On Thursday, British Labour MP Jo Cox, 41, was shot dead in her West Yorkshire constituency by a 52-year-old man reportedly shouting “Britain first.” The slogan was an apparent reference to the far-right nationalist party of the same name. The nationalist slogan may have also invoked the polarizing Brexit debate enrapturing the country. Voters are set to head to the polls on June 23 to decide whether the UK should remain in the European Union or not.
The suspect, identified as Tommy Mair, was detained nearby the attack. Police suspect that the attacker may have been mentally unstable. More details will emerge as authorities finalize their investigation.
This is the first time a sitting member of parliament has been murdered since 1990.
“Vote Leave” and “Remain” have both temporarily suspended campaigning out of respect for the victim.
Tory British Prime Minister David Cameron took a moment out of the day as well to express his grief. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Jo and her family,” he said on Twitter.
Several locals witnessed the brazen attack. “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,”Cafe owner Clarke Rothwell told the BBC. “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.”
Witnesses also noted that the weapon used by the attack “looked handmade.” Gun laws are strict in the UK and firearms are difficult to come by for everyday civilians.
Initials reports suggested that Cox had survived the attack. A couple hours later, however, the British press confirmed that the victim eventually succumbed to her injuries.
Cox was a young politician on the verge of a blossoming career in Westminster. She graduated Cambridge University in 1995 and later secured a coveted spot in parliament after being elected to office in 2015. According to The Washington Post, “She has been a vocal supporter of refugees including those from majority Muslim nations like Syria. She also frequently called upon Britain to do more to help civilians in Syria.”
Cox is survived by her husband and two young children.