‘Man of the people’ David Amess mourned as police explore terrorism link to MP’s killing

Police believe 25-year-old British man acted alone as parliamentarians mourn death of 'man of the people'

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has laid flowers at the church where MP Sir David Amess was stabbed on Friday, an attack police say could be linked to terrorism.

Mr Johnson was joined by opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer and Home Secretary Priti Patel at the church on Saturday.

Ms Patel described Amess, the MP for Southend West, as “a man of the people”.

Mr Johnson and Mr Starmer stood side by side in a moment of silence at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, about 62 kilometres east of London.

Amess, 69, had been an MP since 1983 and was stabbed while holding a constituency surgery, or advice session, with members of the public.

A 25-year old British man has been arrested on suspicion of murder. Police believe the attacker acted alone.

The BBC reported that a government source had told it the man was “of Somali heritage”.

Former defence minister Tobias Ellwood called for a pause to the face-to-face meetings that MPs have with their constituents until a security review has been completed.

He said engaging with the public is a “vital part of our work”, but that there was an “understandable huge anxiety among MPs now”.

Mr Ellwood is the chairman of Parliament’s defence select committee and was hailed as a hero for his attempts to save the life of a police officer during the terrorist attack on London’s Westminster Bridge in 2017.

Ms Patel said security for MPs was being reviewed and strengthened.

“All measures are being put in place for the security of MPs so that they can carry on with their duties as elected democratic members,” she said.

“We live in an open society, a democracy. We cannot be cowed by any individual.”

Ms Patel said Amess “was killed doing a job that he loves, serving his own constituents as an elected democratic member and, of course, acts of this … are absolutely wrong and we cannot let that get in the way of our functioning democracy”.

House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle promised no “knee-jerk reactions” but said: “We will take further measures if we need to.”

Amess’s death has prompted police forces to contact all MPs to discuss their security.

Some MPs remained defiant on Saturday morning as they continued to hold surgeries for their constituents.

The Conservative MP for Elmet and Rothwell, Alec Shelbrooke, put his on in a supermarket, saying he would continue to do so, albeit with extra precautions.

“We cannot let events like this diminish the deep relationship between an MP and their constituents,” he said.

Robert Largan, Conservative MP for High Peak, also said he would continue to meet the public.

“Thanks to everyone who came to my surgery this morning, especially those who just came to say hello & wish me well. It really does mean a lot.

“I’ll keep on doing my weekly surgery, all year round, whatever the weather! We all need to stand up for our democracy!”

Ms Patel, who is also an MP in Essex, said: “We’re all struggling to come to terms with the fact that Sir David Amess has been so cruelly taken away from us.”

She described Amess as a “passionate advocate and champion” for his constituency.

A statement from mosques in Southend condemned the “indefensible atrocity” and said Amess was “an upstanding friend to our Muslim community”.

“We will all miss him dearly, but his legacy of public service will live on, as will memories of his warmth, selflessness and kindness.

“This act was committed in the name of blind hatred, and we look forward to the perpetrator being brought to justice,” they said.

The attack occurred five years after MP Jo Cox was murdered by a neo-Nazi outside her constituency office in Batley, West Yorkshire.

Cox’s sister, Kim Leadbeater, who became the Labour MP in the same constituency this year, said Amess’s death had made her “scared and frightened”.

“This is the risk we are all taking, and so many MPs will be scared by this,” she said.

Updated: October 18th 2021, 2:04 PM
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