Murder of British MP: what we know

17th June 2016, Comments 0 comments

Jo Cox, a British member of parliament who campaigned for the country to stay in the EU and more aid for Syrian refugees, was killed in a brutal street attack on Thursday.

Weapons, including a firearm, were recovered from the scene of the incident in northern England and the sole suspect, a 52-year-old man, is being held by police.

Campaigning for the June 23 referendum was suspended on Thursday and Friday out of respect.

This is what we know so far:

- Who was Jo Cox? -

The 41-year-old was elected last year as an opposition Labour party MP for Batley and Spen, a constituency in West Yorkshire, northern England, where she grew up.

After graduating from the University of Cambridge, she helped set up a pressure group, Britain in Europe, and spent two years working in Brussels.

She was policy chief for aid agency Oxfam and worked with the wife of then Labour prime minister Gordon Brown in tackling maternal and infant mortality.

In parliament she was a prominent campaigner for refugee rights, co-chairing a parliamentary group on Syria with a Conservative MP, and spoke out in favour of immigration in a powerful first speech in the House of Commons.

- What happened? -

The attack took place in Birstall, a large village in Cox's constituency just a few miles (kilometres) from where she was born, outside her regular constituency advice surgery in a local library.

Police said they were called at 12:53 pm (1153 GMT). Her meeting was scheduled for 1:00pm, according to her website.

They said she was "attacked by a man who inflicted serious, sadly ultimately fatal, injuries". She was pronounced dead at 1:48pm by a member of the paramedic crew.

Eye witnesses cited by British media said she had been shot two or three times before being stabbed repeatedly by a man who subsequently walked away.

There were reports that he shouted "Britain first" or "put Britain first", although this is disputed.

There was a further attack on a 77-year-old nearby who sustained injuries that were not life threatening.

"Shortly afterwards, a man was arrested nearby by uniform police officers. Weapons including a firearm have also been recovered," police said.

- Who has been arrested? -

British media named the suspect as Thomas Mair, whom two neighbours described as a "loner" who helped local people with their gardens.

His brother Scott told reporters that he had a history of mental health problems, while there were also indications that Mair had extreme views.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a US advocacy group, said it had records showing Mair had bought copious reading material from the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi organisation.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that Mair was a subscriber to S. A. Patriot, a South African magazine published by the pro-apartheid group the White Rhino Club.

- Who were Cox's family? -

She was married to Brendan Cox, a former adviser to Gordon Brown on Africa and international development who also worked at the Save the Children charity.

They had two young children, Lejla and Cuillin, and lived on a converted barge near Tower Bridge in London.

Her husband said her death marked the start of a new chapter in her family's lives that would be "more difficult, more painful, less joyful, less full of love" -- but said Cox lived every day of hers "to the full".

"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 said in a statement.

- Who else has reacted?

Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron said: "We've lost a great star. She was a great, campaigning MP with huge compassion, with a big heart.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party and the country were in "shock and grief", adding: "We have lost a much-loved colleague, a real talent and a dedicated campaigner for social justice and peace."

US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed his "deep sorrow" for Cox's death, adding: "It is an assault on everybody who cares about and has faith in democracy."

- How rare are MP killings? -

Labour MP Stephen Timms was stabbed in the stomach in 2010 by an Islamic extremist but survived the attack.

Five MPs have now been killed in office since World War II.

Ian Gow was assassinated by Irish Republican Army paramilitaries in 1990, while the same group killed Anthony Berry in the 1984 bombing of a Brighton hotel that targeted prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

The IRA also shot dead Northern Irish MP Robert Bradford in 1981, while former Northern Ireland secretary Airey Neave was murdered by paramilitaries in 1979.

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© 2016 AFP

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