‘Killer waited inside, then stabbed him multiple times’: How the attack on Sir David Amess unfolded

 ‘Killer waited inside, then stabbed him multiple times’: How the attack on Sir David Amess unfolded

Sir David Amess had spoken in the past of how his job made him a potential target, but as a man of faith he would have thought he had chosen the safest possible place to meet those who needed help.

Belfairs Methodist Church, in Leigh-on-Sea, was one of Sir David’s regular venues for constituency surgeries, and as midday approached on Friday he stood outside its doors chatting with voters and waving hello to passers-by.

A sign next to the entrance proclaimed that “All Are Welcome Here”, and when Sir David went inside, constituents were patiently waiting to see him in his makeshift office, staffed by two female assistants.

One of those who had arranged to see him, according to John Lamb, a local Conservative councillor, was the person who was about to take his life.

“There were people waiting for him in the church,” Mr Lamb told The Telegraph. “Two of David’s office workers were with him, making the notes he needed to help his constituents, when this person, who had been inside waiting his turn, went up to him and stabbed him. They literally got a knife out and stabbed him multiple times.”

Judith McMahon, the deputy chairman of the local Conservative Club, said she had been told “he had been stabbed three times, maybe more than that”. Other reports suggested Sir David had been knifed at least 10 times.




Sir Davis Amess, pictured outside a constituency surgery at another Essex church earlier this year

In Parliament, MPs are protected by armed police and intense security at every entrance. At the church, visitors, including the alleged killer, only had to give their name and address to Sir David’s staff on the door to be allowed in.

The killer apparently said nothing to indicate his motives and made no attempt to attack anyone else in the room. He did not attempt to flee as terrified calls to 999 were made at 12.05pm.

Kevin Buck, the deputy chairman of the local constituency association, said: “I was told that he stabbed Sir David and that he just waited there in the church hall until the police arrived. There was no attempt to flee.”

Anthony Finch, an electrician who was doing some work on an adjacent building, said: “I saw an upset lady on the phone saying: ‘You need to arrive quickly, he’s still in the building.’”

Lee Jordison, who works at the nearby Hicks Butchers, said he had been told by another witness that “a woman had come out screaming on the phone, saying: “Someone’s been stabbed, please get here soon, he’s not breathing.’”

Within a matter of minutes, the area was “completely and utterly swamped” by armed police and paramedics, said Mr Finch.

He said: “There were loads of armed police, overhead there was an air ambulance as well as a police helicopter. Obviously I wondered what the hell was going on – you don’t often see armed police around the local area.”

Mr Jordison said: “We could see a police cordon set up. There was a lot of talk at the church that it was [Sir David] and plenty of people had seen him outside saying hello to people outside the church 20 minutes before.”

As paramedics tried to save Sir David’s life, the air ambulance stood by to take him to hospital.

Meanwhile the suspected killer, a British national believed to be of Somali heritage, was “quickly arrested” in the church, Essex Police said, seemingly with little or no resistance. A knife was recovered from inside.

Mr Finch saw the man being led out of the church and said: “He was wearing jeans and a white top and was completely quiet. He was in his mid-20s and appeared to be getting into the police car willingly. He was compliant.”

Mr Finch said he heard no screaming or commotion at the church and that despite the horror that had unfolded inside just moments earlier, it was “very quiet”.

“There were three people standing outside and as the police arrived, more people came out. They were obviously direct witnesses,” he said. “It was clear they were either working on him for a long time or he died straight away, as he was never brought out of the church.”

In Bristol, Boris Johnson was holding a Cabinet awayday when news of the stabbing began to come through.

Dan Norris, the West of England Metro Mayor, said: “I was with the Prime Minister when he found out and he mentioned something significant had happened with a colleague and that he needed to leave.”

Attempts to save Sir David’s life proved unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at the scene. At 3pm, police announced that their investigation had become a murder inquiry.

Placeholder image for youtube video: eEvdcLo04Ms

By the time the Cabinet assembled for its scheduled meeting in Bristol on Friday afternoon, the Prime Minister had been told that his colleague had died. 

He broke the news to ministers, paid tribute to the MP for Southend West and cancelled the Cabinet meeting, immediately heading back to London with Home Secretary Priti Patel, who was being given constant updates.

Colleagues said Sir David used to hold his surgeries at the local Conservative Club but decided to move them out into the community when the pandemic hit.

Mr Lamb said: “It had been his idea to hold the surgery around the constituency in places like the Methodist church so that people would not have to travel far to see him.  He loved the people of Southend and always worked hard for them. He was a very hard-working MP.”

He said of the murder: “It’s absolutely appalling. David saw it as his job to help anyone regardless of their race, background or religion. He had recently been helping refugees with their problems, such as passport issues.”

In a book published last year, Sir David wrote about how the murder of Jo Cox, the Labour MP, in 2016 had forced all MPs to take extra security precautions, such as being “more careful when accepting appointments” and “to never see people alone”. He felt that had “rather spoilt the great British tradition of the people openly meeting their elected politicians”.

After Sir David became the latest MP to lose their life trying to serve the public, more than 100 of his constituents gathered in St. Peter’s Catholic Church for a vigil to remember the man they called “Mr Southend”.

Speaking barely half a mile from where he died, Father Jeffrey Woolnough said: “The greeting he would give was always that wonderful smile. He died doing the thing he loved – meeting his local constituents.” 

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