Sir David Amess died doing what he loved most and meeting his constituents, parishioners heard at a vigil in his honour tonight.
Father Jeff Woolnough, who called Sir David ‘Mr Southend’, described the MP as a ‘fine gentleman and a knight of the realm’ who was much loved by all members of the community.
Many of those gathered at the vigil at St Peter’s Catholic Church were in tears as the priest paid tribute to Sir David.
The popular politician – who won at the last general election with a margin of 14,000 votes – was knifed ‘multiple times’ in front of shocked onlookers this afternoon.
A 25-year-old man is currently in police custody.
Father Jeff Woolnough lead a vigil in memory of Sir David Amess this evening hours after the popular MP was stabbed to death while holding a surgery for his constituents this afternoon
Dozens of mourners attended the vigil with many in tears as the service got underway in Leigh
Former mayor Judith McMahon reacts before lighting a candle at St Michael and All Angels Church, following the attack
Constituent Ruth Verrinder (R) and mayor Judith McMahon (L) gather their thoughts before lighting a candle at Church
The Tory MP for Southend West, 69, was meeting locals at the Belfairs Methodist Church, in Eastwood Road North, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, when it happened just at 12.05pm.
Paramedics worked to save the politician on the floor of the Essex church for more than an hour but he could not be saved after the appalling attack, which has left the stalwart MP’s local community in shock.
Born in east London, the 69-year-old had been Southend West MP since 1997 – and was a keen advocate of the town’s bid for city status.
The service at Saint Peter’s Church in Eastwood Lane, close to where Sir David was killed, was held on Friday evening to remember him.
The church fell silent as Father Woolnaugh paid tribute to the Conservative MP and invited his constituents to remember him.
He placed a photograph of Sir David at the front of the church, and said: ‘This liturgy is one I was not expecting to lead today.
Pictured: Sir David Amess won at the last general election with a margin of 14,000 votes
Tributes have been left at the scene of Belfairs Methodist Church where the attack happened
‘The whole world grieves. In this Mass we pray for the repose of the soul of dear David.
‘Have you ever known Sir David Amess without that happy smile on his face? Because the greeting he would always give you was that happy smile.
‘He carried that great east London spirit of having no fear and being able to talk to people and the level they’re at. Not all politicians, I would say, are good at that.’
Around 80 people attended the service and listened as Father Woolnough recounted his own memories of Sir David.
He said: ‘When you can speak to your MP and you can talk and get on like a house on fire, that’s when you can talk to them later about things that are important to your area.
‘What can we say? He died doing the thing he loved, meeting his constituents, his local people.’
Constituents of murdered MP David Amess attend a vigil at Catholic Church Saint Peter
Community members have described how the town is in a state of shock after the fatal attack
Father Woolnough added that his constituents could ‘count on’ Sir David, and said: ‘He was always available. We don’t have the words tonight.
‘Dear Sir David, rest well.’
Those who attended the vigil were invited to light a candle and share their own memories of Sir David. A lone candle placed outside the church burned as the Tory MP’s constituents remembered him.
Members of the community have described their shock at the tragedy and have paid tribute to Sir David, honouring him for his dedicated charity work.
Helen Symmons is the town clerk for Leigh-On-Sea, and said Sir David’s death was a ‘massive shock’ for the whole town.
‘I’ve lived here for 28 years, and he’s always been my MP as long as I’ve lived here,’ the 56-year-old said.
Pictured: People leave after attending a vigil at Saint Peter’s Catholic Church, following the stabbing of UK Conservative MP Sir David Amess as he met with constituents at a constituency
‘David was a big community man and everybody here recognised that. Everyone’s in a state of shock and disbelief.’
Mrs Symmons recalled Sir David’s annual attendance at the town’s Christmas parade, which attracts between five and ten thousand people each year.
‘We always invited David, he always came along and we always found him a float to sit in and wave from,’ she said.
‘I think the worst thing that I made him do was probably sit… with a mascot dressed as a bear.’
Mrs Symmons said Sir David ‘never complained’, adding: ‘Even if his diary was completely chock-a-block… he always turned up.
‘I remember when we had the royal wedding in 2012, there were so many street parties around here, and he literally attended every one – every single street party.
Emergency services are said to have treated his wounds for more than an hour before he died
Pictured: Armed police at the scene after the stabbing happened next to an A-board advertising the MP was in the building. The suspect was held at the scene and his knife seized
‘It was a massive undertaking for him to do and, and just show the commitment that he had as a community man.’
Mrs Symmons said Sir David also organised an annual party for all the centenarians in the area, and was ‘massively involved’ with the Royal British Legion.
He was also patron and president of the Music Man Project Charity, an international music education service for people with disabilities.
In 2019, he helped the charity – which he was involved with for more than 20 years – organise an event in which 200 children with learning disabilities played music at the Royal Albert Hall.
The charity’s founder, David Stanley, said he was ‘devastated’ when he heard the news, adding he and Sir David had been friends for several years after meeting in his Southend constituency.
‘The news came as the most devastating shock. He gave me opportunities to do music, dinners and receptions at the House of Commons,’ Mr Stanley said.
‘We were planning the next stage, which was we were hoping to perform on Broadway and do other shows at the Albert Hall. He was central to making those dreams come true.
‘As you can imagine people with learning disabilities, that they can’t really change their own destiny, they need people to help them.
‘Sir David was able to do things that I couldn’t do as a charity founder. He could and he was just amazing in what he did.’