British Labour lawmaker dies after shooting attack
Friday, June 17, 2016
Nigel Roddis ~ PA via AP
LONDON -- A lawmaker who campaigned for Britain to stay in the European Union was killed Thursday by a gun- and knife-wielding attacker in her small-town constituency, a tragedy that brought the country's fierce, divisive referendum campaign to a shocked standstill.
Jo Cox, a 41-year-old Labour Party legislator who praised the contribution of immigrants to Britain and championed the cause of war-scarred Syrian refugees, was attacked outside a library in Birstall, northern England, after a regular meeting with constituents.
Police would not speculate on the attacker's motive, but Clarke Rothwell, who runs a cafe near the scene of the slaying, told the BBC and Britain's Press Association the assailant shouted "Britain first!" several times. Police did not confirm that account.
Witnesses described a man shooting Cox several times and then stabbing her as she lay on the pavement.
Police said they had arrested a 52-year-old man and were not looking for anyone else.
"Our working presumption ... is that this is a lone incident," said Dee Collins, acting chief constable of West Yorkshire Police.
British security officials said the shooting didn't appear to be related to international terrorism, but domestic terrorism has not been ruled out.
Residents identified the suspect to the BBC and other media as Birstall resident Tommy Mair.
Violence against British politicians has been rare since Northern Ireland's late-1990s peace agreement. Cox was the first serving member of Parliament to be killed in a quarter-century, and figures from all parts of the political spectrum expressed deep shock.
Both the Vote Leave and Britain Stronger in Europe campaigns suspended activity ahead of next week's vote over whether Britain should remain a part of the 28-member bloc.
Prime Minister David Cameron canceled a speech and rally in Gibraltar, and flags on British government buildings were lowered to half-staff.
"This is absolutely tragic and dreadful news," Cameron said. "We have lost a great star. She was a great campaigning MP with huge compassion and a big heart."
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said "the whole of the Labour Party and Labour family -- and indeed the whole country -- will be in shock at the horrific murder of Jo Cox today."
It was unclear whether the attack was directly related to the referendum campaign, which has stirred deep passions as Britons argue over their place in Europe, the scale of immigration and the future of their country.
The rival sides have been canvassing feverishly ahead of what is expected to be a close vote. Cox had been campaigning for the "remain" camp.