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Counterterrorism units to lead investigation into fatal stabbing of UK MP David Amess

David Amess was attacked today at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea.

David Amess
David Amess
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

Updated Oct 15th 2021, 6:57 PM

A CONSERVATIVE MP has died after being stabbed multiple times in an incident at a meeting in his constituency.

David Amess, who represents Southend West in Essex, was attacked today at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea during a constituency meeting.  

A 25-year-old man was arrested at the scene and remains in custody.

Police have said that officers specialist counterterrorism units are leading the investigation and that they will determine if it is a terrorist incident. 

At a brief press briefing this evening, Essex Police Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington said that police were called to the scene of the stabbing at just after midday today and arrived “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. Tragically he died at the scene,” the Chief Constable said. 

“A 25-year-old man was arrested immediately at the scene on suspicion of murder. He remains in custody. A knife was also recovered at the scene. The investigation is in its very early stages and is 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.

He added: “Today is a tragic day for the family and colleagues of Sir David, the community of Southend and indeed for the whole of greater Essex. Sir David has dedicated his life to serve in the communities of Essex and Southend, and today he was simply dispensing his duties when his life was horrifically cut short.

Tributes 

Tributes have been pouring in for Amess, 69, who had been an MP since 1983.  

Conservative councillor John Lamb, who is at the scene where Amess was stabbed, described him as an “amicable” family man.

“He’s a family man, he’s got four daughters and a son,” he told the PA news agency.

Boris Johnson said David Amess was “one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics”.

Speaking this evening, Johnson said: “I think all our hearts are full of shock and sadness today at the loss of Sir David Amess MP, who was killed in his constituency surgery in a church after almost 40 years of continuous service to the people of Essex and the whole of the United Kingdom.

“And the reason I think people are so shocked and saddened is above all he was one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics, and 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.”

UK Labour Party leader Keir Starmer earlier tweeted: “Horrific and deeply shocking news. “Thinking of David, his family and his staff.”

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon said: “This is awful beyond words. My thoughts and deepest condolences are with David’s family, friends and colleagues. May he rest in peace.”

Brendan Cox, widower of MP Jo Cox who was murdered in 2016, wrote on Twitter: “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.”

Former prime minister David Cameron said: “This is the most devastating, horrific & tragic news. David Amess was a kind & thoroughly decent man – & he was the most committed MP you could ever hope to meet. Words cannot adequately express the horror of what has happened today. Right now, my heart goes out to David’s family.”

Conservative MP Michael Gove said: “David Amess’s passing is heart-breakingly sad. Just terrible, terrible news.

“He was a good and gentle man, he showed charity and compassion to all, his every word and act were marked by kindness. My heart goes out to his family.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “Truly shocked to hear of the death of British MP David Amess, killed while holding a clinic in his constituency office. My deepest sympathies to his wife Julia, children, family and friends.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said: “What a shocking and tragic incident. Our thoughts and sincere sympathies are with family, friends and political colleagues of Sir David Amess MP.”

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Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said: “Horrified to hear  news of the fatal stabbing of David Amess MP. Thoughts and prayers with his family, friends and colleagues.”

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson MP said that Amess was “a long-standing friend to me personally but also to the union. 

More than many in Westminster, he took a keen interest in Northern Ireland and its people. He always wanted to see the country moving forward.

Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the House of Commons, described Amess as “a lovely man, devoted to his family” who “built a reputation for kindness and generosity”

Hoyle also said that the death of the MP will need to be examined in terms of security for members.

“This is an incident that will send shockwaves across the parliamentary community and the whole country. 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,” Hoyle said. 

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy

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