Saturday 29 April 2017

'Jo believed in a better world and fought for it every day'

Jo Cox takes part in a charity tug-of-war in this undated photo. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Jo Cox takes part in a charity tug-of-war in this undated photo. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Robert Mendick

The husband of Jo Cox last night urged people to "fight against the hatred" that killed his wife, after the Labour MP was murdered by a gunman on the steps of her constituency surgery.

On a dark day for democracy, Mrs Cox, a 41-year-old mother of two, was shot three times and repeatedly stabbed by a killer screaming "Britain first".

The first murder of an MP for more than a quarter of a century prompted widespread revulsion and led to the suspension of campaigning for the EU referendum. Police arrested a 52-year-old former psychiatric patient named locally as Tommy Mair.

According to eyewitnesses, Mrs Cox's killer used either an antique or a home-made gun which he calmly reloaded with a single bullet between shots. As she lay bleeding to death, he repeatedly kicked her before walking away, having stabbed a 77-year-old man who tried to intervene.

Police will investigate whether Mrs Cox, a Cambridge graduate and former adviser to Gordon Brown's wife Sarah, was targeted because of her support for the Remain campaign.

The MP for Batley and Spen, in Yorkshire, since 2015, has previously spoken out against the "racism and fascism" of Britain First, an anti-Islamic Right-wing group. Her husband Brendan, with whom she had two young children, Cuillin and Lejla, released a statement after her death.

He said: "Today is the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. More difficult, more painful, less joyful, less full of love. I and Jo's friends and family are going to work every moment of our lives to love and nurture our kids and to fight against the hate that killed Jo.

"Jo believed in a better world and she fought for it every day of her life with an energy, and a zest for life that would exhaust most people. 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."

The alleged killer was arrested about a mile from the scene of the murder, which took place outside the library in Birstall, near Leeds, where Mrs Cox was due to hold an afternoon surgery for constituents. Photographs showed a man lying flat on the ground after he was held by armed police.

Mr Mair, who lived on his own in Birstall, had a history of psychiatric problems, his brother said. He also had possible links at one time to a white supremacist group.

Following Mrs Cox's death, which was announced by West Yorkshire Police at 5pm, four hours after the attack, voices from across the political spectrum spoke of their sadness.

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, said: "In the coming days, there will be questions to answer about how and why she died. But for now all our thoughts are with Jo's husband Brendan and their two young children. They will grow up without their mum, but can be immensely proud of what she did, what she achieved and what she stood for."

Mr Brown, the former Labour prime minister, said "Our memories will be forever scarred by this moment. Our hearts will always be hurt at our country's loss. Jo Cox was the most vivacious, personable, dynamic and committed friend you could ever have." His wife Sarah said: "I am heartbroken. Jo had a truly remarkable spirit and passion that shone through in her work with Oxfam and with me on our countless campaigns."

Campaigning for the EU referendum by Britain Stronger in Europe and Vote Leave was suspended for 24 hours, and David Cameron, the Prime Minister, cancelled a visit to Gibraltar. With the campaign having become increasingly heated in the run-up to polling day next Thursday, the motive for the attack and whether it was linked to the referendum will come under scrutiny.

George Osborne, the Chancellor, scrapped a pro-EU speech he was due to deliver at Mansion House in the City, and instead wrote a new one in tribute to the murdered MP and stressing the importance of democratic freedom.

Mrs Cox was the first MP to be murdered since the death of Ian Gow, who was assassinated by the IRA in a car bomb outside his home in 1990. She is the first female MP to be murdered and is also believed to be the first killed by a constituent in modern times.

Last night Britain First said that Tommy Mair had never had any contact with their group and condemned the killing.

Mr Mair's house remained sealed off by police as forensic officers worked in the garden.

Irish Independent

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