WEST Yorkshire MP Jo Cox has died after being shot and stabbed on the steps of Birstall Library near Leeds, by a man reportedly shouting “Britain first”..
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One eyewitness said the 41-year-old mother of two young children, was left lying in a pool of blood on the pavement after her assailant shot her twice after first assaulting her outside the library, where she had been holding an advice surgery.
A second witness reported three shots, including one “round the head area”.
Mrs Cox was Labour MP for Batley and Spen. She won the seat in last year’s general election.
Armed officers at the scene arrested a 52 year-old man, named locally as Tommy Mair. Tweeted pictures show a man being restrained on the ground by two officers.
Weapons have been recovered from the scene, West Yorkshire’s temporary Chief Constable Dee Collins told a press conference at 5pm today.
Mair was described by neighbours as “a loner”. Officers were seen searching his house in Birstall, near the scene of the attack.
No MP should be at risk of attack. MPs put themselves in the public eye to stand up for their constituents and their beliefs and should not be put at risk from doing so. British politics is better than this.Outwood and Morley MP Andrea Jenkyns
Witnesses said an onlooker tackled a man to the floor and tried to take a gun from him, after a shot was fired. Moments later, a second shot was heard.
A man in his 70s also suffered slight injuries in the incident, which followed a surgery for constituents Mrs Cox had been holding.
Police said they were not looking for any other suspect.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the country would be “in shock at the horrific murder” of MP Jo Cox, who was a “much loved colleague”.
Hichem Ben-Abdallah, 56, owner of the nearby Azzuro restaurant, rushed to the scene after the first shot.
He said: “He was kicking her as she was lying on the floor.
“I had customers. I was just serving them drinks, then all of a sudden we heard screaming.
“I saw a river of people rushing down the hill. They were screaming - and pulling something behind a car.
“A lady was down on the floor. The man pulled a gun - it was a makeshift gun, not like something you see on television.
“After the second shot I turned and ran. He walked away very calmly, down the steps. Nobody stopped him - he had a gun.
“It’s like I’m dreaming. Even the litter bins have been cordoned off - maybe he dropped something in there.
Ms Collins said: “Just before 1pm today, Jo Cox, MP for Batley and Spenborough was attacked and fatally wounded on Market Street Birstall.
“Jo was attacked by a man, who inflicted serious and sadly, ultimately fatal injuries. Subsequently there was a further attack on a 77 year-old man, nearby who has sustained injuries that are not life threatening.
“Shortly afterwards, a man was arrested nearby by uniform police officers. Weapons including a firearm have also been recovered.
“At 1.48pm, Jo Cox was pronounced deceased by a doctor working with a paramedic crew that was attending to her serious injuries.”
She added: “This is a very significant investigation with a large number of witnesses that are being spoken to by the police at this time. There is a large and significant crime scene and there is a large police presence in the area. A full investigation is underway to establish the motive for this murder.”
There was earlier speculation among some fellow MPs that Mrs Cox may have been targeted over her failure to vote against air strikes in Syria.
A source close to Mrs Cox said: “It’s just a massive shock. She has been a huge force for good for her constituency since she was elected.”
In Birstall, Mair’s house was sealed off by police who were guarding the property as forensic officers worked in the garden.
Neighbours said he had lived there for more than 30 years - 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.
“He lived by himself. He’s been on his own for about 20 years.
“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.”
Mr Pickles said he did not know of any connection between his neighbour and Ms Cox.
Another neighbour, who did not want to be named, said: “We’ve known him quite a lot of years.
“I’ve known him since I was young. He lived with his grandmother in that house, she died a few years ago.
“He was a bit of a loner. It’s a bit of a shock - he did everyone’s gardens.
“I can’t say a wrong word about him, he was so quiet.
“It’s come as a shock to everybody.”
One resident, who also did not want to be named, described Mr Mair as “keeping himself to himself”.
He said: “He had lived there for years and years, I don’t know much about him.
“I would say hello to him but you didn’t get much out of him. He seemed really quiet.”
At the scene, an eyewitness told The Yorkshire Post: “I was just on my way to the Tesco in the middle of Birstall at about quarter past one when I realised a helicopter was in the air.
“Then as I got nearer to the library I heard a girl on her phone talking about a man with a gun and I saw the police tape and ambulances.
“It must have only just happened because there was at least one person still lying in the road being treated by paramedics.
“There was a big police presence and a few of them were armed, which was a bit unnerving to see, so close to home.
“At about half one I saw a man being carried on a stretcher into an ambulance.
“Another person is supposed to have been injured but I didn’t see any sign of them.
“The last I saw was just before two o’clock, the whole of the road outside the library was still taped off and a lot of streets round about.
“It’s market day in Birstall so the area will have been busy when this happened. It’s just a shocking situation.”
Aamir Tahir, of The Dry Clean Centre, said the gunman was heard shouting “Britain first”.
He said: “The lady I work with heard two loud bangs but I wasn’t there, I was stuck in traffic at the time.
“I wish I was there because I would have tried to stop him.
“The whole street thinks it was me but it wasn’t.
“Apparently the guy who did it shouted ‘Britain first’ and if I had been there I would have tackled him.”
Another eyewitness, Clarke Rothwell who runs a nearby cafe, said he believed the MP had been shot and stabbed multiple times.
He said: “Three times she was shot, the initial time which then she dropped to the floor and two more times. The third time he got close proximity he shot her round the head area.”
He added: “In the meantime he was stabbing her as well, he was stabbing her with his knife.”
Mr Rothwell said there was blood everywhere at the scene.
Asked if he thought Mrs Cox had intervened in a dispute he said he understood the altercation was “always between the guy carrying the gun and the lady that got shot”.
There were at least four ambulances parked nearby, and a heavy police presence including armed officers.
Shocked locals stood on street corners while others chose to remain in their homes.
Birstall Primary Academy school is near to the scene and tweeted that an earlier “lockdown” had been lifted. The school said children and staff were safe.
A member of her Mrs Cox’s staff said: “I’ve just arrived at the scene but I’ve not been told anything more.
“She was doing a surgery. I got a call from a colleague who was with her and I came straight over. There was an ambulance there. She has been injured but I don’t know how or what.”
Cambridge-educated Mrs Cox, who was born in West Yorkshire, was an Oxfam aid worker before entering parliament last year.
Despite being a relative newcomer to Westminster, Labour colleagues have repeatedly tipped her to rise to the top of the party.
Daniel Blyth, 38, a company director from Birstall, said: “I saw seven police cars racing up Leeds Road towards Morley. They were unmarked BMWs.
“There are two helicopters flying overhead.
“It all seems very dramatic. I have heard that two people have been shot but I’m not who are why. It’s all very unusual for Birstall.”
Terri Flynn-Edwards, owner of Divine Hair Salon, Birstall, which is just yards from the library, said: “I have heard from several customers coming in that an MP has been shot outside the library. I am shocked, this is a quiet village.”
Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Very concerned about reports Jo Cox has been injured. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jo and her family.”
Neighbouring Labour MP Yvette Cooper said: “Terrible, terrible news. Thoughts and prayers with good friend Jo and with her family.”
Outwood and Morley MP Andrea Jenkyns added: “No MP should be at risk of attack. MPs put themselves in the public eye to stand up for their constituents and their beliefs and should not be put at risk from doing so. British politics is better than this.”
West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, said: “This is a shocking incident. I’m currently liaising with West Yorkshire Police to fully understand the circumstances of what has happened and make sure everything possible is being done to reassure communities. A man has been arrested and all my thoughts are with the families of those affected in this incident.”
Councillor Robert Light (Con, Birstall & Birkenshaw) said: “I’m shocked to hear that something like this has happened.”
Councillor Shabir Pandor (Lab, Batley West) said he was profoundly shocked and had spoken to Mrs Cox only a few days ago.
“She was out on the campaign trail with me a few weeks ago and I spoke to her just the other day, in fact I was doing some case work for her this morning.
“She’s one of those people you just warm to, she’s very likeable and for something like this to happen has really shocked me. I feel like I’m in a dream world, because things like this do not happen in Birstall. It’s a peaceful town. I’m numb.
“I know her and her family well, my heart goes out to her husband, Brendan - she has two young children. I also know her parents, they are a lovely family and Jo is so hard working and has lots of passion.”
A spokesman for the Britain Stronger In Europe group, the official Remain campaign, said: “In light of the terrible incident in Yorkshire where Jo Cox has been taken critically ill, we are suspending our campaigning for the day. Our thoughts are with Jo and her family.”
Brexit campaigners including MP Boris Johnson were also reported to have suspended their activities for the day.
JO COX IN HER OWN WORDS: HER OPINION PIECES FOR THE YORKSHIRE POST