A PENSIONER has appeared in court charged with sending a threatening email to a political leader which referenced the death of a murdered MP.

Keith Willard sent the message to Anna Soubry - the MP for Broxtowe in Nottinghamshire and leader of breakaway political group Change UK - saying the result of the EU referendum should be respected.

Part of the message asked Ms Soubry to “remember Jo” and remarked that she had been “shot and stabbed” which is believed to have been a reference to the murder of MP Jo Cox.

She was killed by white supremacist Thomas Mair in 2016.

Willard, 71, denied a charge of sending an article conveying a threatening message at Colchester Magistrates’ Court.

It is accepted Willard sent the email but he denies it was threatening or that it was meant to cause alarm or distress.

Sharon Hall, prosecuting, said the message had not actually got to Ms Soubry - who was elected to Parliament as a Conservative before defecting to the new party earlier this year.

In fact, it had been seen by the Metropolitan Police’s Parliamentary liaison and investigation team which was set up in the wake of Mrs Cox’s death.

Ms Hall said: “When they read the contents they were made aware there was a threat towards Anna Soubry and the matter was reported.

“The manner of the threat is taken seriously because of the current climate.”

The bench decided they did have sufficient powers to keep jurisdiction of the case and Willard, of Waltham Way, Frinton, elected to be tried at Colchester Magistrates’ Court rather than at a crown court.

Ms Soubry could potentially be called as a witness at the trial on January 10.

Willard was granted unconditional bail until his next court appearance.

Linda Mackenzie, chairman of the bench, said the trial could proceed in Willard’s absence if he did not show up at court.

She added: “If you do not come back to court you may commit another offence and you could be arrested, fined or even sent to prison.

“If you commit an offence while on bail your sentence may be greater.”