Political leaders stood shoulder to shoulder today to declare: “Terrorism will not win.”
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said after the politicians’ show of strength in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex: “The values we hold always unite us.”
The suspect was tonight named as Ali Harbi Ali, 25.
Political differences were cast aside today as leaders were united in grief over the killing of popular MP Sir David Amess.
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Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street)
In a moving tribute, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer and Home Secretary Priti Patel laid white and yellow wreaths for the Tory veteran who was stabbed to death on Friday.
They were joined by Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who told the Sunday Mirror: “Terrorism will not win. It really is very surreal. It was quite right that the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary, the Leader of the Opposition and myself put on a united front while laying wreaths – being there, showing that terrorism will not win.
“The values that we hold, and the democracy that we believe in, will always unite us against what’s happened.”
UK PARLIAMENT/AFP via Getty Imag)
Ms Patel said: “We will carry on, we live in an open society, a democracy. We cannot be cowed by any individual or any motivation… to stop us from functioning, to serve our elected democracy.”
The comments came as it was reported the murder suspect, named as Ali Harbi Ali, had been referred to government’s counter-terrorism scheme Prevent.
Some Whitehall sources disputed this.
Tonight 300 locals lit candles at a vigil for Sir David, 69, on a recreation ground close to the scene of the stabbing in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.
Organiser Julie Everitt said: “He was a gentleman, he had a good heart.
“His death has rocked our community, we can’t believe it.”
Sir David was stabbed 17 times by a knifeman who queued up for the MP’s surgery in Belfairs Methodist Church.
Flowers lined the pavement outside today.
A tribute from Sir David’s cousins Moira and Pat said: “Thinking of your lovely family. Can’t believe this has actually happened. Will always love you.”
The suspect – a 25-year-old Briton of Somali descent – is said to have calmly sat down and waited for police to arrest him after the stabbing.
He is now being quizzed by terror cops. His family are believed to have moved to Britain in the 1990s and he is said to live in the MP’s constituency of Southend West.
Met Police were tonight searching two homes in London as part of the probe.
MI5 suspect the killer may have been self radicalised after watching violent jihadi videos on the internet. It is believed senior counter-terrorism officials were called in to investigate jihadist links because of statements made by the man soon after being arrested.
Sir David had advocated against the Iran regime and was the chair of the Qatar AllParty Parliamentary Group.
Hours before his killing he had tweeted a picture of himself with the Emir during a visit to the capital of Doha.
Phil Harris / Daily Mirror)
The Brexiteer also visited a refugee camp for Syrians in Turkey.
Today there was a huge outpouring of love for Sir David, a proud father-of-five who gave his daughter Alex, 31, away at her wedding just a few weeks ago.
The popular MP was known as a family man with an ability to unite politicians through his good humour and caring nature.
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay, who held his own constituency surgery hours after his colleague’s murder, said MPs must now take their own security more seriously.
He went on: “We’ve got to remind people about all the security measures that are available to them. What we need to do is make sure that members take that seriously. A bit like myself – I’ll be quite honest, you begin to slip a little bit. Did we let the police know we were going to hold the surgery? No. We had been doing.
“If nothing else, this is a wake-up call to all MPs, their staff, offices, and the House of Commons as well, to remind us we’ve got to think about security.”
One security expert who has provided close protection for British politicians, said MPs’ surgeries were “high-risk”.
Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street)
He said: “If you’re going to plan an attack and you know your victim is going to be in a certain place at a certain time, boom, it doesn’t get any easier than that does it?
“This sort of lone attack is the tactic of the moment. MPs need security.”
Prince William and his wife Kate said they were “shocked and saddened” by Sir David’s death while PM Mr Johnson said his colleague was one of the “kindest, nicest, most gentle people” in politics.
Theresa May said the killing was “heartbreaking” and fellow former PM David Cameron hailed the MP as “a throughly decent man” and the “most committed MP you could ever hope to meet”.
Labour leader Sir Keir said Friday had been a “dark and shocking day”, adding: “The whole country will feel it acutely, perhaps the more so because we have, heartbreakingly, been here before.”
That was a reference to Jo Cox, the Labour MP shot and stabbed by a rightwing terrorist outside her constituency surgery in Birstall, West Yorks, in 2016.
Her husband Brendan called Sir David’s murder “an attack on democracy itself ”.
Labour MP Harriet Harman said Sir David was “so friendly and so determined to work with MPs on other causes”.
The SNP ’s leader in Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, said he was a “thoroughly decent man”.
Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael, who was on the Qatar All-Parliamentary Group, said: “David and I had a really good relationship. He was quite a quirky personality – the gentle end of eccentric. He was good fun to be in the company of.
“The problem is not the availability and accessibility of MPs. The problem is the poison and the hatred we have allowed to seep into political discourse.”
Meanwhile, Sir David was described as “firing on all cylinders” in a Zoom call just three minutes before he died.
Richard Hillgrove, who works in PR, was calling Sir David to discuss the Children’s Parliament – where kids are matched with MPs to debate issues of the day.
Mr Hillgrove said: “As usual, the MP for Southend West was firing on all cylinders, full of buzz and ideas for the event – the running order, the voting system, what software they should use.”
The call ended at 12.02pm. By 12.05pm Sir David was dead.
Mr Hillgrove – whose daughter Lola, 11, was matched with Sir David and met him on a school visit – said of the killing: “I was absolutely horrified. I was honoured to have known him, his engagement was incredible. He was an inspiration.
“He made sense of a crazy world.”