Conservative MP Sir David Amess has died after being stabbed in a church at a meeting with local constituents.
Amess, the MP for Southend West in Essex, was attacked on Friday at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea. He was treated by emergency services but died at the scene.
“He was one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a televised statement. “We’ve lost today a fine public servant and a much-loved friend & colleague.”
Essex Police said that a 25-year-old man was arrested at the scene on suspicion of murder and a knife had been recovered.
“He is currently in custody,” the force said in a statement. “We are not looking for anyone else in connection with this incident.”
According to UK broadcaster Sky News, which first reported on the incident, a man walked into the church and stabbed Amess multiple times.
At a press conference on Friday evening, Essex Police Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington confirmed that the 25-year-old man arrested immediately at the scene remained in custody.
He said that the investigation was being led by officers from the Counter Terrorism Command. “It will be for investigators to determine whether this is a terrorist incident,” he told reporters.
Amess, 69, has been an MP since 1983. He has represented the Southend West constituency since 1997.
Amess is the second UK MP to be murdered in five years. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot and killed in June 2016 outside her constituency surgery in West Yorkshire.
Labour MP Stephen Timms was stabbed twice at a meeting with constituents in 2010 in east London but made a full recovery. In 2001, Andrew Pennington, a local councillor, was killed by a constituent who was targeting his boss Nigel Jones MP.
The stabbing of Amess will spark debate on the extent of security that should be made available to MPs.
Politicians across the UK paid tribute to Amess on Friday afternoon.
“This is a dark and shocking day,” Labour leader Keir Starmer said in a statement. The whole country will feel it acutely, perhaps the more so because we have, heartbreakingly, been here before.”
“This is the most devastating, horrific & tragic news,” former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted. “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.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “I am so deeply, deeply saddened by the tragic news that Sir David has passed away. He loved being an MP and was a great public servant. It is just awful. My thoughts and prayers, and those of all Londoners, are with David's loved ones at this time of unimaginable grief.”
Health Secretary Sajid Javid added: “Devastated to learn of Sir David Amess' murder. A great man, a great friend, and a great MP killed while fulfilling his democratic role. My heart goes out to Julia, his family, and all who loved him. Let us remember him and what he did with his life.”