Sir David Amess: Shocked politicians say MPs ‘should be able to do their job without fear’

Sir David Amess has become the seventh MP to be murdered in office in modern times as questions persist over the safety of our elected representatives. 

The Tory MP for Southend West, 69, was holding a surgery at the Belfairs Methodist Church, in Eastwood Road North, Leigh-on-Sea on Friday when his attacker charged into the building wielding a knife and attacked the veteran politician. 

Paramedics desperately worked to save him on the floor of the Essex church for more than an hour, but he died after suffering ‘multiple stab wounds’ in the appalling attack with chilling similarities to the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox in June 2016. 

Today, as MPs paid tribute to Sir David after hearing the horrifying news, scores of stunned politicians called for better measures to protect parliamentarians after a string of violent attacks over the last 40 years. 

As news of Sir David’s tragic death broke, Labour MP Rosie Duffield was among the first to call for MPs to be able to carry out their jobs ‘peacefully and without fear.’ 

The latest police data showed there were 678 crimes reported against MPs between 2016 and 2020 – as Brexit and Covid ensured the country endured one of the most polarised political landscapes in recent memory.

Sir David became the second MP to be murdered at a constituency meeting in the last six years, after Jo Cox, MP for Batley and Spen, was brutally murdered by far-right activist Thomas Mair in 2016.  

The MP for Southend West, 69 (pictured outside his surgery earlier this month), was stabbed 'multiple times' by a man as he spoke to constituents at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea

The MP for Southend West, 69 (pictured outside his surgery earlier this month), was stabbed 'multiple times' by a man as he spoke to constituents at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea

The MP for Southend West, 69 (pictured outside his surgery earlier this month), was stabbed ‘multiple times’ by a man as he spoke to constituents at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea

2021: Sir David Amess, MP for Southend West 

Conservative MP Sir David Amess, 69, was murdered on Friday after being stabbed ‘multiple times’ by a 25-year-old killer who sprinted into a church and knifed him to death during his weekly constituency surgery. 

The veteran Tory MP was meeting locals at the Belfairs Methodist Church, in Eastwood Road North, Leigh-on-Sea, when his attacker ran into the building wielding a knife before attacking the veteran politician at just after midday. 

Sir David, a married father-of-five whose wife Julia is also his part-time caseworker, is the seventh MP to be murdered in office in the last four decades.

Horrified constituents waiting to see the veteran MP, an ardent Brexiteer and royalist, watched in horror as the knifeman stabbed him, calling the police at 12.05pm. 

Police confirmed Sir David’s death at around 3pm. Counter-terrorism officers and armed units are at the scene. 

Conservative MP Sir David Amess was killed after being stabbed 'multiple times' during a constituency surgery in Belfairs Methodist Church, Leigh-on-Sea

Conservative MP Sir David Amess was killed after being stabbed 'multiple times' during a constituency surgery in Belfairs Methodist Church, Leigh-on-Sea

Conservative MP Sir David Amess was killed after being stabbed ‘multiple times’ during a constituency surgery in Belfairs Methodist Church, Leigh-on-Sea

2016: Jo Cox, Batley and Spen Labour MP 

Ms Cox, who was MP for Batley and Spen, West Yorkshire, was murdered aged 41 after she was shot and stabbed multiple times by far-right activist Thomas Mair at an open constituency surgery in Birstall. 

The unemployed gardener shouted out ‘Britain First, this is for Britain, Britain will always come first’, as he launched a barrage of blows against Mrs Cox.

Jo Cox was the first MP killed in more than 20 years after she was stabbed and shot to death in 2016

Jo Cox was the first MP killed in more than 20 years after she was stabbed and shot to death in 2016

Jo Cox was the first MP killed in more than 20 years after she was stabbed and shot to death in 2016

The murder – which came just days before the EU referendum – provoked shock around the world and grief both in Ms Cox’s constituency and among her friends and colleagues in Parliament.

She had worked at charity Oxfam before being elected a Labour MP in 2015. Her children Lejla, and Cuillin were three and five at the time of her death.

1990: Ian Gow, Eastbourne MP  

Eastbourne MP Ian Gow, a former private parliamentary secretary to Margaret Thatcher, was killed by an IRA car bomb at his Sussex home at the age of 53.

The charismatic Conservative MP kissed wife Jane goodbye that summer morning as he left their East Sussex farmhouse, got into his car and started it – triggering an IRA Semtex bomb which had been placed under the driver’s seat of the Austin Montego. 

It was 8.39 am and he died some ten minutes later, having suffered appalling injuries to the lower part of his body. 

As a fierce pro-Unionist and chairman of the Tory backbench committee on Northern Ireland, Ian Gow knew he was an IRA target, but refused to be cowed – keeping his personal contact details available in the local telephone directory.

Eastbourne MP Ian Gow

Eastbourne MP Ian Gow

Eastbourne MP Ian Gow (above) a former private parliamentary secretary to Margaret Thatcher, was killed by an IRA car bomb at his Sussex home at the age of 53

1984: Sir Anthony Berry, MP for Enfield Southgate 

Sir Anthony Berry, MP for Enfield Southgate died during the IRA bombing of Brighton’s Grand Hotel, where Mrs Thatcher was staying for the 1984 Conservative Party conference.

Thirty people were injured in the attack on the eve of the Conservative Party conference but the terrorists’ main target, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, escaped relatively unscathed.

The bomber, Patrick Magee was given eight life sentences in 1986 for his role in the terror attack, but was released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement in 1999 after serving just 13 years. 

Sir Anthony Berry MP, who died in the Brighton bombing, pictured in 1966 with wife Sarah Anne Clifford-Turner

Sir Anthony Berry MP, who died in the Brighton bombing, pictured in 1966 with wife Sarah Anne Clifford-Turner

Sir Anthony Berry MP, who died in the Brighton bombing, pictured in 1966 with wife Sarah Anne Clifford-Turner

1983: Edgar Graham

In 1983, UUP politician and Northern Irish Assembly member Edgar Graham was killed by IRA sympathisers while on campus at Queen’s University, Belfast.  

Mr Graham, a law professor at Queen’s, was speaking with a pupil on campus when he was shot in the head by a gunman on the morning of December 7, 1983.  

Aged 29, he was seen as a near-certain future leader of the Ulster Unionist Party and one IRA source said he was killed because he would have turned into too effective a political opponent.

1981: Robert Bradford, MP for Belfast South  

The IRA also claimed the life of Ulster Unionist Party MP Robert Bradford, who was killed aged 40 while holding a constituency surgery in a Belfast community centre in 1981.

Mr Bradford, a staunch Methodist Minister was assassinated at the height of the Northern Ireland Troubles after he was shot by furious loyalists.

His death was condemned as ‘part of a series of atrocities committed in recent days’. 

Ulster Unionist Party MP Robert Bradford

Ulster Unionist Party MP Robert Bradford

Ulster Unionist Party MP Robert Bradford was killed in an IRA attack in 1981

1979: Airey Neave, MP for Abingdon

The Irish National Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the murder of former Northern Ireland secretary Airey Neave, whose car was blown up as he drove out of the parliamentary car park at Westminster in 1979.

Neave was shadow Northern Ireland secretary at the time of his slaughter at the hands of an IRA splinter group, the INLA.

He was killed in a car bomb in the courtyard of the House of Commons while leaving the car park but now Sajid Javid has dragged the case back to the fore after pleas for justice for the former army officer’s family.

His case was reopened in 2019.

The Parliamentary Liaison and Investigation Team, set up by the Metropolitan Police in 2016 following the death of Jo Cox, received 582 reports of malicious communications and handled 46 cases of harassment. 

A total of nine cases were classified as relating to terrorism.

There were also seven reports of MPs receiving threats, and three cases of common assault over the period.

Separate police figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show a sharp rise in reports since 2018, with 34 incidents in December 2018 and 128 incidents in January 2019.

There were three threats to kill in the four months for which figures were provided.

In 2019, the Met said that crimes against MPs increased by 126% between 2017 and 2018, with a 90% rise in the first four months of 2019.

At the time, Met commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said: ‘The current context, in our policing time at least, is unprecedented.’

Speaking today, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘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.’

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps described Sir David Amess as ‘a true parliamentarian’.

He tweeted: ‘Awful, tragic news about David. A dedicated, thoughtful man and a true Parliamentarian, who lost his life while serving the constituents who he worked relentlessly for throughout his career.

‘My thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.’

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon 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, the Prime Minister’s wife, tweeted: ‘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.’ 

Several also called for greater security for politicians after the attack, which follows the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016. 

Before his death was confirmed, Labour MP Rosie Duffield tweeted: ‘Praying for another MP just carrying out his job as he should be able to do safely and peacefully and without fear. David has always been so very kind to me (despite our obvious political differences). Hoping for positive news soon.’ 

Conservative MP and former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said he is ‘very worried’ to have heard Sir David Amess was stabbed ‘a number of times, not just once’.

He told the BBC News channel prior to Sir David’s death: ‘Obviously at the moment right now all I can think of are prayers for him and his family, him for a safe recovery, and them for the most terrible emotions they must be going through.

‘The reality for us is that we see constituents all the time, both in their houses and in surgeries.

‘We’re out and about, we’re always available, we must be available, it’s the most critical bit of what makes the British parliamentary system I think one of the most accessible in the world, and that’s because we want it that way. 

‘We don’t want to be cowed or frightened into doing something different, and I certainly won’t, and I know my colleagues will feel the same.

‘So I hope this is resolved very, very quickly, as I say, but we will certainly want to continue the way that we do things.

‘Of course there may be some other elements that may be added to it, but notwithstanding that I want my constituents to have full access and I’m sure David would have felt the same.’

He later added that social media gives people with ‘genuine problems over anger or issues’ an ‘echo chamber and often makes it worse’.

He said this has been seen in threats made to MPs, female MPs and women in general, adding that the commentary is ‘often very violent, very angry’. 

Brendan Cox, the husband of murdered MP Jo, said: ‘Attacking our elected representatives is an attack on democracy itself. There is no excuse, no justification. It is as cowardly as it gets.’

Commons deputy speaker Dame Eleanor Laing tweeted: ‘All elected representatives must be able to go about their work without the fear of physical or verbal attacks.

‘What has happened to Sir David Amess in Essex today is unforgivable. Praying for you, my friend.’ 

East Ham MP Stephen Timms, who was stabbed at a constituency surgery in 2010, wrote on Twitter: ‘Appalled to hear of the attack on @amessd-southend today. I know him well and am thinking of him with very best wishes as we await further news.’

Former prime minister David Cameron tweeted: ‘Very alarming and worrying news reports coming from Leigh-on-Sea. My thoughts and prayers are with Sir David Amess and his family.’

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