Dozens of mourners attended a special service in memory of Sir David Amess, while several fellow MPs added to floral tributes amassed outside the church where he was stabbed to death.
Residents gathered at St Michael’s and All Angels church on Sunday afternoon to pay their respects and share their memories of Sir David, who was a devout Catholic.
Reverend Tom Loh said many passers-by came into the church, which is opposite the late Southend West MP’s constituency office in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on Friday when news of the attack spread, to “shed tears and light a candle”.
Several mourners were invited to step to the front of the church, where a photo of Sir David was placed, throughout the service to share stories about him.
Local Conservative councillor John Lamb described Sir David’s death as a “big loss” and said the MP had worked tirelessly to solve people’s problems.
“Whatever your religion, whatever your creed, whatever your culture, he was there to sort it,” Mr Lamb said, his voice shaking with emotion.
Mark Churchward, who spoke on behalf of Southend church leaders, described Sir David as “a man of honour, a man of compassion and a man of faith”, who dealt with everyone respectfully.
One parishioner told the PA news agency that “you couldn’t avoid David Amess if you lived around here.”
“He had a knack for showing up… you’ve got to respect that, a man who takes the time to always be there,” he said.
Earlier in the day, several MPs and local politicians visited the site where Sir David was killed.
Rayleigh and Wickford MP Mark Francois on Sunday described his Conservative colleague as his “oldest and best friend” as he laid flowers outside the Belfairs Methodist church in Leigh-on-Sea.
Sir David, 69, was fatally injured while meeting constituents at the site on Friday.
Mr Francois was visibly emotional as he kissed the bouquet before laying it down.
He stood sombrely for a few moments in front of the floral tributes displayed outside the church, and was comforted by a companion.
“He was the best bloke I ever knew,” Mr Francois said tearfully, adding that he would say more about his friend at the House of Commons tribute this week.
Fellow Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell also laid flowers, saying: “David of all people didn’t deserve this to happen.”
“What happened here was pure evil and it cannot be ignored,” the Romford MP said.
“I just hope that lessons will be learned from this and that this kind of thing never happens again.”
Flowers, balloons and wreaths have piled up outside the police cordon near the church on the residential Essex street.
Heartfelt messages from residents, local organisations and friends showed how highly Sir David was regarded by a wide range of people.
Many referred to his kind nature and service to the community.
Most offered their condolences to the late father-of-five’s family.
Wes Streeting, the Labour MP for Ilford North, laid a wreath alongside Labour councillor Jas Athwal and other local politicians.
“All of us across the political spectrum are stricken with grief for David and his family and also struggling to come to terms with the fact that this is the second time in five years that an MP has lost their lives in just the most appalling circumstances,” Mr Streeting said.
Sir David’s death comes after the then Labour MP for Batley and Spen, Jo Cox, was murdered in 2016 as she was on her way to a constituency surgery.
One mourner at the church service also referred to Ms Cox, saying: “I’m wondering whether David now is reaching across to that other political martyr, Jo Cox, and they’re holding hands and thereby healing the great divisions in our politics which there have been over these last years.
“I do hope so, I know David will in his way, where good could come out of evil, bring healing.”
At the murder scene, a steady stream of residents, including a local junior football team, filed down the street throughout the day to lay flowers.
Les Thorington, an 87-year-old Korean War veteran, stood up from his wheelchair to salute Sir David in front of the floral tributes.
He said he wanted to pay his respects to the MP, whose death he called “bewildering,” because Sir David had attended many veterans’ meetings and he “appreciated the support”.
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