LONDON — British Conservative lawmaker David Amess was stabbed to death on Friday during a routine meeting with constituents at a church in eastern England, an attack that united the U.K.’s fractious politicians in shock and sorrow. A 25-year-old man was arrested at the scene.
The Essex Police force said officers were called to reports of a stabbing in the seaside town of Leigh-on-Sea just after noon Friday. It said “a man was arrested and a knife recovered.
“We are not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident and do not believe there is an ongoing threat to the wider public,” police said.
A motive wasn’t given and the suspect wasn’t identified. More than two hours after the attack, the force said the man injured in the stabbing had died. It didn’t release his name. The suspect is being being held on suspicion of murder, police said.
Sky News and others said Amess was attacked during a regular meeting with constituents at Belfairs Methodist Church in a residential area of Leigh-on-Sea, about 40 miles east of London.
Aerial footage showed several ambulances and an air ambulance waiting nearby to the church, where paramedics worked to save Amess’ life.
John Lamb, a local councilor, said Amess hadn’t been taken to a hospital more than two hours after the attack and the situation was “extremely serious.” His death was announced soon after.
Amess, 69, had been a member of Parliament for Southend West, which includes Leigh-on-Sea, since 1997, but has been a lawmaker since 1983. He was a well-liked member of Parliament, best known for his ceaseless campaign to have Southend declared a city.
Politicians from across the political spectrum expressed shock and sorrow.
Conservative lawmaker Tracey Crouch tweeted: “Heartbroken. I could write reams on how Sir David was one of the kindest, most compassionate, well liked colleagues in Parliament. But I can’t. I feel sick. I am lost.”
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party tweeted: “Elected representatives from across the political spectrum will be united in sadness and shock today. In a democracy, politicians must be accessible and open to scrutiny, but no-one deserves to have their life taken while working for and representing their constituents.”
Carrie Johnson, wife of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, wrote on Twitter: “Absolutely devastating news about Sir David Amess. He was hugely kind and good. An enormous animal lover and a true gent. This is so completely unjust. Thoughts are with his wife and their children.”
Violence against British politicians is rare, but concerns have grown in recent years about the increasingly bitter polarization in politics. In June 2016 Labour Party lawmaker Jo Cox was fatally stabbed and shot in her northern England constituency. A far-right extremist was convicted of her murder.
Cox’s widower, Brendan Cox, tweeted that “Attacking our elected representatives is an attack on democracy itself. There is no excuse, no justification. It is as cowardly as it gets.”
British lawmakers are protected by armed police when they are inside Parliament, and security there was tightened after an attacker inspired by the Islamic State group fatally stabbed a police officer at the gates in 2017.
But politicians have no such protection in their constituencies. Amess published the times and locations of his open meetings with constituents on his website.
Two other British lawmakers have been attacked this century during their “surgeries,” regular meetings where constituents can present concerns and complaints.
Labour legislator Stephen Timms was stabbed in the stomach and injured in May 2010 by a female student radicalized by online sermons from an al-Qaida-linked preacher.
In 2000, Liberal Democrat lawmaker Nigel Jones and his aide Andrew Pennington were attacked by a man wielding a sword during such a meeting. Pennington was killed and Jones injured in the attack in Cheltenham, England.