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UK referendum campaign suspended after MP shot dead ‘by man shouting Britain first’

UK & Europe

UK referendum campaign suspended after MP shot dead ‘by man shouting Britain first’

A British member of parliament has died this evening (16 June) after being shot and stabbed in her constituency in northern England by a man reported to have shouted “Britain first”, before the attack.

Jo Cox, 41, MP for the opposition Labour Party and a mother of two, was killed as she prepared to hold a meeting with constituents in Birstall near Leeds.

West Yorkshire Police said a 52-year-old man was arrested by armed police. Police did not give any further details of the attack.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Prime Minister David Cameron both reacted to the attack on Twitter, while Cox was still in a critical condition.

British lawmakers are currently not in parliament ahead of next week’s 23 June referendum on whether the United Kingdom should remain in the European Union.

The campaign for Britain to remain in the bloc said it was suspending campaigning for the day and the “Vote Leave” group said it had also suspended activities from its official touring campaign bus.

A man in his late 40s to early 50s nearby also suffered slight injuries, police said. BBC radio reported that Cox had been taken by air ambulance to a nearby hospital.

Corbyn later reacted on Twitter to news that Cox had died in hospital.

Eyewitness accounts

One eyewitness told Sky News that Cox had intervened in a scuffle between two men, one of whom had pulled a gun from a bag which had then been fired twice.

“I saw people rushing down the road towards the library. I came out with a couple of people from the restaurant … we saw a man wearing a dirty white baseball cap with grey jacket start jostling with somebody,” said Hichem Ben-Abdallah.

“All of a sudden this guy pulls a gun … it looked like a First World War gun or makeshift gun, not the sort of gun you see normally. He fired the first shot then I ran away and then we heard the second shot.”

Clarke Rothwell, a cafe owner in Birstall, told the BBC that he was alerted to the incident by a “loud popping noise that sounded like a balloon burst – a loud balloon”.

“When I looked round there’s a man stood there in his 50s with a white baseball cap on and a jacket with a gun, an old-fashioned looking gun in his hand,” he said.

“He shot this lady once and then he shot her again, he fell to the floor, leant over shot her once more in the face area.

“Somebody tried to grab him, wrestling with him and then he wielded a knife, like a hunting knife, just started lunging at her with a knife half a dozen times. People were screaming and running from the area.”

Cox, a Cambridge University graduate, was an aid worker before becoming Labour MP for Batley and Spen in 2015. Known for her work on women’s issues, she has worked with several charities.

Cameron cancels Gibraltar visit

Cameron had been due to address thousands of people at a pro-EU rally in Gibraltar on Thursday, but cancelled the event after news of the attack in Yorkshire.

The rocky outcrop on Spain’s southern tip fears that a vote to exit the European Union in next week’s referendum will leave it at the mercy of Spain. The Rock, as it is known, has long been a source of friction between London and Madrid, which wants it to come back under Spanish control centuries after it was ceded to Britain in 1713.

“I won’t go ahead with tonight’s rally in Gibraltar,” Cameron tweeted upon landing in Gibraltar, minutes after campaigning for the crucial EU vote next Thursday was suspended over the shooting.