David Amess death: 'He was only doing his job'
Yesterday morning, veteran Conservative MP Sir David Amess left home for another day of helping his constituents at his regular advice surgery, just as he had done for the last 38 years, and as hundreds of elected representatives do every week.
By 3pm he was dead.
Stabbed several times while at his surgery before later dying at the scene, the politician’s death was another devastating attack on the fabric of the United Kingdom’s democracy.
The reaction was immediate and united. Shock, grief, anger and despair.
A 25-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder following the attack at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea near Southend and remains in custody.
It emerged last night the investigation is being led by counter-terror officers, with Essex Police saying they are keeping an “open mind”.
At a news conference, Chief constable Ben-Julian Harrington said Sir David was “simply dispensing his duties when his life was horrifically cut short”.
The attack at a place where almost all MPs open their doors to the problems of the people they serve shook the political establishment and will reopen the debate around the level of safety made available to MPs, coming five years after Labour MP Jo Cox was stabbed and shot dead by a far-right terrorist.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has already asked all police forces in the UK to review security arrangements for MPs “with immediate effect”.
A spokesman for Home Secretary Ms Patel said she chaired a meeting of the Police, Security and Intelligence Agencies to discuss the incident and the ongoing response, adding that she had also spoken to the Speaker of the House of Commons.
A well-respected backbencher who was married with five children, Sir David had spent almost 40 years as an MP since he was first elected in 1983, representing Basildon until switching seats to Southend West in Essex in 1997.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson described him as “one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics”, adding “all our hearts are full of shock and sadness”.
He said: “He also had an outstanding record of passing laws to help the most vulnerable, whether the people who are suffering from endometriosis, passing laws to end cruelty to animals, or doing a huge amount to reduce the fuel poverty suffered by people up and down the country.
“David was a man who believed passionately in this country and in its future.
“And we’ve lost today a fine public servant and a much-loved friend and colleague, and our thoughts are very much today with his wife, his children, and his family.”
Sir David’s death saw tributes pour in from across the political spectrum with the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, describing the news as “awful beyond words”.
In a tribute on Twitter, the SNP leader added that elected politicians are “united in sadness and shock”, stating that “no-one deserves to have their life taken while working for an representing their constituents”.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid described him as “a great man, a great friend, and a great MP” who was killed while fulfilling his democratic role.
Former Conservative prime minister David Cameron added: “This is the most devastating, horrific and tragic news.
“David Amess was a kind and thoroughly decent man – and he was the most committed MP you could ever hope to meet.”
Labour leader Keir Starmer described the news as “horrific and deeply shocking”.
At the police news conference, Mr Harrington said officers were first called to reports of a stabbing at just after midday.
He said: “The response of the emergency services to this incident was immediate and our officers arrived on scene within minutes.
“When they arrived they found Sir David Amess MP, who had suffered multiple injuries.
“This was a difficult incident, but our officers and paramedics from the East of England Ambulance Service worked extremely hard to save Sir David."
He said a knife was recovered at the scene and a 25-year-old taken into custody. The investigation was in its “very early stages” and was being led by officers from the specialist counter-terrorism command.
“We made it clear at the time of the incident that we did not believe there was any immediate further threat to anyone else in the area.
“It will be for investigators to determine whether or not this is a terrorist incident, but as always they will keep an open mind.”
Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle said Sir David’s death would “send shockwaves” throughout the political sphere and the whole country.
He added MPs’ security would now be reviewed including any potential extra measures to keep politicians safe.
Brendan Cox, husband of Jo Cox, said: “My thoughts and love are with David’s family. They are all that matter now. This brings everything back.
"The pain, the loss, but also how much love the public gave us following the loss of Jo. I hope we can do the same for David now.”
Ms Cox’s sister, Kim Leadbeater, Labour MP for Batley and Spen in West Yorkshire, said her partner has asked her to step down.
“It’s so hard because you have a job to do,” she said.
“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.
“My partner came home and said ‘I don’t want you to do it any more’ because the next time that phone goes, it could be a different conversation.
“There are so many layers to this.
“At the heart of it are David’s family and friends.
“I know for them now that their lives will never be the same again, they will think about this every single day for the rest of their lives.
“Even David’s staff – so many other people today will have been out there trying to do the right thing, trying to do a really important job in public life, and this happens.
“I cannot believe that this has happened.
“It feels very raw for me.
“I know from messages I have received from politicians across the political spectrum, for them it is incredibly raw.”
Last night a vigil, led by Father Jeffrey Woolnough, was being held at St Peter’s Church on Eastwood Lane, in Leigh-on-Sea.
A photograph of Sir David had been placed at the front of the church.
A floral tribute, laid by a young woman at the police cordon at the scene, read: “A silent thought, a quiet prayer, for a special person in God’s care. May you rest in peace.”
Flags were being flown at half mast outside the Scottish and UK parliaments.