UK

Terror police probe whether British Muslim of Somali descent had extremist links after MP stabbed

A Tory MP was stabbed to death on Friday by a suspected terrorist.

Sir David Amess was holding a constituency surgery when a knifeman ran into the church building and launched a frenzied attack. The 69-year-old politician was wounded at least 12 times, dying at the scene.

Counter-terrorism police and MI5 were probing whether the suspect, who is a 25-year-old British Muslim of Somali descent, had links to extremists.

Horrified constituents waiting to see the veteran MP, who has campaigned to help refugees, watched in horror as the assailant leapt on him just after midday.

One woman ran out of the Methodist church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, frantically dialling 999 as she screamed: ‘Someone’s been stabbed, please get here soon, he’s not breathing.’

Sir David, Tory MP for Southend West, collapsed in a pool of blood as the knifeman stood over him, remaining there until police arrived five minutes later to disarm him. Paramedics battled to save his life, but he died just before 3pm.

A much-loved MP and a proud father of five, Sir David gave away his daughter Alex, 31, in marriage just weeks ago.

Sir David Amess was holding a constituency surgery when a knifeman ran into the church building and launched a frenzied attack. The 69-year-old politician was wounded at least 12 times, dying at the scene

A much-loved MP and a proud father of five, Sir David gave away his daughter Alex, 31, in marriage just weeks ago

A much-loved MP and a proud father of five, Sir David gave away his daughter Alex, 31, in marriage just weeks ago

Witnesses who saw the suspect being arrested on suspicion of murder described him as oddly calm and compliant.

Last night police were seeking to establish a motive for the attack, but announced the counter-terrorism command would lead the investigation.

The shocking attack, which came five years after the murder of MP Jo Cox, ignited a row over the protection of parliamentarians.

Home Secretary Priti Patel responded by ordering an immediate review of security arrangements. Yesterday the family of Mrs Cox, who was shot and stabbed outside her constituency surgery in Birstall, West Yorkshire, by a Right-wing terrorist in June 2016, said Sir David’s murder was an ‘attack on democracy itself’.

Mrs Cox’s husband Brendan said: ‘Attacking our elected representatives is an attack on democracy itself. There is no excuse, no justification. It is as cowardly as it gets.’

Mrs Cox’s sister Kim Leadbeater, who has replaced her as the Labour MP for Batley and Spen, said her partner had asked her to step down from politics.

She said: ‘Totally shocked by what has happened to think that something so horrific could happen again to another MP, to another family. And scared and frightened – a real rollercoaster of emotions.

‘I find myself now working as a politician and trying to do good things for people and it’s really important you get good people in public life, but this is the risk we are all taking and so many MPs will be scared by this.

Judith McMahon, a close family friend of MP David Amess, mourns at a church after Amess was stabbed during constituency surgery, in Leigh-on-Sea

Judith McMahon, a close family friend of MP David Amess, mourns at a church after Amess was stabbed during constituency surgery, in Leigh-on-Sea

Police at Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, where Conservative MP Sir Amess died after he was stabbed several times at a constituency surgery

Police at Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, where Conservative MP Sir Amess died after he was stabbed several times at a constituency surgery

‘My partner came home and he said he didn’t want me to do it any more because the next time that phone goes, it could be a different conversation.’

Sir David is the sixth MP to be murdered since the Second World War, and the ninth in history.

It is not known whether his wife Julia, who is his part-time caseworker, was in the church at the time. The MP, who was an ardent Brexiteer, was seen laughing and speaking to people on the steps of the church just 15 minutes before he was killed.

Sir David wrote last year about the importance of meeting constituents despite what had happened to Mrs Cox.

He wrote: ‘She was a young woman with a family going about her duties, as we all do, completely unaware of the threat that she faced. While it is often said that good can come out of someone’s death, it is difficult to see what good can come from this senseless murder’.

He also admitted he had been threatened at his home: ‘I myself have over the years experienced nuisance from the odd member of the general public at my own property. We regularly check our locks and many others have CCTV cameras installed but probably the most significant change has been with constituency surgeries.’

Police officers attend following the stabbing of MP Sir Amess as he met with constituents at a constituency surgery

Police officers attend following the stabbing of MP Sir Amess as he met with constituents at a constituency surgery

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said MPs were in shock at what he described as an attack on democracy. He said he wanted to see a greater police presence at constituency surgeries. But he said it was vital that voters were able to engage directly with MPs.

Sir Lindsay said he had gone ahead with his own surgery meeting last night, adding: ‘We cannot afford for democracy to be smashed. The people who do not accept our values will not win. I am shocked and deeply distressed by the killing of Sir David Amess. David was a lovely man, devoted to his family, to parliament and his Southend West constituency.

‘He was well liked by members and the staff alike, and during his almost four decades here, built a reputation for kindness and generosity. We will need to discuss and examine MPs’ security and any measures to be taken.’

Yesterday the Prime Minister paid tribute as there was an outpouring of grief from other MPs.

Boris Johnson said: ‘He was one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics.’

At a vigil last night more than 100 people packed into St Peter’s Catholic Church in Leigh-on-Sea.

Rev Clifford Newman, the vicar at the Methodist church where the murder took place, said: ‘My thoughts and prayers are with David and Julia, his wife, and the family and the many people he has helped in the past.

‘The local Baptist minister told me that he’s helped refugees.’

First elected in Thatcher’s 1983 landslide, Sir David was one of the longest-serving Tory MPs.


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