Scotland Yard probes terror link to British MP’s fatal stabbing
London: Scotland Yard on Saturday said the killing of Conservative MP David Amess is being treated as a terrorist attack and it was probing a potential Islamist terrorism link to the fatal stabbing, an incident that has shocked the country and prompted calls for a review of security measures for lawmakers engaged in constituency work.
Amess, 69 and a member of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ruling Conservative Party, died after being stabbed several times on Friday as he was meeting his constituents in at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.
A 25-year-old British man, believed to be of Somali heritage, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of murder and remains in custody at a police station in Essex, south-east England.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Opposition Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer laid flowers at the scene of the stabbing, together on Saturday morning.
“Senior National Coordinator for Counter Terrorism Policing, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon formally declared the incident as terrorism. The early investigation has revealed a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism,” the Metropolitan Police said in a statement.
“A 25-year-old British man was arrested at the scene on suspicion of murder. He is currently in custody at a police station in Essex. As part of the investigation, officers are currently carrying out searches at two addresses in the London area and these are ongoing,” it said.
“It is believed that he acted alone, and we are not seeking anyone else in connection with the incident at this time. However, enquiries into the circumstances continue,” it added.
The investigation is being led by the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, alongside the Eastern Region Specialist Operations Unit (ERSOU) and Essex Police, and the police have urged any witnesses to come forward to assist their inquiries with any video footage.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced a security review of members of Parliament. Patel, also an MP from Essex like Amess, paid tribute to her late party colleague as a “man of the people”, saying “he was absolutely there for everyone” and was “killed doing a job he loved”.
“We are all struggling to come to terms with the fact that David Amess has been so cruelly taken away from all of us,” she said.
Patel, who has asked police forces to immediately review security arrangements for MPs, maintained a balance could be found to allow face-to-face meetings with constituents to continue.
“We will carry on, we live in an open society, a democracy,” she said. “We cannot be cowed by any individual or any motivation… to stop us from functioning”.
Prime Minister Johnson earlier paid tribute to the late Tory MP as “one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics”.
Johnson said he had an “outstanding record of passing laws to help the most vulnerable”, adding “we’ve lost today a fine public servant and a much loved-friend and colleague”.
Opposition leader Starmer wrote on Twitter: “Horrific and deeply shocking news. Thinking of David, his family and his staff.”
Starmer also wrote that Amess was a dedicated public servant, a husband and a father.
Amess represented Southend West in Essex and was holding a constituency surgery – where voters can meet their elected MP and discuss concerns – at the church on Friday when he was attacked. He had been an MP since 1983 and was married with five children.
He is the second serving British member of Parliament to be fatally stabbed in the past five years, following the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016.