herald

Friday 9 December 2016

MP who 'fought for a better world' shot and stabbed to death

Labour MP Jo Cox Picture: PA
Labour MP Jo Cox Picture: PA
A man is pinned to the ground by police after the shooting

British Labour MP Jo Cox has died after being shot and stabbed in the street outside her constituency advice clinic.

The mother of two children aged three and five, was attacked by a man reportedly shouting "Britain first" at lunchtime yesterday in Birstall, West Yorkshire.

Eyewitnesses said he kicked and stabbed her and then shot her three times, the final shot aimed at her head.

The alleged gunman has been named locally as Tommy Mair (52), who neighbours in Birstall have described as "a loner" with a history of mental health problems who had previously subscribed to a far-right magazine.

Psychotherapy

Mair, who was arrested by armed officers shortly after the attack, had spoken about receiving "psychotherapy and medication", and was described by his younger brother as having "a history of mental illness".

The MP's husband Brendan 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 everyday 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. Hate doesn't have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous. Jo would have no regrets about her life, she lived every day of it to the full," he added.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the country would be "in shock at the horrific murder" of the MP, who was a "much loved colleague".

The killing stunned Westminster and led to the suspension of campaigning in the EU referendum.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: "The death of Jo Cox is a tragedy. She was a committed and caring MP. My thoughts are with her husband Brendan and her two young children."

The killing has been condemned in Ireland, with former Taoiseach John Bruton describing the murder as a "terrible day for democracy".

Mr Bruton was in Birmingham for a meeting of the Irish for Europe campaign when the news came through that Ms Cox had been shot and stabbed to death.

The former Fine Gael politician told the Herald that the murder will have wide-ranging implications for politics in general.

"This is an act against representative democracy," Mr Bruton said.

"Our politicians must be free to meet with their constituents without fearing for their safety. This is not just an attack on Britain - in Ireland and Europe we rely on a system of representative democracy."

Shouting

Eyewitness Clarke Rothwell, who runs a cafe near the murder scene, described the attack, telling reporters: "He was shouting 'put Britain first'. He shouted it about two or three times. He said it before he shot her and after he shot her."

He said the gunman fired three shots, the final one at her head.

Britain First is the name of a far-right group which said it was "not involved and would never encourage behaviour of this sort".

Another witness, Hichem Ben Abdallah said the alleged attacker was "kicking her as she was lying on the floor".

He said that after a bystander intervened, the man produced a gun, stepped back and shot Ms Cox.

The 56-year-old, who was in the cafe next door to the library where Ms Cox held her clinic, told reporters: "There was a guy who was being very brave and another guy with a white baseball cap who he was trying to control, and the man in the baseball cap suddenly pulled a gun from his bag.

"He was fighting with her and wrestling with her and then the gun went off twice."

He added: "I came and saw her bleeding on the floor."

Mr Abdallah said that the man who had been wrestling with the assailant continued to do so even after he saw the gun.

He said: "The man stepped back with the gun and fired it and then he fired a second shot. As he was firing he was looking down at the ground.

"He was kicking her and he was pulling her by her hair."

Scott Mair (49) told repoters yesterday that his brother Tommy had "a history of mental illness".

"I am struggling to believe what has happened," Scott said. "My brother is not violent and is not all that political. I don't even know who he votes for. He has a history of mental illness, but he has had help."

Shaking

Visibly shaking, he added: "I cried when I heard. I am so sorry for her and her family."

Tommy Mair's house was sealed off yesterday by police who were guarding the property as forensic officers worked in the garden.

Neighbours said Mair had lived there for more than 30 years and on his own for the last two decades since the deaths of his mother and grandmother.

They did not think he had a job or drove a car and described how he would do gardening chores for local people.

One neighbour, David Pickles, said: "He's lived there longer than me and I've lived here since 1975. "I still can't believe it. He's the last guy I would have thought of. He's just quiet. He kept himself to himself."

"I've never seen a lot of people visiting or anything like that, but he likes gardening. He did a lot of people's gardens round here. But he did it quietly," he added.

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