Woman stabbed MP Stephen Timms 'in revenge for Iraq war vote'
Monday 01 November 2010
A woman stabbed an MP twice in the stomach during a constituency surgery in revenge for his vote for the war in Iraq, a court heard today.
Stephen Timms told the Old Bailey he thought Roshonara Choudhry, 21, was coming to shake hands, and she smiled before lunging at him on May 14 this year.
Mr Timms, Labour MP for East Ham, was sent "reeling and staggering" before retreating into the men's toilets at the community centre in Beckton, east London.
His assistant Andrew Bazeley prised the kitchen knife away from her and she was placed in a "bear hug" by a security guard before police arrived. Another knife was found in her bag.
Choudhry told detectives she was trying to kill Mr Timms for "punishment" and "to get revenge for the people of Iraq", prosecutor William Boyce QC, said.
"When asked why she had stabbed him a second time she said 'because I wasn't going to stop stabbing until someone made me'," Mr Boyce added.
Choudhry, who was not in court, is accused of attempted murder and two charges of having an offensive weapon.
Jeremy Dein QC, defending, said she did not recognise the jurisdiction of the court and did not wish her lawyers to challenge evidence put before the jury.
Mr Timms said he was running slightly late when he arrived at the Beckton Globe community centre for his regular Friday surgery.
Choudhry, who was dressed in black, had made an appointment for 2.45pm, specifically to see him rather than an assistant, and was the second person he saw that day, just after 3pm.
The MP said: "She didn't go and sit down as she continued to come towards me where I was standing to greet her at that point.
"I thought she must have been coming to shake my hand. She made as if she was coming to do that. She looked friendly. She was smiling, if I remember rightly.
"I was a little puzzled because a Muslim woman dressed in that way wouldn't normally be willing to shake a man's hand, still less to take the initiative to do so, but that is what she was doing.
"She lunged at me with her right hand."
Mr Timms pointed at his stomach to show the jury where the knife had gone in.
He said: "I think I knew that I had been stabbed although I didn't feel anything and I can't recall actually seeing a knife but I think I said 'She has a knife' or words to that effect.
"I attempted to push away the second lunge but was not successful."
Mr Timms said he was not certain what had happened straight away.
"I retreated into the gents' toilet and lifted up my jumper and realised there was quite a lot of blood there so I realised I had been stabbed."
Mr Timms said he had since made a full recovery.
Mr Boyce said Choudhry had made "very full admissions" to police about what she had done.
"She gave her intention as being an intention to kill Mr Timms, and that she was acting in that way as an act of punishment towards him for his parliamentary vote in favour of the war in Iraq."
He said Choudhry would not give evidence and her barrister would not be inviting the jury to acquit her.
Mr Boyce added: "Nor is there any question she is suffering from mental illness. She is not."
Mr Justice Cooke explained to jurors that Choudhry had chosen not to attend the trial and this was her right.
"The trial will proceed in her absence but you must not assume she is guilty because she is not here and you must not hold it against her."
He said the evidence would be concluded today and he would sum up tomorrow before sending the jury out to consider their verdicts.
The court heard that Choudhry was "anxious" as she waited for the MP to arrive at the centre and asked security guard Faisal Butt where he was.
Mr Boyce said that when she went in to see the MP, she "moved around the desk towards him" and he thought it was to shake his hand.
"He put out his hand accordingly. The defendant put out her left hand as if to shake his.
"But it was a ruse, because in her right hand which she had concealed behind her bag and/or clothing, she had a kitchen knife with a three-inch blade.
"She brought the knife forward in her right hand and lunged forward towards Mr Timms, stabbing him in the stomach.
"He cried out 'what are you doing?' but the defendant said nothing.
"Mr Timms obviously retreated and tried to stop her but she thrust towards his stomach again before she was restrained by Faisal Butt, the security guard.
"While the struggle was taking place Andrew Bazeley, Mr Timms's assistant, prised the knife from her hand.
"A commotion ensued as those around her struggled to subdue and restrain her."
Mr Timms was given first aid before being taken to the Royal London Hospital.
He had suffered a perforation of the abdominal cavity, two small lacerations to the left of his liver, and a small perforation of the stomach, injuries described as being "significant but not life threatening".
A retired police officer who was at the community centre cautioned Choudhry and when questioned by him she said another knife was in her bag. A knife with a five-inch blade was found wrapped in a red towel.
Choudhry was interviewed by police later that day and the next day and declined to have a solicitor present, the court heard.
"She said she had stabbed Mr Timms because he had voted for the Iraq war," said Mr Boyce.
"She said she had made the appointment to see him specifically and solely for the purpose of attacking him. She had brought with her two knives instead of one in case one broke during the attack.
"When asked what she was trying to do she said 'I was trying to kill him'.
"She had chosen to stab him in the stomach because she wasn't that strong and thought his stomach would be soft enough for her to get a knife into the body."
Jurors were shown CCTV images of what happened featuring the "black figure" of Choudhry and Mr Timms in a purple jumper.
The MP could be seen "courteously" standing to greet her, said Mr Boyce.
"He thinks she is there on constituency business."
Mr Boyce said within seconds a knife could be seen protruding from her right hand and the MP then "reeling and staggering" away.
She could later be seen held in a "bear hug" by Mr Butt, he said.
Jurors were shown both knives, which Mr Boyce said were "razor sharp" and had been newly bought.
Detective Inspector Simon Dobinson said he interviewed Choudhry, who told him she had planned the attack and wanted to kill the MP.
He said Choudhry told him: "I made an appointment to see him and I went there and then when I was shaking his hand I stabbed him."
Asked why, she said: "Because he voted for the Iraq war."
Choudhry said she had bought two knives, one large and one small, in the last week in April.
Asked why two knives, she said: "In case one broke." In the end, she had used the smaller knife.
Choudhry said she had placed the knives in her bag and covered them with a towel and a black scarf.
She waited for Mr Timms, whom she had met before, she said.
Mr Dobinson said Choudhry then told him: "I purposefully walked round the side of the desk so I could get close to him.
"He pointed for me to sit down on the chair but instead I walked towards him with my left hand out as if I wanted to shake his hand."
She thought he had shaken her left hand with his left hand, but she could not remember. Her right hand had been in her pocket.
She continued: "Then I pulled the knife out of my bag and I hit him in the stomach with it.
"I put it in the top part of his stomach like when you punch someone.
"I was trying to kill him because he wanted to invade Iraq."
Asked why, she answered: "Punishment."
Choudhry had added: "He shouted at me 'What was that for?'
"I think I stabbed him again. I think I did it twice. I tried to attack him again. People started to scream.
"I was not going to stop until someone made me. I wanted to kill him... I was going to get revenge for the people of Iraq."
She said she was grabbed and someone took the knife from her.
She had decided to stab Mr Timms in the stomach because it was a soft area. "I am not that strong. I wanted to get the knife in," she added.
Nigel Tai, the surgeon who operated on Mr Timms, described the injuries he suffered as "potentially life threatening" because of the possible loss of blood, and infection had he not been treated.
The prosecution case was closed and Mr Dein, defending, said Choudhry, of Central Park Road, East Ham, east London, would not be called to give evidence.
Neither he nor Mr Boyce, for the prosecution, would make closing speeches before the judge's summing up, the court heard.
Mr Boyce said: "Acting conscientiously in accordance with your oaths you could not come to any verdicts other than guilty on all three counts. It seems inappropriate and unnecessary to seek to address you at this stage."
Mr Dein said: "We have been expressly instructed by Miss Choudhry not to advance any argument nor to act to undermine the prosecution in any way and therefore I do not seek to address the jury at this stage."
The case was adjourned until tomorrow when the judge said he would sum up.
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