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Prayers and tributes follow murder of Yorkshire MP Jo Cox

by staff reporters


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Community service: members of the public attend a vigil at St Peter’s, Birstall, on Thursday evening

Credit: PA

Community service: members of the public attend a vigil at St Peter’s, Birstall, on Thursday evening

A PRAYER vigil was held on Thursday night in St Peter’s, Birstall, after the murder of Jo Cox, MP for Batley and Spen, outside her constituency advice surgery in the West Yorkshire town.

Tommy Mair, 52, of Birstall, is accused of repeatedly shooting and stabbing Mrs Cox while shouting “put Britain first”. Bernard Kenny, a 77-year-old man who attempted to help Mrs Cox, was also stabbed during the attack.

Mr Mair appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Saturday charged with Mrs Cox’s murder, grievous bodily harm to Mr Kenny, who is still in hospital, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence, and possession of a knife. When asked to give his name, he replied: “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain.”

Mr Mair appeared again in court, earlier today, this time at the Old Bailey via a video-link from Belmarsh Prison. He has been remanded in custody and will appear again later this week.

The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, and the Bishop of Huddersfield, the Rt Revd Jonathan Gibbs, took part in the service at St Peter’s, which was attended by about 300 constituents, as well as fellow MPs, among them Yvette Cooper, Naz Shah, Dan Jarvis, Rachel Reeves, and Mary Creagh.

Bishop Gibbs told mourners that the attack on the 41-year-old mother of two had left people “overwhelmed by shock, grief and a sense of loss.

“We are here for each other, and I know and I hope and I pray that we will be here for each other in the days ahead,” he said. “Jo grew up in this community, she loved this community, and she served this community. And, in the end, she gave her life for this community.”

The vigil was followed prayers at Halifax Minster. A further service was held on Sunday evening at the parish church in Roberttown. The Vicar, the Revd Richard Burge, described Mrs Cox as “a 21st-century Good Samaritan”.

“I have been particularly struck by the number of children who have brought their parents,” Mr Burge said, as he remarked on the many people who visited the church on Thursday, after it was opened for prayer once the attack was known about. “Many have known Jo through school visits or Brownies or Scouts. She made a big impression wherever she went.”

This church, and others in the constituency, were opened to provide opportunities for people to pray.

The Labour MP for East Ham, Stephen Timms, a member of the Christians in Parliament group, said that he was “shocked and appalled” by the attack. He was stabbed during a constituency surgery six years ago. A 21-year-old woman was later sentenced to life for attempted murder.

“Jo was a wonderful MP, and a wonderful person,” Mr Timms said. “I, and everybody else, had been very impressed since her election last year. I would like to express deepest condolences to Jo’s husband, Brendan, and their family. Although details remain unclear, it seems Jo was simply carrying out her job on behalf of her constituents.”


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Committed parliamentarian: Jo Cox participates for the Parliament Ladies team in the annual Peers and MPs Tug of War contest in College Gardens, Westminster, earlier this month


Credit: PA

Committed parliamentarian: Jo Cox participates for the Parliament Ladies team in the annual Peers and MPs Tug of War contest in College Gardens, Westminster, earlier this month


The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, announced that he was “gutted [and] absolutely bewildered” by the murder. He described Mrs Cox as a “delightful lady”, and said that all had been “robbed” by her death. He had lit a candle for her and her family.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said that he was “deeply shocked” by the attack. He described the murder as “terrible”, mostly for her family and friends, “but also for what the whole country has lost. We pray for those who mourn.”

Tributes also came from all sides of the political divide. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, described her as “a great star”: “This is absolutely tragic and dreadful news, and my thoughts are with Jo’s husband, Brendan, their two children, and wider family. . . She had a big heart and people are going to be very, very sad at what has happened.”

At an impromptu vigil in Westminster, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, described Mrs Cox as “an exemplary MP [and] a real servant of democracy in every way”.

He praised the statement issued by Mrs Cox’s husband as “one of the most moving statements I have ever heard from someone so recently bereaved”.

In it, Mr Cox said: “Today is the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. More difficult, more painful, less joyful, less full of love. I and Jo’s friends and family are going to work every moment of our lives to love and nurture our kids and to fight against the hate that killed Jo.

“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.

“Jo would have no regrets about her life: she lived every day of it to the full.”

President Obama is reported to have phoned Mr Cox, today, to offer his condolences.

Parliament, which was in recess for the EU referendum, was recalled in her memory, and tributes were paid from the Commons and Lords. A white rose was placed on an empty seat in the Commons which Mrs Cox usually occupied. Her family were present.

The Speaker, John Bercow, said this morning that they had gathered in “heartbreaking sadness”. Mr Corbyn said that Mrs Cox “didn’t just believe in loving her neighbour. . . she saw a world of neighbours,” and called for “kinder, gentler politics”. Mr Cameron said that her politics were “inspired by love” before quoting her maiden speech.

MPs, and Mrs Cox’s family, were due to gather for a memorial service afterwards, led by the Speaker’s Chaplain, the Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, at St Margaret’s, Westminster.

A memorial fund set up in Mrs Cox’s name has raised more than £800,000 from more than 17,000 donors since it was launched on Friday. The money will be split between three charities that Mrs Cox supported: the Royal Voluntary Service, the Syrian rescue group White Helmets, and the anti-far-Right campaign Hope Not Hate.

It emerged today that Mrs Cox was due to introduce a report by the Islamophobia watchdog Tell Mama (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks), later this month. It is expected to conclude that attacks on Muslims in the UK have increased by 80 per cent since last year.

The Kirklees Faith Forum, an interfaith group, issued a statement, saying that its members were “deeply shocked by the dreadful murder. . . We utterly condemn this terrible act of violence. Jo Cox dedicated her life to serving the people of our communities and to working for a fairer world for all.”

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