Britain is in mourning today for Labour MP Jo Cox after she was gunned down in her constituency yesterday.
The 41-year-old member for Batley and Spen, in Yorkshire, was shot and stabbed repeatedly and died shortly afterward in hospital, prompting an outpouring of grief and reflection.
A 52-year-old man, Thomas Mair, was arrested. Conflicting witness accounts, some of which claim he shouted “Britain first”, also sparked a battle of words over the motivations of the man, who reportedly has a long history of mental illness.
A series of vigils were held across the country, including in Birstall, West Yorkshire, where the attack took place. Flowers, candles and photographs were left in a tribute to the MP near the House of Commons in central London, as well as near the houseboat where she lived on the River Thames.
— Elliot Wagland (@elliotwagland) June 17, 2016
Figures from across the British political spectrum united in paying tribute to Cox, a married mother-of-two.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn praised her as “a real talent and a dedicated campaigner”, who died “doing her public duty at the heart of our democracy”.
Prime Minister David Cameron, who cancelled a pro-EU campaign event in Gibraltar in light of her death, called her “a committed and caring MP”.
The death of Jo Cox is a tragedy. She was a committed and caring MP. My thoughts are with her husband Brendan and her two young children.
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) June 16, 2016
Both sides of the EU referendum campaign halted their activities on Thursday and Friday as a mark of respect.
Attention was also focused on Cox’s alleged killer. Some witnesses suggested that Mair shouted “Britain first”, also the name of a far-right party, or “put Britain first” as he struck.
Others denied hearing any such thing. Locals described Mair as a man with a history of mental illness, and in 2010 told the Huddersfield Daily Examiner local newspaper about his mental health treatment.
— Victoria Derbyshire (@VictoriaLIVE) June 17, 2016
The Southern Poverty Law Center in the United States released documents suggesting he has links to the National Alliance, an American Neo-Nazi group.
They published documents purporting to show that he bought manuscripts and explosives guides from them in the late 1990s.
Police have yet to comment on any potential motives.
The killing also reignited a simmering debate about the safety of MPs, who for the most part receive no special protection, and go out of their way to make themselves available to members of the public.
— SPLC (@splcenter) June 16, 2016
According to The Times of London, Cox has been subject to a three-month harassment campaign, and police were considering giving her extra security.
Shortly after Cox’s death had been confirmed, her husband Brendan released a statement.
It said: “Jo believed in a better world and she fought for it every day of her life with an energy, and a zest for life that would exhaust most people.
“She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her.
“Hate doesn’t have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous.
“Jo would have no regrets about her life, she lived every day of it to the full.”