London – A long-serving British lawmaker from the Conservative Party died after being stabbed multiple times in an attack Friday while meeting with constituents in a church building in his home district.
Police said a 25-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder and a knife was recovered. No motive was offered. Police did not reveal the man's identity.
David Amess, 69, who represented Southend West in Essex, was meeting with locals about an hour's drive east of London when he was killed. Amess received treatment at the scene of the assault but died there, police said.
Fellow politicians decried the murder of Amess as horrific. Amess is the second British lawmaker since 2016 to be killed while out meeting constituents, raising calls that parliamentarians might need more security.
On social media, many wondered whether a more partisan England is more prone to this kind of violence. Other lawmakers have been physically attacked and many screamed at and harassed while entering or exiting Westminster Palace.
"This is an incident that will send shock waves across the parliamentary community and the whole country," said Lindsay Hoyle, speaker of the Parliament.
“In the coming days, we will need to discuss and examine MPs' security and any measures to be taken.”
Lawmakers mixing with locals is a cherished tradition here, and British politicians are often seen at charity functions, school plays, local sporting events and the pub. But there's been a long-running debate over how much security they should be offered when out and about.
The Daily Mail tabloid reported: "One woman ran out of the church in the chaos yelling down the phone after dialing 999, telling the call handler: 'Someone's been stabbed, please get here soon, he's not breathing.' "
Amess was a long-serving member of Parliament, a married father of five. He was a royalist, a vocal supporter of Brexit, which saw Britain leave the European Union. He pushed for a ban on fox-hunting, supported animal welfare legislation, opposed abortion and was a leading voice in the Conservative Party in support of Israel.
The attack stirred memories of the 2016 murder of Labour Party lawmaker Jo Cox, 41, who died after being shot and stabbed by Thomas Alexander Mair, a white supremacist and extreme nationalist who supported neo-Nazi ideology. Mair was sentenced to life in prison for his crimes.
Jo Cox's widower, Brendan Cox, tweeted: "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."
Earlier, Cox called the attack on elected representatives "an attack on democracy itself. There is no excuse, no justification. It is as cowardly as it gets."
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the country heard the news in shock and sadness and that Amess was "one of the kindest" people in politics. Across Britain, "RIP David Amess" was trending on social media as tributes poured in from stunned Britons.
Flags were lowered to half-staff at 10 Downing Street. One lawmaker recollected that Amess was "friendly, always cheerful, always kind and generous," while another simply called the attack "unforgivable."
Carrie Johnson, the wife of Boris Johnson and a former Conservative Party communications chief, called the attack "absolutely devastating news." She added that Amess was known to be "hugely kind and good," and was "a true gent" and "an enormous animal lover."
Angela Rayner, a Labour Party leader, said she was "horrified" by the stabbing. Former Conservative British prime minister David Cameron called the news "very alarming and worrying."
British lawmakers meet regularly with their constituents in appointments to discuss public matters and personal needs and complaints. Amess had posted online Tuesday that he was due to hold his next meeting with local residents on Friday at the Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea.
Amess was awarded a knighthood in 2015 by Queen Elizabeth II for his years of political and public service.
The Washington Post