Conservative MP David Amess who has died after being stabbed at a meeting in his Essex constituency was one of the “kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics”, Boris Johnson has said.
The suspect, a 25-year-old man, has been arrested on suspicion of murder after the Tory veteran was stabbed several times during a constituency surgery in Essex.
The 69-year-old victim, who has been an MP since 1983, was fatally injured at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex midday on Friday.
The father-of-five is the second sitting MP to be killed in such circumstances in five years, following the death of Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016 as she attended a constituency surgery.
Paying tribute to Mr Amess, Mr Johnson said he had been killed after “almost 40 years of continuous service to the people of Essex and the whole of the United Kingdom”.
He added: “The reason people are so shocked and sad is above all he was one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics.
“He also had an outstanding record of passing laws to help the most vulnerable.”
British home secretary Priti Patel said questions are “rightly being asked” about the safety of MPs and she will “provide updates in due course”.
British health secretary Sajid Javid tweeted: “Devastated to learn of Sir David Amess’ murder. A great man, a great friend, and a great MP killed while fulfilling his democratic role.
“My heart goes out to Julia, his family, and all who loved him.
“Let us remember him and what he did with his life.”
Former prime minister David Cameron tweeted: “This is the most devastating, horrific & tragic news.
“David Amess was a kind & thoroughly decent man – & he was the most committed MP you could ever hope to meet.
“Words cannot adequately express the horror of what has happened today. Right now, my heart goes out to David’s family.”
Brendan Cox, widower of Labour MP Jo Cox, wrote on Twitter: “This brings everything back.
“The pain, the loss, but also how much love the public gave us following the loss of Jo.
“I hope we can do the same for David now.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak tweeted: “The worst aspect of violence is its inhumanity. It steals joy from the world and can take from us that which we love the most.
“Today it took a father, a husband, and a respected colleague. All my thoughts and prayers are with Sir David’s loved ones.”
Witnesses described the scene as “very distressing”.
A police spokesman said: “A man has been arrested on suspicion of murder after a man was stabbed in Leigh-on-Sea.
“We were called to an address in Eastwood Road North shortly after 12.05pm today.
“We attended and found a man injured.
“He was treated by emergency services but, sadly, died at the scene.” Police said a 25-year-old man has been arrested and a knife was recovered.
Detectives are not looking for any other suspects and have asked witnesses with footage such as CCTV to come forward.
Witness Anthony Finch described seeing someone being taken out of the building and put into the back of a police car.
He told Sky News: “We arrived to do some work on the adjacent building… and at the point when I was crossing the road I saw an upset lady on the phone saying ‘you need to arrive quickly, he’s still in the building’.
“There were loads of armed police, overhead there was an air ambulance as well as a police helicopter. Obviously wondered what the hell was going on, you don’t often see armed police around the local area.
“I saw the suspect get put into a police van, get taken away and then they cordoned the whole road and pushed us all down the road.
“What we then heard was that it was David Amess.”
He told LBC: “It’s very odd and it’s very distressing, that’s for sure.”
Councillor John Lamb, who is at the scene, told the PA news agency: “He’s a family man, he’s got four daughters and a son.
“He’s always trying to help people and especially refugees he’s tried to help.
“He’s a very amicable person and he does stick by his guns, he says what he believes and he sticks by it.”
Aerial footage showed multiple police officers outside the church and an air ambulance at the scene.
A large cordon extended down Eastwood Road, with members of the public gathering behind it, and multiple side streets closed off.
Anyone with information is asked to contact police.