Campaigns surrounding the upcoming referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU have been suspended following the death of a Labour politician, fatally shot and stabbed after meeting with her constituents.
A Member of Parliament (MP) for the Labour Party, Jo Cox was leaving a drop-in meeting at a library in Leeds when she was shot and stabbed multiple times by a 52-year old suspect named locally as Tommy Mair. Immediately arrested by police, his identity is yet to be confirmed.
Taken to Leeds General Infirmary, 41-year-old Cox was pronounced dead at 1.48pm UK time while police confirmed that another man in his 70s had also sustained injuries in the attack.
Police are currently investigating reports that Mair shouted “Britain First” as he attacked Cox. At least one witness has claimed Mair shouted the words in reference to the British right-wing party amid conflicting reports that Cox was personally targeted or had become involved in an altercation between two men as she left the library.
MP and humanitarian Jo Cox died today. Her maiden speech passionately defended immigration & Britain's EU membership https://t.co/MCBRcs4GbL— Laura WalkerMcDonald (@techladylaura) June 16, 2016
“I heard the shot and I ran outside and saw some ladies from the cafe running out with towels,” local resident Graeme Howard told The Guardian.
“There was loads of screaming and shouting and the police officers showed up.
“He was shouting ‘Britain first’ when he was doing it and being arrested. He was pinned down by two police officers and she was taken away in an ambulance.”
While some witnesses have attested to Cox becoming involved in an altercation, others believe her attacker was waiting outside the library for the MP.
“I was inside the shop and all I heard was a scream and then the gunshot,” said a local shopkeeper.
“I went out and everyone was dispersing. I couldn’t see because it happened behind a car.”
“She walked out of the library with her PA and he was waiting for her. He stabbed her first and this guy tried to stop him and then he shot her,” confirmed another local, Terry Flynn-Edwards.
Leader of the British Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn has paid tribute to the young MP, who was elected in 2015, extending his condolences to her husband and two young children.
“Jo had a lifelong record of public service and a deep commitment to humanity. She worked both for Oxfam and the anti-slavery charity, the Freedom Fund, before she was elected last year as MP for Batley and Spen – where she was born and grew up,” he said.
“In the coming days, there will be questions to answer about how and why she died. But for now all our thoughts are with Jo’s husband Brendan and their two young children. They will grow up without their mum, but can be immensely proud of what she did, what she achieved and what she stood for.
“We send them our deepest condolences. We have lost a much loved colleague, a real talent and a dedicated campaigner for social justice and peace. But they have lost a wife and a mother, and our hearts go out to them.”
"We have far more in common than that divides us." The words of Labour MP Jo Cox.https://t.co/ekQ3FQ7wFf— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) June 16, 2016
Dee Collins, the acting chief constable of West Yorkshire Police, released a statement confirming her death: “I’m now very sad to have to report that [Jo Cox] has died as a result of her injuries.
“Jo was attacked by a man who inflicted serious and, sadly ultimately fatal, injuries.
“Subsequently there was a further attack on a 77-year-old man who sustained injuries that are non-life threatening.
“Shortly afterwards a man was arrested nearby by local uniformed police officers. Weapons, including a firearm, have also been recovered.
“At 1.48pm Jo Cox was was pronounced deceased by a doctor who was working with a paramedic crew that were attending to her serious injuries.
“This is a very significant investigation with large numbers of witnesses that have been spoken to by police at this time.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron and Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster both paid their respects to Cox whom they described as a hardworking and dedicated politician.
Devastating news about Jo Cox MP. Thoughts and prayers with her family and colleagues at this sad time.— Arlene Foster (@DUPleader) June 16, 2016
PM on Jo Cox: We’ve lost a great star. Jo was a great campaigning MP with huge compassion & a big heart. My thoughts are with her family.— UK Prime Minister (@Number10gov) June 16, 2016
Described as a “loner,” local residents have stated that the attack seems out of character for Mair who was known to them for his voluntary work and for living a quiet life.
Both Remain and Leave campaigns have been suspended in the wake of the attack with Prime Minister Cameron tweeting, “It’s right that all campaigning has been stopped after the terrible attack on Jo Cox. I won’t go ahead with tonight’s rally in Gibraltar.”
Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan also released a statement standing in solidarity with the campaign suspension.
“The fact that Ms Cox was attacked in this vicious way in the course of carrying out her duties for her constituents is deeply shocking,” he said.
“The suspension of the Remain and Leave campaigns for today is an apt recognition that today’s horrific incident was an attack, not just on Ms Cox personally, but on the practice of democratic politics.”
Jo Cox's career path to the Commons https://t.co/WUwb85oDYi— Ashley John-Baptiste (@AshleyJBaptiste) June 16, 2016