British 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 69-year-old, who has been an MP since 1983, was fatally injured at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea near Southend in England, at midday on Friday.
A 25-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murdering the Tory veteran who had been an MP since 1983 and was married with five children.
Paying tribute to Mr Amess, the British prime minister 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.”
Mr Amess’s death echoes that of Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016, who was fatally stabbed as she attended a constituency surgery.
British home secretary Priti Patel said questions are “rightly being asked” about the safety of MPs and she will “provide updates in due course”.
Brendan Cox, Ms Cox's widower, wrote on Twitter: “This brings everything back.”
Witnesses described the scene as “very distressing”.
Anthony Finch recalled 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 was 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.”
Flags have been lowered to half-mast outside the UK parliament following the death of the Southend West MP.
Deputy British prime minister Dominic Raab tweeted: “Heartbroken that we have lost Sir David Amess MP.
“A great common sense politician and a formidable campaigner with a big heart, and tremendous generosity of spirit – including towards those he disagreed with. RIP my friend.”
British health secretary Sajid Javid described him as “a great man, a great friend, and a great MP” who was killed while fulfilling his democratic role.
Former Conservative British prime minister David Cameron added: “This is the most devastating, horrific and tragic news.
“David Amess was a kind and thoroughly decent man – and he was the most committed MP you could ever hope to meet.”
Mr Cox, Ms Cox's widower, said: “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.”
Northern Ireland’s political leaders have also paid tribute to Mr Amess, with DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson tweeting condolences to his family and friends.
“Our prayers are with those closest to David. This is shocking and horrendous,” he said.
“Sir David Amess has been a long-standing friend to me personally but also to the Union. More than many in Westminster, he took a keen interest in Northern Ireland and its people. He always wanted to see the country moving forward.
“Such a brutal attack must be condemned and is a reminder of the dangers which still face people in public office.”
Police said a knife was recovered at the scene.
Detectives are not looking for any other suspects and have asked witnesses with footage such as CCTV to come forward.
Anyone with information is asked to contact police.