for her before he saw her and struck. His interview for Expressen also showed someone capable of manipulating the system easily, as Vulliamy pointed out in his article from 2003 Mijailović had been in and out of forensic psychiatric care for much of his life up until the murder, for various other crimes including attacking his father with a knife. Given what he revealed in the interview it´s also difficult to rule out political motive, despite, or rather beacuse of his own admissions, given his proven ability to lie and manipulate the system and as Vulliamy pointed out a proclaimed loyalty to Slobodan Milošević. After all his general disliking for Swedish and Serbian politicians could have to do, (aside from blaming personal failures on them), the fact that both Lindh and large portion of the Swedish political establishment ( Folkpartiet playing a prominent role)  had supported NATO´s intervention in Kosovo, and Lindh´s support for Bosnia as well as the fact that Lindh staunchly supported the reformist forces in Serbia, led by Zoran Đinđić who was assassinated in March 2003, seven months before the Lindh murder.

In any case, regardless of Mijailović´s motives, be they personal or political it´s clear that Cox´s murder struck a chord with many Swedes, bringing back painful memories. Lindh´s murder also came days before Sweden was about to vote on entering the Eurozone. Many of us who voted in that referendum remember it as a very tense time, by Swedish standards anyway, still, to be honest it´s difficult to compare it to the viciousness of the Leave-campaign leading up to the upcoming referendum in Great Britain.