Today's Paper Digital FAQ Podcast Latest Obits Her Jobs Classifieds Newsletters Puzzles Circulars
ADVERTISEMENT

UK counterterror officers lead probe in lawmaker's slaying

by The Associated. Press | October 15, 2021 at 10:00 p.m.
An image of murdered British Conservative lawmaker David Amess is displayed near the altar in St Peters Catholic Church before a vigil in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. Amess died after being stabbed earlier Friday during a meeting with constituents at another nearby church in eastern England. Police gave no immediate details on the motive for the killing of 69-year-old Conservative lawmaker Amess and did not identify the suspect, who was being held on suspicion of murder. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

LEIGH-ON-SEA, England -- A long-serving member of Parliament was stabbed to death Friday during a meeting with constituents at a church in England, an attack that united Britain's fractious politicians in shock and sorrow. A 25-year-old man was arrested at the scene.

Police said that counterterrorism officers were leading the investigation into the slaying of Conservative lawmaker David Amess but that they had not yet determined whether it was a terrorist attack.

They did not identify the suspect, who was held on suspicion of murder.

"The investigation is in its very early stages," Essex Police Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington said. "It will be for investigators to determine whether or not this is a terrorist incident."

The slaying came five years after another MP, Jo Cox, was murdered by a far-right extremist in her small-town constituency, and it renewed concern about the risks politicians run as they go about their work representing voters. British politicians generally are not given police protection when they meet with their constituents.

Tributes poured in for Amess from across the political spectrum, as well as from the community he had served for decades. Residents paid tribute to him at a vigil at a church in Leigh-on-Sea.

"He carried that great East London spirit of having no fear and being able to talk to people and the level they're at," the Rev. Jeffrey Woolnaugh said at the vigil, attended by about 80 people. "Not all politicians, I would say, are good at that."

Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he and his Cabinet were "deeply shocked and heart-stricken."

"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," Johnson said.

The prime minister would not say whether the attack meant politicians needed tighter security, saying, "We must really leave the police to get on with their investigation."

Amess, 69, was attacked around midday at a Methodist church in Leigh-on-Sea, a town about 40 miles (62 kilometers) east of London. Paramedics tried without success to save him. Police arrested the suspect and recovered a knife.

Amess had been a member of Parliament for Southend West, which includes Leigh-on-Sea, since 1997, and had been a lawmaker since 1983, making him one of the longest-serving politicians in the House of Commons.

A social conservative on the right of his party, he was a well-liked figure with a reputation for working hard for his constituents and campaigning ceaselessly to have Southend declared a city.

Amess, who leaves a wife and five children, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2015 for his service, becoming Sir David.

Flags at Parliament were lowered to half-staff amid a profusion of questions about lawmakers' security.

"This is an incident that will send shockwaves across the parliamentary community and the whole country," House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said. "In the coming days we will need to discuss and examine MPs' security and any measures to be taken, but for now, our thoughts and prayers are with David's family, friends and colleagues."

Violence against British politicians is rare, but concerns have grown about the increasingly bitter polarization of the country's politics.

In 2016, a week before the country's divisive Brexit referendum, Cox, a Labour Party lawmaker, was fatally stabbed and shot in northern England. Also, several people have been jailed in recent years for threatening lawmakers.

British lawmakers are protected by armed police when they are inside Parliament, and security there was tightened after an attacker inspired by the Islamic State group fatally stabbed a police officer at the gates in 2017.

But politicians have no such protection in their constituencies. Amess published the times and locations of his open meetings with constituents on his website.

Two other British lawmakers have been attacked over the past two decades during their "surgeries," regular meetings where constituents can present concerns and complaints.

Labour legislator Stephen Timms was stabbed in the stomach in 2010 by a student radicalized by online sermons from an al-Qaida-linked preacher.

In 2000, Liberal Democrat Nigel Jones and his aide Andrew Pennington were attacked by a man wielding a sword during such a meeting. Pennington was killed and Jones wounded in the attack in Cheltenham, England.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May, a Conservative, tweeted that Amess' killing was a "tragic day for our democracy," and former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was "shocked and horrified."

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party said on Twitter: "In a democracy, politicians must be accessible and open to scrutiny, but no one deserves to have their life taken while working for and representing their constituents."

Kim Leadbeater, Jo Cox's sister and now a member of Parliament herself, said it was "horrific" that Amess' family was experiencing what hers had gone through.

"They will think about this every single day for the rest of their lives," 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."

------

Lawless reported from London. Pan Pylas also contributed to this report.

Floral tributes can be seen as police officers block one of the roads leading to the Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North, where British Conservative lawmaker David Amess has died after being stabbed at a constituency surgery, in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. Police gave no immediate details on the motive for the killing of 69-year-old Conservative lawmaker Amess and did not identify the suspect, who was being held on suspicion of murder. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
Floral tributes can be seen as police officers block one of the roads leading to the Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North, where British Conservative lawmaker David Amess has died after being stabbed at a constituency surgery, in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. Police gave no immediate details on the motive for the killing of 69-year-old Conservative lawmaker Amess and did not identify the suspect, who was being held on suspicion of murder. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
Conservative MP David Amess with his pugs, Lily and Boat at the Westminster Dog of the Year competition at Victoria Tower Gardens in London on Oct. 10, 2013. British police say a man has been arrested after a reported stabbing in eastern England. News outlets say the victim is Conservative lawmaker David Amess. The Essex Police force said officers were called to reports of a stabbing in Leigh-on-Sea just after noon Friday. It said “a man was arrested shortly after & we’re not looking for anyone else.” (Geoff Caddick/PA via AP)
Conservative MP David Amess with his pugs, Lily and Boat at the Westminster Dog of the Year competition at Victoria Tower Gardens in London on Oct. 10, 2013. British police say a man has been arrested after a reported stabbing in eastern England. News outlets say the victim is Conservative lawmaker David Amess. The Essex Police force said officers were called to reports of a stabbing in Leigh-on-Sea just after noon Friday. It said “a man was arrested shortly after & we’re not looking for anyone else.” (Geoff Caddick/PA via AP)
People leave the Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North, where Conservative MP Sir David Amess has reportedly been stabbed several times at a constituency surgery, in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. British police say a man has been arrested after a reported stabbing in eastern England. News outlets say the victim is Conservative lawmaker David Amess. The Essex Police force said officers were called to reports of a stabbing in Leigh-on-Sea just after noon Friday. It said “a man was arrested shortly after & we’re not looking for anyone else.” (Nick Ansell/PA via AP)
People leave the Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North, where Conservative MP Sir David Amess has reportedly been stabbed several times at a constituency surgery, in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. British police say a man has been arrested after a reported stabbing in eastern England. News outlets say the victim is Conservative lawmaker David Amess. The Essex Police force said officers were called to reports of a stabbing in Leigh-on-Sea just after noon Friday. It said “a man was arrested shortly after & we’re not looking for anyone else.” (Nick Ansell/PA via AP)
People attend a vigil to murdered British Conservative lawmaker David Amess in St Peters Catholic Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. Amess died after being stabbed earlier Friday during a meeting with constituents at another nearby church in eastern England. Police gave no immediate details on the motive for the killing of 69-year-old Conservative lawmaker Amess and did not identify the suspect, who was being held on suspicion of murder. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
People attend a vigil to murdered British Conservative lawmaker David Amess in St Peters Catholic Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. Amess died after being stabbed earlier Friday during a meeting with constituents at another nearby church in eastern England. Police gave no immediate details on the motive for the killing of 69-year-old Conservative lawmaker Amess and did not identify the suspect, who was being held on suspicion of murder. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
An image of murdered British Conservative lawmaker David Amess is displayed near the altar in St Peters Catholic Church before a vigil in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. Amess died after being stabbed earlier Friday during a meeting with constituents at another nearby church in eastern England. Police gave no immediate details on the motive for the killing of 69-year-old Conservative lawmaker Amess and did not identify the suspect, who was being held on suspicion of murder. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
An image of murdered British Conservative lawmaker David Amess is displayed near the altar in St Peters Catholic Church before a vigil in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. Amess died after being stabbed earlier Friday during a meeting with constituents at another nearby church in eastern England. Police gave no immediate details on the motive for the killing of 69-year-old Conservative lawmaker Amess and did not identify the suspect, who was being held on suspicion of murder. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
People attend a vigil to murdered British Conservative lawmaker David Amess in St Peters Catholic Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. Amess died after being stabbed earlier Friday during a meeting with constituents at another nearby church in eastern England. Police gave no immediate details on the motive for the killing of 69-year-old Conservative lawmaker Amess and did not identify the suspect, who was being held on suspicion of murder. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
People attend a vigil to murdered British Conservative lawmaker David Amess in St Peters Catholic Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. Amess died after being stabbed earlier Friday during a meeting with constituents at another nearby church in eastern England. Police gave no immediate details on the motive for the killing of 69-year-old Conservative lawmaker Amess and did not identify the suspect, who was being held on suspicion of murder. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
Police officers talk at the scene outside the Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North, where British Conservative lawmaker David Amess has died after being stabbed at a constituency surgery, in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. Police gave no immediate details on the motive for the killing of 69-year-old Conservative lawmaker Amess and did not identify the suspect, who was being held on suspicion of murder. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
Police officers talk at the scene outside the Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North, where British Conservative lawmaker David Amess has died after being stabbed at a constituency surgery, in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. Police gave no immediate details on the motive for the killing of 69-year-old Conservative lawmaker Amess and did not identify the suspect, who was being held on suspicion of murder. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
The Union flags above Downing Street have been lowered to half mast to honor British Conservative lawmaker David Amess, in London, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. British Conservative lawmaker David Amess has died after being stabbed Friday during a meeting with constituents at a church in eastern England. A 25-year-old man has been arrested. (Aaron Chown/PA via AP)
The Union flags above Downing Street have been lowered to half mast to honor British Conservative lawmaker David Amess, in London, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. British Conservative lawmaker David Amess has died after being stabbed Friday during a meeting with constituents at a church in eastern England. A 25-year-old man has been arrested. (Aaron Chown/PA via AP)
Conservative lawmaker David Amess outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London on Sept. 17, 2003. British police say a man has been arrested after a reported stabbing in eastern England. News outlets say the victim is Conservative lawmaker David Amess. The Essex Police force said officers were called to reports of a stabbing in Leigh-on-Sea just after noon Friday. It said “a man was arrested shortly after & we’re not looking for anyone else.” (John Stillwell/PA via AP)
Conservative lawmaker David Amess outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London on Sept. 17, 2003. British police say a man has been arrested after a reported stabbing in eastern England. News outlets say the victim is Conservative lawmaker David Amess. The Essex Police force said officers were called to reports of a stabbing in Leigh-on-Sea just after noon Friday. It said “a man was arrested shortly after & we’re not looking for anyone else.” (John Stillwell/PA via AP)

Print Headline: UK counterterror officers lead probe in lawmaker's slaying

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsor Content

ADVERTISEMENT

Recommended for you

ADVERTISEMENT