EU referendum campaign in limbo after MP murder

Birstall, June 17

Britain mourned lawmaker Jo Cox today after a man wielding a gun and knife killed the 41-year-old in an attack that has thrown a June 23 referendum on European Union membership into limbo.

Cox, a supporter of Britain staying in the EU, was shot and stabbed after a meeting with residents in her own constituency near Leeds in northern England by a man who witnesses said had shouted “Britain first”.

She was pronounced dead just over 48 minutes later by a doctor working with a paramedic crew trying to save her life. A 52-year-old man named by media as Thomas Mair was arrested by officers nearby and weapons including a firearm were recovered.

The killing prompted campaigning to be suspended in the EU referendum, the tone of which has become increasingly angry and bitter and included personal recriminations as well as furious debate of issues such as immigration and the economy.

Though the motives of the killer were not immediately clear, some suggested sympathy for Cox could boost the Remain campaign which opinion polls indicate had fallen behind Leave.

Police said they were not in a position to discuss the motive of the attack.

“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,” Cox’s husband, Brendan, said.

“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.”

A US civil rights group the Southern Poverty Law Centre, based in Alabama, said on its website that it had obtained records showing Thomas Mair had links with the neo-Nazi organisation National Alliance dating back to 1999.

The SPLC posted images showing what it said were purchase orders for books bought by Mair, whose address is given as Batley, from the NA’s publishing arm National Vanguard Books in May of that year.

The orders included a manual on how to build a pistol, it said. Britain’s Union flag was flying at half-mast over the Houses of Parliament, Queen Elizabeth’s London residence Buckingham Palace and Downing Street, where Prime Minister David Cameron has his official residence.

In Birstall hundreds of people attended a vigil at a local church. Queen Elizabeth was due to write a private letter of condolence to Cox’s husband.

Some people, many weeping, laid flowers outside the Houses of Parliament. Beside a picture of Cox smiling, dozens of white candles lay beside bunches of flowers and a message board upon which people had written their condolences.

“You can’t kill democracy,” read one message on Parliament Square. Another said: “We will unite against hatred.”

Others put flowers on the houseboat on the River Thames where Cox had lived with her husband and two young children aged three and five.