British MP stabbed to death in terror attack

·3-min read

A British MP has been stabbed to death in a church by an assailant who lunged at him during a meeting with voters from his constituency, a killing police say was a terrorist attack.

David Amess, 69, from Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party, was knifed repeatedly in the attack about midday on Friday (local time) in the Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, east of London.

A 25-year-old man was arrested at the scene on suspicion of murder, and detectives said specialist counter-terrorism officers were leading the initial investigation. 

Police scene of the disturbing murder. Source: Getty
Police scene of the disturbing murder. Source: Getty

Politicians described the attack as an assault on democracy.

"David was a man who believed passionately in this country and in its future and we have lost today a fine public servant and a much loved friend and colleague," said Johnson, who rushed back to London from the west of England after the news broke.

Armed police swooped on the church and paramedics fought in vain to save Amess' life on the floor of the church, where a sign says: "All are welcome here: where old friends meet and strangers feel at home".

David Amess MP and former British Prime Minister Theresa May in the Prime Ministers Office in 2016. Source: Getty
David Amess MP and former British Prime Minister Theresa May in the Prime Ministers Office in 2016. Source: Getty

"Tragically, he died at the scene," Essex Police Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington told reporters. He said police at the time of the incident did not believe there was any immediate threat to anyone else.

"It will be for investigators to determine whether or not this may have been a terrorist incident. As always they will keep an open mind," he said.

He gave no other details about a possible motive for the killing, the second fatal attack on a British lawmaker in their constituency in the last five years, which has prompted questions about the safety of politicians.

Police officers and ambulance crew attend following the stabbing of UK Conservative MP Sir David Amess as he met with constituents. Source: Getty
Police officers and ambulance crew attend following the stabbing of UK Conservative MP Sir David Amess as he met with constituents. Source: Getty

Broadcaster Sky News said the arrested man was understood to be a British national of Somali heritage.

Colleagues from across parliament expressed their shock and paid tribute to Amess, one of Britain's longest-serving lawmakers, for his commitment to his constituents, with whom he held regular meetings on the first and third Friday of the month.

Flags on all British government buildings will be flown at half-mast in tribute.

Amess, married with five children, was first elected to parliament to represent the town of Basildon in 1983, and then nearby Southend West in 1997. He was knighted by the Queen in 2015 for his public service.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also passed on his condolences.

"An attack on elected officials is an attack on democracy," he said.

Constituent Ruth Verrinder (R) and former councillor and mayor Judith McMahon (L) gather their thoughts before lighting a candle at St Michael and All Angels Church, following the stabbing of UK Conservative MP Sir David Amess. Source: Getty
Constituent Ruth Verrinder (R) and former councillor and mayor Judith McMahon (L) gather their thoughts before lighting a candle at St Michael and All Angels Church, following the stabbing of UK Conservative MP Sir David Amess. Source: Getty

The speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, said the incident would send shockwaves across the parliamentary community and the whole country, adding the security of lawmakers would have to discussed.

"Questions are rightly being asked about the safety of our country's elected representatives," Home Secretary (interior minister) Priti Patel said, adding she had asked police to review lawmakers' security.

The Conservative Party suspended all campaigning activities until further notice.

"Heartbreaking to hear of the death of Sir David Amess," former prime minister Theresa May said.

"A decent man and respected parliamentarian, killed in his own community while carrying out his public duties. A tragic day for our democracy."

Flowers and a balloon left at the scene. Source: Getty
Flowers and a balloon left at the scene. Source: Getty

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