British politician Jo Cox dies after attack in Birstall, police say
A 52-year-old man was arrested close to the scene of the attack in Birstall, near Leeds in northern England, shortly afterward, said Dee Collins, Temporary Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police.
Weapons, including a firearm, were recovered, she said. The British Press Association said Cox was shot and stabbed, citing eyewitnesses.
At 1.48 p.m. local time, less than an hour after the attack, the 41-year-old politician was pronounced dead by a doctor working with a paramedic crew.
Police have not commented on the circumstances surrounding the attack and a motive wasn’t immediately clear.
“This is a very significant investigation with large numbers of witnesses who are being spoken to by police at this time,” said Collins.
“A full investigation is underway to establish the motive of this attack.”
She said no one else was being sought in relation to the attack. A 77-year-old man was also assaulted following the attack on Cox, but his injuries were not life-threatening, she said.
Cox was attacked outside the Birstall library after holding a regular public meeting with constituents, said Robert Light, a Conservative councilor from nearby Birkenshaw.
Cox, a mother of two, was elected the member of Parliament for Batley and Spen in Yorkshire in May 2015.
Fellow Labour MP Mike Gapes described her as a rising star in the party, “one of the most effective of the newly elected Labour MPs last year.”
Brexit campaigning suspended
News of the killing has sent shockwaves through Britain, where attacks on politicians are extremely rare.
Prior to the announcement that Cox had succumbed to her injuries, politicians across the spectrum expressed their shock and sympathy.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Jo and her family,” tweeted British Prime Minister David Cameron, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted that the “thoughts of the whole Labour Party are with her and her family at this time.”
Campaign groups on both sides of the debate on next week’s referendum over whether Britain should leave the European Union announced they were halting their operations Thursday in the wake of the attack.
Cameron announced on Twitter that he was cancelling a rally Thursday night in Gibraltar for the “Stronger In” campaign, saying: “It’s right that all campaigning has been stopped after the terrible attack on Jo Cox.”
The pro-EU group “Stronger In” announced it was suspending its campaign for the day, while the Vote Leave campaign headquarters said its campaign bus was returning to London.
Cox was a supporter of Britain voting to remain in the EU in the forthcoming referendum on the issue to be held next week. Her husband and children were on a “Stronger In” boat campaigning on the River Thames Wednesday, she tweeted at the time.
Nationalist party denies involvement
Britain First, a fringe nationalist political party, issued a statement denying any connection in the attack.
The statement said that reports that the alleged assailant shouted “Britain First” during the attack were unconfirmed, and added that the party “would never encourage behavior of this sort.”
“This is pure hearsay at the moment,” read the statement on Britain First’s website.
Before entering Parliament last year, Cox worked for aid agency Oxfam and for a pro-European campaign organization, according to her website.
“She’s had a big impact already,” fellow MP Gapes told CNN. “She’s been one of the most outspoken people calling for more to be done to stop (Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s) barrel bombing in Syria and to get humanitarian corridors to help for the refugees from Syria.”
Lisa Holmes, a Conservative councilor from Birkenshaw who knows Cox, told CNN she was staggered by the “extraordinary” incident.
“It’s heartbreaking,” she told CNN. “I’m just stunned, I just think it’s horrendous.”
She said Birstall was “not an area that’s known for having problems with violence.”
While political violence in Britain is uncommon, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, was stabbed in London in 2010.
Cox’s husband, Brendan Cox, tweeted a picture of her standing in front a boat on the River Thames. According to her website, Cox lives on a boat on the Thames during her time in London.
Attack has similarities to shooting of U.S. congresswoman
The attack bore some similarities to the 2011 shooting of a young U.S. congresswoman.
U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, then 40, was shot in the head at a “Congress on Your Corner” constituent event outside an Arizona grocery store.
Giffords, the main target of gunman Jared Lee Loughner, survived, but six people were killed. Giffords was hospitalized in critical condition and spent months recovering.
She returned to the floor of the House of Representatives seven months after the attack. But in 2012, she announced her resignation to focus on her health and recovery. She continues to struggle with the effects of the shooting today.