UPDATE: Police have confirmed the attack was an act of terrorism.
British lawmaker MP Sir David Amess was stabbed to death on Friday by a man who stormed into a church where the politician was hosting a meeting with constituents. The murder is currently being investigated for possible links to terrorism.
Sir David was a member of parliament and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party who was performing a routine one-on-one set of meetings with local constituents in an event he promoted on Twitter. Sir David, who was one of Parliament’s longest serving MPs, was the third serving MP to be killed since 1990, but the second in just over five years since the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox.
Sir David was stabbed multiple times by a currently unidentified 25-year-old man, who was arrested shortly after officers arrived at the scene. The suspect was arrested on suspicion of murder and police recovered a knife.
Essex Police said that Amess “was treated by emergency services but, sadly, died at the scene.”
Sky News initially reported that the suspect was been identified as a “British national,” whose full identity remains to be disclosed. A later update confirmed the attacker was a British national of Somali heritage.
Essex Police say the investigation into Amess’ killing is being led by counterterrorism officers who are investigating possible ties between Islamist terrorists and the knifeman.
“I think all our hearts are full of shock and sadness today at the loss of Sir David Amess MP, who was killed in his constituency surgery in a church after almost 40 years of continuous service to the people of Essex and the whole of the United Kingdom,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson in his remarks about Sir David’s murder.
“And the reason I think people are so shocked and saddened is above all, he was one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics,” Johnson continued. “He also had an outstanding record of passing laws to help the most vulnerable, whether the people who are suffering from endometriosis, passing laws to end cruelty to animals, or doing a huge amount to reduce the fuel poverty suffered by people up and down the country.”
“David was a man who believed passionately in this country and in its future. And we’ve lost today a fine public servant and a much-loved friend and colleague,” he added. “Our thoughts are very much today with his wife, his children and his family.”
Johnson’s remarks were echoed by other British politicians who paid their respects to the late Sir David.
Johnson’s wife Carrie, who shared Sir David’s interest in animal welfare, expressed her shock at the slaying. “Absolutely devastating news about Sir David Amess,” she tweeted.
“He was hugely kind and good,” she added. “An enormous animal lover and a true gent. This is so completely unjust. Thoughts are with his wife and their children.”
“This is truly heartbreaking news of a good and decent man who — for over 30 years —was a dedicated public servant. My heart goes out to his family,” said former British Prime Minister Sir John Major.
The lawmaker stood in Parliament in March to raise the issue of knife crime after a 19-year-old boxer was knifed in the heart in the same town Amess lost his life today, Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, the Mirror reported.