The political world has united in shock and grief after the Labour MP Jo Cox was killed in a shooting and stabbing attack on a street in her constituency.
Mrs Cox, a 41-year-old mother of two young children, died of injuries suffered in a violent assault that has prompted questions over the safety of MPs meeting constituents at regular surgeries.
Last night her husband Brendan Cox called on the public to “unite to fight against the hatred” that had killed his wife.
Campaigning in the EU referendum was suspended as news emerged of the attack on the Yorkshire MP for Batley and Spen at lunchtime yesterday.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party and the whole country was “in shock at the horrific murder of Jo Cox”, while Prime Minister David Cameron said parliament had “lost a great star”.
West Yorkshire Police said they had arrested a 52-year-old man named locally as Tommy Mair in connection with Mrs Cox’s death. Last night his house was being searched by officers.
Police said they could not comment on a motive, but there were reports her attacker shouted “Britain first” during a sustained and violent assault.
Mrs Cox was a Remain campaigner, who on Wednesday had tweeted a picture of her husband piloting a boat carrying their two young children and bearing a large ‘In’ flag, as part of a Thames flotilla.
Her husband said life without her would be “more difficult, more painful, less joyful, less full of love”.
“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,” he added. “Hate doesn’t have a creed, race or religion. It is poisonous.”
In the hours after the attack, before her death was confirmed, Mr Cox tweeted a photo of his wife standing in front of the river barge that served as the family home in London.
It was reported that Mrs Cox intervened in a dispute between two men on the steps of Birstall Library near Leeds, where she regularly held constituency surgeries.
During the altercation, the man is believed to have produced a gun, shooting Mrs Cox as many as three times. As bystanders fled and Mrs Cox lay bleeding on the library steps, eyewitnesses said her attacker kicked and stabbed her repeatedly.
Another man, who scuffled with the attacker in an attempt to stop him, was lightly injured. The suspect walked away calmly before being arrested nearby by armed officers.
Mrs Cox was rushed to Leeds General Infirmary, but was pronounced dead on arrival by doctors in the accident and emergency department at 1:48pm.
The temporary chief constable of West Yorkshire Police, Dee Collins said police had launched a “significant investigation with a large number of witnesses being spoken to”. She added that weapons including a firearm were recovered.
Eyewitness Clarke Rothwell said the attacker was shouting “put Britain first”.
“He shouted it about two or three times,” Mr Rothwell said. “He said it before he shot her and after he shot her.”
The far-right group Britain First said it was “not involved and would never encourage behaviour of this sort”.
Another witness, Hichem Ben Abdallah, said the gun used to shoot Mrs Cox looked handmade and that the man who had been wrestling with the assailant continued to do so even after he saw the gun.
He said: “The man stepped back with the gun and fired it and then he fired a second shot.
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“As he was firing he was looking down at the ground. He was kicking her and he was pulling her by her hair.”
Neighbours of Mair said he had lived in his property for more than 30 years, on his own since the deaths of his mother and grandmother. One described him as “a bit of a loner”.
The tragedy prompted an outpouring of tributes from across the political spectrum for a new MP with a growing reputation, who was well-liked and widely admired for her campaigning on behalf of Syrian refugees.
Mrs Cox was elected to represent Batley and Spen, the area where she was born and raised, in 2015.
She graduated from Cambridge University in 1995 and worked as an adviser to Sarah Brown, wife of the former Labour prime minister, and Baroness Kinnock. Her husband also worked as an adviser to Mr Brown.
“Our memories will be for ever scarred by this moment,” Gordon Brown said last night. “Our hearts will always be hurt at our country’s loss.”
Mrs Brown added: “I am heartbroken. She was fearless, she was endlessly upbeat and she reached out to so many to join her cause.”