UK PM Johnson visits scene where MP was fatally stabbed in terrorist incident
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer visited the church Saturday where lawmaker David Amess was fatally stabbed while meeting with constituents, hours after his killing was declared a terrorist incident.
Leigh-on-Sea, England (CNN)UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer visited the church Saturday where lawmaker David Amess was fatally stabbed while meeting with constituents, hours after his killing was declared a terrorist incident.
The murder has shocked the nation and prompted calls for a review of security measures for lawmakers carrying out constituency work.
Amess, 69 and a member of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's ruling Conservative Party, died after being stabbed several times at around midday Friday at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, England.
A 25-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder and a knife was recovered, police said. He is believed to have acted alone.
"The early investigation has revealed a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism," the Metropolitan Police said in a statement overnight. Two addresses in the London area are being searched, the force said.
The man arrested is believed to be a British national with Somali heritage, official sources have told UK news agency PA Media. The UK's Counter Terrorism Command is leading the investigation into the killing, police said Friday.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right), Britain's main opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer (center) and senior police officer Ben-Julian Harrington carry floral tributes to Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea on Saturday.
A somber-looking Johnson carried a wreath of pale roses Saturday morning to leave in front of the church where Amess was attacked.
He and Starmer were accompanied by Home Secretary Priti Patel, whose government department is responsible for policing and counter-terrorism efforts in the UK. Chief Constable of Essex Police Ben-Julian Harrington and Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle also carried flowers to the scene.
Speaking shortly afterward, Patel paid tribute to Amess as "a man of the people" and passionate advocate for the people he represented.
"He was killed doing a job that he loved, serving his own constituents as an elected democratic member," she said. "And of course, acts of this (kind) are absolutely wrong and we cannot let that get in the way of our functioning democracy."
Patel said she had been in discussions with the Commons speaker, police and security services to "make sure measures are being put in place for the security of MPs, so that they can carry on with their duties as elected democratic members."
MPs in Britain typically meet with residents in their constituencies face to face during "surgeries," and it is uncommon for them to have a security detail.
Measures to safeguard MPs are always being looked at and have been under review in the past 24 hours, Patel said.
She insisted that the democratic need for parliamentarians to be accessible to the people "can absolutely be balanced" with the need to ensure their safety, and that lawmakers "cannot be cowed by any individual" as they serve.
'Huge anxiety' among lawmakers
This was the second murder of a sitting British lawmaker in five years, after Labour MP Jo Cox was killed in her constituency in 2016 by a man with extreme right-wing views, and has reignited discussions about the safety of the UK's elected officials.
Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, who tried to save the life of a wounded police officer during a terror attack on Westminster in 2017, tweeted Saturday that MPs' engagement with the public was a "vital part of our work" but that there was now, understandably, "huge anxiety" among his colleagues.
"Until the Home Secretary's review of MP security is complete I would recommend a temporary PAUSE in face to face meetings," he said.
Police officers from local forces will be contacting every UK lawmaker to discuss their security arrangements following Amess' murder, a National Police Chiefs' Council spokesman told CNN on Saturday.
"They will also speak to MPs about security arrangements for any events they are planning to attend in the coming days, so the appropriate advice can be provided," the spokesman said in a statement.
This will be done under Operation Bridger, a national police operation which provides advice to all Members of Parliament and their constituency teams on request.
"We encourage MPs to immediately report any security concerns to their local police force in order to keep themselves, their staff and members of the public attending surgeries safe," the spokesman said.