Theresa May alarmed by man who made ‘explicit and repeated’ death threats, court hears
Theresa May expressed fears about a man who made “explicit and repeated threats to kill me”, a court heard on Friday as he was jailed for two years.
Wajid Shah sent death threats and abuse to the former Prime Minister when she was still in office last year, as well as to several other MPs and peers.
The 27-year-old, who was said to have severe learning disabilities, claimed he would kill Mrs May “with a knife or a gun” in a string of disturbing emails in March and April 2019.
One MP who was targeted by the threats described how it had stirred memories of Jo Cox, the MP murdered in a gun and knife attack outside her constituency in 2016.
Caroline Nokes, who was then immigration minister, said the email she had received provoked particular alarm as it suggested the sender had looked up her constituency address.
Shah began his menacing campaign of harassment over concerns his mother, with whom he lived, would fail the British citizenship test as she spoke no English, the court heard.
As well as Mrs May and Ms Nokes, Shah sent emails to Lord Blunkett, the former Home Secretary, Mark Lancaster, then minister for the Armed Forces, Baroness Lister and Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, the Labour MP.
Further emails to recipients including Boris Johnson were intercepted.
Barry McElduff, prosecuting, told Southwark Crown Court that Mrs May found the email “extremely offensive, threatening and disturbing” and was “left feeling anxious and concerned”.
Mrs May said in a statement read to the court: “Although unacceptable, as a politician I do occasionally get abusive messages.
“What made this different was the explicit and repeated threats to kill me.”
On Friday, Judge Philip Bartle QC sentenced Shah, who he said has an IQ of 58 which is in the “extremely low range”, to 24 months in jail.
He said the defendant, of Connaught Road, Slough, Berks, was convicted on “overwhelming” evidence on all six counts that he had sent email communications with the intention of causing “distress or anxiety”.
The judge said that after a six-day trial, the jury was sure that Shah had sent the emails which were “extremely offensive and abhorrent” and contained “vile abuse”.
He noted that, despite Shah’s learning difficulties, he had managed to plan his campaign by targeting MPs with links to immigration, as well as geographical proximity to him.
The court heard the email Ms Nokes received, which she read in the House of Commons library, was concerning to her as it referred to her role as an immigration minister.
The prosecutor said Baroness Lister found the contents of the email sent to her “threatening, horrible and upsetting” and “indicative of a disturbed mind”.
The court heard that Lord Blunkett – who introduced citizenship tests for immigrants in 2002 – found the two emails he received to be “deeply offensive and threatening”.
Mr Dhesi, Shah’s constituency MP, had contact with him before regarding the citizenship test which was “something of a theme in this case”, Mr McElduff said.
But in 2019, Mr Dhesi received four abusive emails from the defendant, which included a threat to kill.
The emails led to police advising him to close and vacate his office.
The court heard that Mr Dhesi found the correspondence to be “abusive and very disconcerting”.
Mr Lancaster, who did not stand at the next election, found the email sent to him to be “menacing” and it left him feeling “deeply uneasy”, the court heard.
Shah was convicted of six counts of sending a letter/communication or article conveying a threatening message following a trial at Southwark Crown Court last month.
The offences occurred between March 27 and April 11 2019.
Shah was first arrested on March 30 but went on to commit further offences and he was rearrested on April 15.