Boris Johnson has laid flowers at the scene of the fatal stabbing of Conservative MP Sir David Amess in Essex – an attack which police believe could be linked to Islamist extremism.
The prime minister along with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle and Home Secretary Priti Patel visited Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea on Saturday morning, where Sir David was stabbed to death the previous day.
The politicians walked up to the entrance individually to pay their respects. They then returned to their vehicles escorted by a police convoy.
Speaking at Southend police station later, Ms Patel said: “We’re all struggling to come to terms with the fact that David Amess has been so cruelly taken away from all of us.
“Less than 24 hours ago David was in his own constituency doing a local advice surgery, which is something that all MPs do week in, week out.
“And of course David, as I knew him and as we all knew him, was just a passionate advocate and a champion for Southend, this wonderful, wonderful town.
“He was a man of the people, he was absolutely there for everyone, he was a much-loved parliamentarian, to me he was a dear and loyal friend, but also he was a devoted husband and father and we think of Julia and their children at this really sad time, they’re in our thoughts and our prayers.”
A steady stream of members of the public also laid flowers near the police cordon close to the church.
Samantha Macdonald, a 44-year-old local resident, was in tears as she recalled meeting Sir David when he came to her school when she was 12.
“He was always so involved with the community, so accessible as well – prided himself on being accessible,” she said.
“He knew every head teacher’s name of every school in his constituency. My 13-year-old daughter absolutely loved him.”
A special service was also held at Saint Peter’s Catholic Church in Leigh-on-Sea. Sir David was a practising Catholic.
In a statement on Saturday, the Metropolitan Police said early investigations have revealed “a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism”.
Police arrested a 25-year-old man at the scene on suspicion of murder. He is understood to be a British citizen of Somali heritage.
The suspect is in custody at an Essex police station.
The Met said officers were also carrying out two searches at addresses in the London area.
The force is not seeking anyone else in connection with the incident at this time.