The death of Sir David Amess was today being treated as a terror attack 'linked to Islamist extremism' as officers raided two homes in London and a British Muslim man of Somali descent remained in police custody.
Sir David was holding a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, when a knifeman in the church building launched a frenzied attack. The 69-year-old politician was wounded at least 12 times and died at the scene.
Horrified constituents waiting to see the veteran MP, who has campaigned to help refugees, watched in horror as the assailant leapt on him just after midday. Shortly after midday, the knifeman waited calmly in line after booking in at the constituency surgery before launching the fatal attack, according to witnesses.
Scotland Yard last night confirmed their Counter Terrorism Command are working with officers from the Eastern Region Specialist Operations Unit (ERSOU) and Essex Police - and formally declared the incident as terrorism.
The force said the early investigation revealed a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism. It is believed the attacker acted alone, and investigators are not looking for anyone else in connection but enquiries continue.
Detectives have urged any witnesses to contact police. According to the Times, Whitehall officials have had concerns about a possible lone-wolf attack by people who have become radicalised during lockdown.
John Lamb, a Conservative councillor who rushed to the church when he heard what had happened, said: 'He was doing a surgery in the Methodist church here to speak to local people and pick up on their problems.
'I'm told that when he went in for his surgery there were people waiting to see him, and one of them literally got a knife out and just began stabbing him.'
At 12.05pm yesterday, the police were called and say they were on scene 'in minutes'. Witnesses described how the knifeman made no attempt to leave the scene and waited for police to arrive at which point members of the public described him as being compliant.
Kevin Buck, the deputy chairman of the local constituency association, told the Telegraph: 'I was told that he stabbed Sir David and that he just waited there in the church hall until the police arrived. There was no attempt to flee.'
Sir David, Tory MP for Southend West, collapsed in a pool of blood and paramedics battled for more than an hour to save his life, but sadly he died just before 3pm.
The Met Police confirmed that the killing of Southend West Sir David Amess (pictured) is being treated as a terror incident 'with links to Islamist extremism' as a British man with Somali heritage remains in police custody on suspicion of murder
A much-loved MP and a proud father of five, Sir David gave away his daughter Alex, 31, in marriage just weeks ago
Emergency services at the scene near the Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North on Friday
Death of David Amess: What we know so far
- The Southend West MP was fatally injured at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex at midday on Friday and died at the scene.
- Essex Police said the response of the emergency services to the incident was immediate and officers arrived at the scene within minutes.
- A 25-year-old British man of Somali heritage was arrested immediately at the scene on suspicion of murder and remains in custody. Police say a knife was recovered.
- The Met Police have confirmed their counter-terror team is leading the investigation and that the incident has formally been declared a terror incident.
-Police say the attack has been 'linked to Islamist extremism'.
-Two homes in London have been searched in connection to the attack. Detectives are not looking for any other suspects.
- Home Secretary Priti Patel has asked all police forces to review security arrangements for MPs 'with immediate effect'.
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Sir David was 'one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics', while former Conservative prime minister Theresa May said his death was 'heartbreaking', adding: 'A tragic day for our democracy.'
A much-loved MP and a proud father of five, Sir David gave away his daughter Alex, 31, in marriage just weeks ago.
The shocking attack, which came five years after the murder of MP Jo Cox, ignited a row over the protection of parliamentarians.
Home Secretary Priti Patel responded by ordering an immediate review of security arrangements.
MI5 are also said to be taking part in the investigation and will be looking into whether the suspect was known to authorities through the anti-terror PREVENT scheme.
Yesterday the family of Mrs Cox, who was shot and stabbed outside her constituency surgery in Birstall, West Yorkshire, by a Right-wing terrorist in June 2016, said Sir David's murder was an 'attack on democracy itself'.
Mrs Cox's husband Brendan said: 'Attacking our elected representatives is an attack on democracy itself.
'There is no excuse, no justification. It is as cowardly as it gets.'
Mrs Cox's sister Kim Leadbeater, who has replaced her as the Labour MP for Batley and Spen, said her partner had asked her to step down from politics.
She said: 'Totally shocked by what has happened to think that something so horrific could happen again to another MP, to another family.
'And scared and frightened – a real rollercoaster of emotions.
'I find myself now working as a politician and trying to do good things for people and it's really important you get good people in public life, but this is the risk we are all taking and so many MPs will be scared by this.
'My partner came home and he said he didn't want me to do it any more because the next time that phone goes, it could be a different conversation.'
MPs from across the board have called for Southend to be made a city in memory of Sir David - a cause that has long been championed by the Southend West MP.
The MP would regularly raise the matter at Prime Minister's Questions or during debates at the Commons, often to the amusement of his colleagues, and as recently as this week told BBC Essex his plan was to 'wear them down until they say yes'.
Chief constable BJ Harrington said the MP was 'simply dispensing his duties when his life was horrifically cut short'
Police contact ALL MPs to check on their security as politicians warn 'we can't go on like this' - but what security do MPs have in their constituencies?
Police are contacting all MPs to check on their security in the wake of the killing of Sir David Amess, the Commons Speaker has said.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle spoke to Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel following the fatal stabbing of the 69-year-old MP in his Southend West constituency.
Sir David is the second MP to be killed in five years, after the murder of Jo Cox by a far-right extremist in 2016.
Speaking to BBC2's Newsnight, Sir Lindsay said: 'It is about doing the right things working with the police constabularies right across the United Kingdom because it is about joining that up.
'I know that they are contacting all the MPs to check about their safety, to reassure them, because in the end we have got to make sure that is a priority.'
He added: 'Those people who do not share our values or share democracy, they will not win and we won't let them win. We will continue to look at security, that is ongoing and it will continue.'
Even before the murder of Jo Cox in 2016 concern was growing over the threat to MPs away from Parliament.
The improvements were championed by Sir Lindsay Hoyle during his time as Deputy Speaker, and he has continued the drive since taking over from John Bercow.
Every politician is currently thought to have had a security assessment in the constituency, and they get a 'standard' package such as alarm systems, shutters, CCTV and personal alarms for staff.
If the police deem it necessary MPs can also access 'enhanced' measures. The authorities do not specify what that can include, but it is thought to include secure transport and guards.
The costs are met through a central contract with Chubb, organised by the Commons.
However, there are concerns that most of the measures are applied to offices and homes, while surgeries often happen at churches or other buildings that might not be secure.
Michael Fabricant, MP for Lichfield, said: 'David campaigned for so many wonderful things including animal welfare and to make Southend a city. That would be a fitting memorial.'
In response to a tweet suggesting Southend be given city status, Charlotte Nichols, the Labour MP for Warrington North, said: 'Absolutely; I can't think of a better way to honour his memory.'
Phillip Miller, owner of Southend's Adventure Island theme park, also said turning the town into a city would be 'a fitting epitaph' for the late MP.
Sir David is the sixth MP to be killed since the Second World War, and the ninth in history.
It is not known whether his wife Julia, who is his part-time caseworker, was in the church at the time.
The MP, who was an ardent Brexiteer, was seen laughing and speaking to people on the steps of the church just 15 minutes before he was killed.
Sir David wrote last year about the importance of meeting constituents despite what had happened to Mrs Cox.
He wrote: 'She was a young woman with a family going about her duties, as we all do, completely unaware of the threat that she faced.
'While it is often said that good can come out of someone's death, it is difficult to see what good can come from this senseless murder'.
He also admitted he had been threatened at his home: 'I myself have over the years experienced nuisance from the odd member of the general public at my own property.
'We regularly check our locks and many others have CCTV cameras installed but probably the most significant change has been with constituency surgeries.'
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said MPs were in shock at what he described as an attack on democracy. He said he wanted to see a greater police presence at constituency surgeries.
But he said it was vital that voters were able to engage directly with MPs.
Sir Lindsay said he had gone ahead with his own surgery meeting last night, adding: 'We cannot afford for democracy to be smashed.
'The people who do not accept our values will not win. I am shocked and deeply distressed by the killing of Sir David Amess.
'David was a lovely man, devoted to his family, to parliament and his Southend West constituency.
'He was well liked by members and the staff alike, and during his almost four decades here, built a reputation for kindness and generosity.
'We will need to discuss and examine MPs' security and any measures to be taken.'