Counter-terrorism police are leading the investigation into the murder on Friday of British lawmaker David Amess but officers are keeping an open mind as to his killer’s motive, the local police force said.
“The investigation is in its very early stages and is being led by officers from the specialist counter-terrorism command,” Essex Police Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington told reporters.
“It will be for investigators to determine whether or not this is a terrorist incident but as always they will keep an open mind,” Harrington added.
UK PM Johnson visits church where lawmaker was stabbed to death
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday laid flowers at the church where a lawmaker was stabbed to death a day earlier, in what police say was a terrorist attack probably linked to Islamist extremism.
Amess, 69, was knifed repeatedly in the attack at about midday on Friday in Leigh-on-Sea, east of London, during a meeting with constituents.
Police arrested a 25-year-old British man at the scene on suspicion of murder, adding it is believed he acted alone.
In a statement early on Saturday, police said the early investigation had revealed a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism.
Johnson, interior minister Priti Patel, and Labour Party leader Keir Starmer were among those to lay flowers in tribute to Amess at the scene of the murder.
Johnson and Starmer stood side by side in a moment of silence before leaving. On Friday, Johnson said Britain had lost a fine public servant and a much-loved friend and colleague.
As tributes poured in for Amess, politicians described the attack as an assault on democracy. Patel has said she will review the safety of elected politicians.
In Westminster, where lawmakers, known as MPs, do much of their work in parliament, armed police are on patrol. But in their electoral districts, known as constituencies, more often than not there is no security.
Amess was stabbed while holding a surgery – one-to-one meetings with voters, open to whoever turns up.
Conservative lawmaker Tobias Ellwood said that while engagement with the public was a vital part of the job, there was now huge anxiety among MPs.
“Until the Home Secretary’s (Patel) review of MP security is complete I would recommend a temporary pause in face to face meetings,” he said on Twitter.