Leaders from across the political spectrum joined David Amess’ constituents Saturday in praising the slain British politician as “a man of the people” who cared deeply for his community.
Amess, 69, a Conservative member of the British Parliament since 1983, was stabbed to death Friday during his regular weekly meeting with local voters at a church in the small town of Leigh-on-Sea, about 40 miles east of London.
A 25-year-old British national of Somali origin was arrested at the crime scene Friday, The Sun reported.
In a statement early Saturday, the Metropolitan Police described the attack as terrorism and said its early investigation “has revealed a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism.” It did not say what drove that conclusion. The agency’s Counter Terrorism Command is leading the investigation, The Sun reported.
“He was one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. He laid a wreath at the church during a somber visit, calling Amess “a much loved colleague and friend.”
“I feel as if I have lost a family member. I feel that he was the family of Southend, he was the leader of Southend,” resident Erica Keane, 69, told The Associated Press. “And he was everywhere! He was at the football pitches, he was in the choirs, he was in the pubs, he was everywhere and he was Southend.”
Abigail Mkhize told the BBC Amess had helped her six years ago when she was getting chemotherapy and ran into a snafu with unemployment coverage. “He said I will sort it out and he did,” said Mkhize. “He was just a normal human being. We just can’t believe it. He was the father of all nations, whether you are black or white, irrespective of where you came from.”
Coming five years after MP Jo Cox was killed by a far-right extremist in West Yorkshire just after a similar constituency meeting, Amess’ death has reopened questions about lawmakers’ security.
“He was killed doing a job that he loves, serving his own constituents as an elected democratic member and, of course, acts of this are absolutely wrong, and we cannot let that get in the way of our functioning democracy,” British Home Secretary Priti Patel said after she paid tribute to Amess at the church.
Patel said she has already started to meet with various officials “to make sure that all measures are being put in place for the security of MPs so that they can carry on with their duties as elected democratic members.”
At least one Conservative MP has called for a temporary pause on face-to-face meetings with voters until the security review is complete.