Britain united in grief for murdered MP Jo Cox this morning as it emerged the popular politician had been subjected to a barrage of hate mail in the three months prior to her brutal killing.
The mother-of-two was punched and kicked to the ground by her attacker before being shot three times – once in the head – with an ‘antique gun’ outside a West Yorkshire library yesterday afternoon.
The married 41-year-old, who was a rising Labour star and dedicated MP, died from the catastrophic injuries she sustained in the attack, after the killer ambushed her as she walked to her constituency surgery in Birstall near Leeds at about 1pm.
Mrs Cox’s friend and fellow Labour MP Rachel Reeves broke down in tears as she and others visited the centre of Birstall this morning, where hundreds of flowers and cards have been laid by grieving locals.
Flags across Whitehall are flying at half-mast, while flags at Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh are also lowered in tribute. A Buckingham Palace spokesman said the Queen had written privately to Mrs Cox’s husband, Brendon.
It came as it emerged that police had been poised to step up security for Mrs Cox, who became an MP last year, as she had been harassed in a stream of abusive messages over the last three months.
Popular MP Jo Cox, 41, has tragically died after she was shot three times – once in the head – and stabbed repeatedly with a ‘foot-long knife’ by a man as she arrived for a constituency meeting in Birstall near Leeds yesterday. She leaves behind her husband and two children
Mrs Cox, 41, is pictured with her husband Brendan on election night when she was elected as an MP for the Batley and Spen area (left) and posing happily with her husband on their wedding day (right). The MP was shot and died of her injuries outside a constituency meeting
Two hours after her death, Mrs Cox’s heartbroken husband Brendan tweeted a photo of her standing by the houseboat they stayed on when they were in London. Just yesterday, he tweeted updates from the River Thames as he rode on a flotilla with their two young children
Locals have named and identified ‘loner’ Tommy Mair as the 52-year-old man who has been arrested by police in connection with the attack
Map showing Birstall Library, where Jo Cox’s surgery was scheduled, Market Street, where the MP was attacked, and Lowood Lane, where the attacker, named locally as ‘loner’ Thomas Mair, lived. Police remained at the crime scene and outside Mair’s home this evening
The Times reported today that additional security was being considered at her constituency surgery in Birstall, as well as her houseboat on the River Thames in London where she lives with her family.
A source said that Mrs Cox had ‘thought little of’ the harassing messages until the ‘volume and frequency stepped up’. A man was cautioned over them, and police have confirmed this was not the same man who was arrested yesterday following the attack.
The newspaper suggested there was no known link between the messages she had received and yesterday’s attack, but reported that her security had not been upgraded before she was targeted.
Detectives were last night questioning 52-year-old ‘loner’ Thomas Mair, amid fears he was motivated by Mrs Cox’s political campaigning. It was claimed her attacker shouted ‘Britain First’ as he targeted the MP in broad daylight.
Dramatic pictures show a man being arrested just minutes after the attack in a nearby street.
There is unconfirmed evidence Mair supported far-Right causes and claims he had mental health problems and had been released recently from psychiatric care.
The MP was an outspoken supporter of the Remain campaign and had called for more refugees to be given a safe haven on our shores. Last night her husband, charity worker Brendan Cox, 37, said he would dedicate ‘every moment’ of the rest of his life to his wife’s memory.
‘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,’ he said.