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April 13, 2023
David Amess, 69, who was a Conservative MP from Southend West in Essex, was stabbed during a meeting at the Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea. The Metropolitan Police, whose counter-terrorism unit are leading the investigation of the incident, said in a statement early on Saturday that they declared the fatal stabbing as a terrorist incident.
The early investigation has revealed a “potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism,” the police added. 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. “As part of the investigation, officers are currently carrying out searches at two addresses in the London area and these are ongoing,” the police said, adding that it is believed that the suspect in custody acted alone.
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 the lawmaker’s life on the floor of the church, where a sign says: “All are welcome here: where old friends meet and strangers feel at home”.
“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. Broadcaster Sky News said the arrested man was understood to be a British national of Somali heritage.
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 Queen Elizabeth for his public service in 2015. His website listed his main interests as “animal welfare and pro-life issues”. He was popular with lawmakers and known for his active contributions to debates, often about issues relating to his Essex constituency or animal rights.
Bob Hazel, secretary of a local residents’ group, said Amess regularly chatted with commuters on the train from London. “He wouldn’t be stuck behind a book or a newspaper, he would be talking to people and he was that sort of person. He was really approachable and he’s going to be very, very much missed,” Hazel told Reuters.
In Amess’ last contribution to the House of Commons last month, he asked for a debate about animal welfare. Residents left flowers beside the church with a tribute: “David Amess RIP Such a gentleman xxx.”
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: CNN