A Tory MP was stabbed to death on Friday by a suspected terrorist.
Sir David Amess was holding a constituency surgery when a knifeman ran into the church building and launched a frenzied attack. The 69-year-old politician was wounded at least 12 times, dying at the scene.
Counter-terrorism police and MI5 were probing whether the suspect, who is a 25-year-old British Muslim of Somali descent, had links to extremists.
Horrified constituents waiting to see the veteran MP, who has campaigned to help refugees, watched in horror as the assailant leapt on him just after midday.
One woman ran out of the Methodist church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, frantically dialling 999 as she screamed: ‘Someone’s been stabbed, please get here soon, he’s not breathing.’
Sir David, Tory MP for Southend West, collapsed in a pool of blood as the knifeman stood over him, remaining there until police arrived five minutes later to disarm him. Paramedics battled to save his life, but he died just before 3pm.
A much-loved MP and a proud father of five, Sir David gave away his daughter Alex, 31, in marriage just weeks ago.
Sir David Amess was holding a constituency surgery when a knifeman ran into the church building and launched a frenzied attack. The 69-year-old politician was wounded at least 12 times, dying at the scene
A much-loved MP and a proud father of five, Sir David gave away his daughter Alex, 31, in marriage just weeks ago
Witnesses who saw the suspect being arrested on suspicion of murder described him as oddly calm and compliant.
Last night police were seeking to establish a motive for the attack, but announced the counter-terrorism command would lead the investigation.
The shocking attack, which came five years after the murder of MP Jo Cox, ignited a row over the protection of parliamentarians.
Home Secretary Priti Patel responded by ordering an immediate review of security arrangements. Yesterday the family of Mrs Cox, who was shot and stabbed outside her constituency surgery in Birstall, West Yorkshire, by a Right-wing terrorist in June 2016, said Sir David’s murder was an ‘attack on democracy itself’.
Mrs Cox’s husband Brendan said: ‘Attacking our elected representatives is an attack on democracy itself. There is no excuse, no justification. It is as cowardly as it gets.’
Mrs Cox’s sister Kim Leadbeater, who has replaced her as the Labour MP for Batley and Spen, said her partner had asked her to step down from politics.
She said: ‘Totally shocked by what has happened to think that something so horrific could happen again to another MP, to another family. And scared and frightened – a real rollercoaster of emotions.
‘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.
Pictured: the union flag flies at half mast in Downing Street, London, in the wake of the horrific attack this afternoon
Pictured: Essex Police remain on scene at Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, where Conservative MP Sir David Amess has died after he was stabbed several times at a constituency surgery this afternoon
Judith McMahon, a close family friend of MP David Amess, mourns at a church after Amess was stabbed during constituency surgery, in Leigh-on-Sea
Constituent Ruth Verrinder (R) and former mayor Judith McMahon (L) gather their thoughts before lighting a candle
Police at Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, where Conservative MP Sir Amess died after he was stabbed several times at a constituency surgery
A police cordon at the scene of a crime where MP for Southend West, Sir David Amess, was stabbed to death in Leigh-on-Sea
Floral tributes are placed near the scene of a fatal stabbing as police officers stand guard near the Belfairs Methodist Church
A vigil is held for MP David Amess who was stabbed during constituency surgery, at Saint Peter’s Church in Leigh-on-Sea
A man prays as people attend a mass in memory of Conservative British lawmaker David Amess, who was fatally stabbed
A woman wipes her tears as people attend a mass in memory of Conservative British lawmaker David Amess this evening
Much-loved: A floral tribute left at the scene thanks Sir David Amess for his work to support Surfers Against Sewage
Chief constable BJ Harrington said the MP was ‘simply dispensing his duties when his life was horrifically cut short’
‘My partner came home and he said he didn’t want me to do it any more because the next time that phone goes, it could be a different conversation.’
Priti reviews security
Priti Patel has ordered all police forces to review security arrangements for MPs urgently.
The Home Secretary chaired a meeting of police and security and intelligence agencies, believed to include MI5.
Tory MP Pauline Latham said: ‘We cannot be totally protected. There will always be nutcases.’
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘We must be available. It is the most critical bit of what makes the British parliamentary system one of the most accessible in the world.’
Former Tory chairman Sir Eric Pickles said: ‘If we close up shop and disappear behind a security bubble, it’s democracy that’ll be a lesser thing.’
MPs can get advice from security experts in Parliament and have alarm systems, shutters, CCTV and personal alarms. For specific threats, MPs can seek help from the police.
Sir David is the sixth MP to be murdered since the Second World War, and the ninth in history.
It is not known whether his wife Julia, who is his part-time caseworker, was in the church at the time. The MP, who was an ardent Brexiteer, was seen laughing and speaking to people on the steps of the church just 15 minutes before he was killed.
Sir David wrote last year about the importance of meeting constituents despite what had happened to Mrs Cox.
He wrote: ‘She was a young woman with a family going about her duties, as we all do, completely unaware of the threat that she faced. While it is often said that good can come out of someone’s death, it is difficult to see what good can come from this senseless murder’.
He also admitted he had been threatened at his home: ‘I myself have over the years experienced nuisance from the odd member of the general public at my own property. We regularly check our locks and many others have CCTV cameras installed but probably the most significant change has been with constituency surgeries.’
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said MPs were in shock at what he described as an attack on democracy. He said he wanted to see a greater police presence at constituency surgeries. But he said it was vital that voters were able to engage directly with MPs.
Sir Lindsay said he had gone ahead with his own surgery meeting last night, adding: ‘We cannot afford for democracy to be smashed. The people who do not accept our values will not win. I am shocked and deeply distressed by the killing of Sir David Amess. David was a lovely man, devoted to his family, to parliament and his Southend West constituency.
‘He was well liked by members and the staff alike, and during his almost four decades here, built a reputation for kindness and generosity. We will need to discuss and examine MPs’ security and any measures to be taken.’
Police officers attend following the stabbing of MP Sir Amess as he met with constituents at a constituency surgery
Forensic teams and officers were at the scene well into the evening as they considered their investigation into the attack
Essex Police at the scene in Southend on Sea on Friday where MP David Amess had been stabbed to death in a daylight attack
Police officers attend following the stabbing of UK Conservative MP Sir David Amess as he met with constituents at a constituency surgery
Sir David became the sixth MP to be murdered recently and the first since the death of Jo Cox in 2016. Pictured: the scene
Pictured: Police and paramedics are said to have treated his wounds for more than an hour before he passed away
Pictured: Armed police at the scene after the stabbing happened next to an A-board advertising the MP was in the building
Yesterday the Prime Minister paid tribute as there was an outpouring of grief from other MPs.
Boris Johnson said: ‘He was one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics.’
At a vigil last night more than 100 people packed into St Peter’s Catholic Church in Leigh-on-Sea.
Rev Clifford Newman, the vicar at the Methodist church where the murder took place, said: ‘My thoughts and prayers are with David and Julia, his wife, and the family and the many people he has helped in the past.
‘The local Baptist minister told me that he’s helped refugees.’
First elected in Thatcher’s 1983 landslide, Sir David was one of the longest-serving Tory MPs.
He never made it: MP’s assailant queued to see him… then launched his savage attack
By Sam Greenhill, Arthur Martin, Mario Ledwith and Neil Sears for the Daily Mail
It was as sudden as it was savage. A man pulled out a knife and ‘just began stabbing’ David Amess.
The ferocious attack left the 69-year-old veteran Conservative MP gasping for life on the floor of the church hall.
He was so grievously injured by ‘more than a dozen’ stab wounds that medical staff battling to save him could not stabilise him enough to take him to hospital. After two desperate hours, a helicopter air ambulance which had landed in a nearby field took off again, empty.
Sir David was a committed constituency MP who had devoted his life to meeting local residents and trying to help with their problems.
When he arrived for his regular surgery at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, shortly before midday, several were waiting to see him. John Lamb, a Conservative councillor who rushed to the church when he heard what had happened, said: ‘He was doing a surgery in the Methodist church here to speak to local people and pick up on their problems.
The 69-year-old veteran Conservative MP was so grievously injured by ‘more than a dozen’ stab wounds that medical staff battling to save him could not stabilise him enough to take him to hospital
Armed police swamped the Belfairs Methodist Church as the MP was being treated for his wounds on the floor inside. Tragically he couldn’t be saved and was pronounced dead at around 3pm
MP sister of Jo Cox says her partner told her he wants her to quit in wake of Sir David stabbing
The MP whose sister Jo Cox was murdered said her partner has asked her to step down after Sir David Amess was killed.
Kim Leadbeater, Labour MP for Batley and Spen in West Yorkshire, said she felt ‘frightened’ following the attack on the Tory MP at a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea, in Essex, on Friday.
And her family, who lost Ms Cox when she was murdered moments before she arrived at a constituency surgery in 2016, knew the pain that Sir David’s loved-ones will have to endure.
She said: ‘My partner came home and he said he didn’t want me 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’m told that when he went in for his surgery there were people waiting to see him, and one of them literally got a knife out and just began stabbing him. He was with a female member of staff from his constituency office and another female member of staff from his parliamentary office.’
Speaking outside the church, the shocked councillor said: ‘It has been two hours since it happened, and they are still working on him – he hasn’t been taken to hospital yet.
‘He’s a family man, he’s got four daughters and a son.’
Another witness said the MP had been ‘stabbed quite a few times’, while Sky News reported there were ‘more than a dozen’ knife wounds. The brutal assault on Sir David was over in seconds, but the knifeman does not appear to have been in a hurry to leave the murder scene.
Terrified members of the public dialled 999. Lee Jordison, 40, who works in nearby Hicks butchers, said: ‘It is very shocking. I’ve worked up here and lived up here all my life, and never seen anything like this – it’s terrible.’
Officers from Essex Police were the first to arrive, within five minutes, followed moments later by an armed response unit. They found the 25-year-old suspect still inside the church hall, and also recovered a knife. The alleged killer was led out to a police van.
Anthony Finch, 38, an electrician, said: ‘We arrived to do some work on the adjacent building. I saw an upset lady on the phone saying “You need to arrive quickly – he’s still in the building”.
‘I went into the client’s house, and when I came back out there were loads of armed police, and overhead there was an air ambulance as well as a police helicopter. I saw the suspect get put into a police van, get taken away and then they cordoned the whole road, and pushed us all down the road.
‘What we then heard was that it was David Amess. He’s very well thought of in our area – he fights for good causes and sticks up for people around here.’
A member of the Southend West Conservative Association lowers the Union Jack Flag to half mast outside Iveagh Hall, the Constituency office address, following the stabbing
A member of the public leaves a bunch of flowers at a police cordon near the scene of a fatal stabbing incident at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, a district of Southend-on-Sea, in south-east England
Flowers at the scene alongside a note reading ‘RIP. Such a gentleman xxx’ near the Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex
Many of Sir David’s constituents remembered his dedication to the community in Southend where he served for decades
As word spread, a Roman Catholic priest, Father Jeffrey Woolnough, arrived at the police cordon stretching across tree-lined Eastwood Road North, offering to administer the last rites to the devoutly Catholic MP. He said: ‘The officers said that because it was a crime scene, and also the nature of the scene, it just wasn’t possible.’
Conservative councillor David Garston described Sir David as ‘probably one of the best constituency MPs in the country’, and said: ‘Because he was so accessible, and because he was everywhere, he obviously left himself vulnerable and didn’t think twice about it.
‘You couldn’t get very far [with him] because he’d stop every hundred yards to talk to somebody.’ Another local councillor, James Courtenay, said that surgeries were the MP’s passion and a scheduled hour-long session with constituents often stretched to four or five hours.
Sir David was meant to have been giving a speech at a dinner for the local Conservative association last night in nearby Rochford. Instead, floral tributes were being laid and more than 100 locals attended a vigil. One card left on flowers at the scene read simply: ‘Sir David Amess – RIP –such a gentleman.’
Ben-Julian Harrington, Essex Police’s chief constable, said that officers and paramedics had ‘worked extremely hard to save Sir David’.
Crusader of backbenches who loved Strictly – but not Eurovision… and whose talismanic victory in Basildon in 1992 first told Britain that Major, not Kinnock, would be PM
By David Wilkes for the Daily Mail
He was known to colleagues as ‘Basildon man’ – and not just because he was a constituency MP through and through.
Sir David Amess first entered political folklore during the 1992 election when his famously Tory Essex seat was expected to fall to Neil Kinnock’s Labour, who many thought was certain to oust John Major’s government.
Yet the moment Basildon flashed up blue, and Sir David’s infectious smile peered out from television screens, Conservatives breathed a deep sigh of relief in the knowledge that the Welsh windbag’s dream of becoming Prime Minister was at an end.
For that reason alone, this genial father of five will always hold a precious place in Tory hearts.
Family man: Devoted Sir David beams proudly with his son, also David, and daughter Katie while wife Julia cradles baby Alexandra in 1990
He was a kind, genial soul, always quick to raise a laugh in the Commons. Watching this deceptively charismatic figure on his feet in the chamber, it was virtually impossible not to take a shine to him
In a poignant tribute, Father Woolnough, leading the service, said: ‘He carried with him that great east London spirit of having no fear and being able to talk to people and the level they’re at. Not all politicians I would say are good at that.’ Members of the church and local community members attended the short-notice vigil this evening, just hours after the MPs death
Tonight a group of 80 mourners have gathered to attend a vigil in nearby St Peters Catholic Church to pay their respects
David Amess, the Tory veteran first elected in Thatcher’s 1983 landslide who fought for Brexit and campaigned to ban fox-hunting
David Amess and wife Julia, with their fourth child, baby daughter Alexandra. They are pictured with two of their other children, David and Katherine
David Amess was one of the longest-serving MPs on the Tory benches, having first been elected in Margaret Thatcher’s 1983 landslide.
The married father-of-five was known as a staunch right-winger, having been a Eurosceptic for years before the referendum campaign.
The 69-year-old has been an opponent of same-sex marriage and anti-abortion, but also took some less traditional Conservative positions – including campaigning against fox-hunting.
Despite his true-blue credentials he was popular across the political divide, known as a family man and a hard-working constituency MP.
One of his four daughters with wife Julia, Katie, is an actress and model who was named Miss Essex in 2008.
Sir David also came to public attention in 1997 when he was tricked into condemning a made up drug called ‘Cake’ on the satirical TV programme Brass Eye.
The MP had never been a minister during his near-four decade stint in parliament, although he was briefly a ministerial aide.
However, he held a number of important behind-the-scenes roles – which were rewarded when he was knighted in 2015 for political and public service.
Sir David pictured with his pet Vivienne when they entered the Westminster Dog of the Year competition
Sir David was a member of the Health Committee, and also served on the Administration Committee – which oversees the Parliamentary facilities such as catering.
He wa currently on the ‘Panel of Chairs’ at the Commons, making him one of the senior MPs who fill in for Speaker Lindsay Hoyle chairing debates.
Sir David was educated at a grammar school in London and then Bournemouth University, before becoming a recruitment consultant.
He contested and won Basildon for the Tories in 1983, when Mrs Thatcher trounced Michael Foot to secure an 144 majority.
However, when the seat was redrawn in 1997 he saw it would inevitably be taken by Labour, and was selected for Southend West.
He still holds the seat with a majority of more than 14,000.
But to Parliamentary colleagues, there was so much more to him than that, personal qualities that made him a vastly popular figure across the political divide.
He was a kind, genial soul, always quick to raise a laugh in the Commons. Watching this deceptively charismatic figure on his feet in the chamber, it was virtually impossible not to take a shine to him.
Rarely, if ever, when called by the Speaker did his polite question not concern his beloved Southend. A long and much-loved campaign to make the Essex seaside town a city now sadly remains unfulfilled.
Even Sir David’s Early Day Motions could raise a giggle around the Commons tea room.
One saluted Ann Widdecombe and Anton du Beke on their ‘achievement in putting a smile on the nation’s faces with their performances’ after their exit from Strictly Come Dancing in 2010.
Another congratulated Dame Helen Mirren – who went to school in his Southend West constituency – on her Oscars triumph in 2007.
The Eurovision song contest, on the other hand, brought out the Brexiteer in him. It was, he claimed, an event ‘designed to humiliate the UK’.
But on the whole, the glitz and glamour of the showbiz world appeared to delight him.
And why wouldn’t it?
His daughter Katie is a former Miss Essex who went on to become a Bafta-nominated actress and appeared in Hollywood blockbusters such as a Harry Potter film and Captain America: Civil War.
Born in Plaistow (then in Essex, now east London) and raised a Roman Catholic, Sir David was educated at St Bonaventure’s grammar school in Forest Gate and then Bournemouth College of Technology, where he earned a degree in economics and government.
His first job was working as a primary school teacher in London’s East End, teaching at St John the Baptist primary school in Bethnal Green for a year in 1970-71.
He then spent a short time as an underwriter before becoming a recruitment consultant.
By 1983 he was a Tory parliamentary candidate and entered the Commons partly as a result of Margaret Thatcher’s wildly popular policy of letting council tenants buy their homes, a measure that greatly appealed to the citizens of Basildon.
He married his wife Julia in the same year and they went on to have five children – a son and four daughters.
His friend and fellow MP Jerry Hayes, who entered Parliament in the very same year as the Conservative member for the neighbouring constituency of Harlow, says that Sir David never seriously sought high government office. ‘He always believed his true vocation was to represent his constituents in Essex, something he did for 38 years with diligence, skill and good humour,’ he says.
‘David liked to be out and about, pounding the streets of his constituency, speaking up for those who needed his help and advice.
‘Not for him the bullet-proof limousine and a battalion of special advisers. His political outlook was that of a slightly old-fashioned parliamentarian. He spoke up for the ordinary man and woman in his constituency, and of course for animals, about which he cared passionately.
‘I am sorry to say it was precisely this selfless determination that placed him in mortal danger yesterday, and cost him his life.’
During his near four-decade stint in Parliament, Sir David was briefly a ministerial aide, but he held a number of important behind-the-scenes roles and was knighted in 2015 for political and public service.
Politics-wise, Sir David was a staunch Right-winger, having been a Eurosceptic for years before the referendum was held.
It is true that some of his beliefs might be considered deeply unfashionable these days.
The 69-year-old was an opponent of same-sex marriage and, as a devout mass-going Catholic, strongly anti-abortion.
But being the maverick he was, he also took some less traditional Conservative positions, being one of very few Tories to campaign against fox hunting. Controversial viewpoints these may have been, but they never appeared to dull his popularity throughout Westminster.
Committed: Sir David, pictured with PM Boris Johnson, was known for his devotion to his constituency
Animal lover: MP, who campaigned against fox hunting, with pet in front of Houses of Parliament
In a sign of the affection in which he was held among MPs, Corbynite Paula Sherriff, who was ousted during the 2019 election, broke down in tears on the radio yesterday upon news of Sir David’s death.
‘I loved him,’ Miss Sherriff told Shelagh Fogarty on LBC. ‘David was a wonderful, wonderful man – I have lost a friend today.’
Conservative MP for Harlow, Robert Halfon, also paid tribute to Sir David as ‘a wonderful man’ who was funny, kind and ‘cared about the most disadvantaged in our communities’ and ‘embodies Essex’. The fun side of his character often shone through. On December 30 last year, he posted a photo of a cardboard cut-out of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on Twitter.
He wrote: ‘Whilst Margaret didn’t live long enough to see this day, I am sure that she is rejoicing in heaven. At last we “got Brexit done”!’
The Iron Lady put in another surprise appearance this summer when Sir David brought the cut-out to his daughter Alexandra’s wedding.
One episode he preferred to forget occurred in 1997. He was tricked into condemning a made-up drug called ‘Cake’ on the satirical TV programme Brass Eye, developed by comedian Chris Morris.
Last night local councillor James Courtenay paid tribute to his late local MP saying he was ‘a hardcore constituency MP who decided many years ago that he wasn’t looking for career advancement in Westminster’.
Surgeries were ‘his passion’ and a two-hour session could often stretch to four or five hours, Mr Courtenay added.
True to form, Sir David was meant to have been at a dinner for the local Conservative association last night at the Saxon Hall, Rochford, where he was due to give a speech.
It was a speech, tragically, he never got to make.