Jo Cox, a British member of Parliament, died Thursday of wounds suffered in a brutal and brazen attack that took place on the street in broad daylight, The Guardian reported.
The British MP was reportedly shot following a meeting with constituents Thursday afternoon in Birstall near Leeds, northern England. The 41-year-old member of the opposition Labour Party had been holding a small town hall-style meeting with local constituents when the bloodshed occurred. According to some eyewitness accounts being reported, an argument broke out between two men outside of a library where Cox held the meeting. Cox then tried to diffuse the altercation. One witness reported seeing one of the men brandish a gun, a makeshift weapon or World War I-style firearm, and pull Cox by the hair before shooting her twice. Cox was also stabbed, and a witness said she was left lying face down, bleeding. Paramedics rushed her to the hospital where early reports indicated she was in critical condition. Cox was pronounced dead at approximately 1:48 p.m. local time.
Police have released limited details, saying only that a 52-year-old man, Tommy Mair according to The Guardian, has been arrested and that a woman in her 40s had suffered serious injuries. Several bystanders also suffered minor injuries. Top-ranking British government officials spoke out on Twitter expressing grief over Cox’s death.
In a post on Twitter, Prime Minister David Cameron mourned Cox, saying, “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.”
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn also posted on Twitter saying that the entire country was in shock and grieving over Cox’s brutal killing.
Cox’s husband, Brendan, issued a statement as well, saying in part, “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. 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.”
The cold-blooded attack is reminiscent of the 2011 assassination attempt on the life of then U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords, of Arizona. A man named Jared Lee Loughner approached Giffords as she help a “Congress on Your Corner” meeting in the parking lot of a local grocery store. Giffords was shot in the head and among 19 injured by gunfire in the attack. Six were killed. The former congresswoman posted her condolences on Twitter as well, saying that she was “sickened to hear of the assassination of Jo Cox.”
One witness claimed the gunman shouted “Britain first!” just before attacking Cox, but another witness refuted that account. The Guardian spoke with the witness who said he heard the suspect shouting “Britain First,” the name of a far-right political party.
- Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox is seen in Westminster May 12, 2015.
Graeme Howard, 38, who lives in nearby where the attack took place, told The Guardian he heard the suspect shout “Britain first” just before the shooting happened and while police were arresting him. “I heard the shot and I ran outside and saw some ladies from the cafe running out with towels,” he said. “There was loads of screaming and shouting and the police officers showed up.”
Police are reportedly investigating whether a political agenda was a motive in the attack. Tensions have been rising as the so-called “Brexit” vote approaches next week on whether Britain should leave the European Union.