Eastbourne man threatened to stab town’s MP to death

Mark Sands arriving at Hastings Magistrates' Court this week. Photograph by Eddie Mitchell
Mark Sands arriving at Hastings Magistrates' Court this week. Photograph by Eddie Mitchell
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A factory worker has pleaded guilty after threatening to kill Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell.

Mark Sands, 50, could face jail after admitting sending the “grossly offensive” threat on Caroline Ansell’s Facebook.

Hastings Magistrates’ Court heard Sands wrote, “If you vote to take £30 off my money, I will personally come round to your house ... and stab you to death.” This was followed by an expletive.

On his Facebook profile under the title work, Sands wrote “The Killing Fields, Trainee Murderer.”

He also wrote other messages including “End poverty, kill a Tory now.”

Magistrates heard Sands had “Kill your local MP”, and a picture of murdered Labour MP Jo Cox also featured on his page with the words “sawn-off 2.2.”

Prosecutor Elizabeth Green said, “For Eastbourne, it’s where there had been an assassination of its previous MP in 1990, and that heightens the situation of violence.” MP Ian Gow, a former private parliamentary secretary to late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was killed by an IRA car bomb outside his Hankham home at the age of 53.

In a victim impact statement read in court, Mrs Ansell said she found the threats “chilling” and they led her to close her personal Facebook account.

“It felt like a brush with something sinister,” said Mrs Ansell.

Speaking after the case, the MP, who was not in court for the hearing, said she had made security changes.

She said, “I can remember where I was when I picked up that call from the police and they said they had just taken a man into custody because there was a credible threat against your life.”

She said she knew Jo Cox after being elected in the 2015 election and told how she felt Sands’ threat was “very real”. She also spoke of the difficulty in having to tell her children about the threat on her life.

Ms Ansell said she felt “compassion” for Sands.

Madeleine Priestley, defending Sands, of Upperton Gardens, said, “He has for some time been prescribed anti-depressants and suffers from anxiety and physically he suffers, including from fibromyalgia.”

Sands was told all options would be open when he is sentenced on April 12 after he admitted “sending via electronic communications a grossly offensive message”.