UK police said on Saturday morning that the killing of a top MP from the ruling Conservative Party was terrorism, with hints of a “possible motivation” linked to “Islamic extremism”.
The announcement came shortly after midnight local time, when Sir David Ames, described as the prime minister’s “good public servant”, was stabbed to death more than once at an election rally in south-east England on Friday.
The London Metropolitan Police said the search for the two addresses in London was not far from the scene of the Le-On-C murder in Essex. “These are going on,” it said.
There was no immediate indication of the addresses being searched in the capital.
The military says a 25-year-old British man arrested at the scene on suspicion of murder.
“Dean Hayden, senior national co-ordinator of the Anti-Terrorism Council and deputy assistant commissioner, has officially declared the incident a terrorist act,” said a statement from the Met. “Preliminary investigations have revealed a possible motivation associated with Islamic extremism.”
The force said the investigation is being conducted by officers from Met’s Counterterrorism Command, working closely with the Eastern Region Specialist Operations Unit and Essex Police.
Ames’ death raises new concerns about the safety of MPs at their election rallies.
He is the second member of parliament in such a situation in just five years, shortly before he underwent his ‘surgery’ after the stabbing of Labor Joe Cox in 2016, where lawmakers confronted locals and listened to their concerns.
Another Labor MP, Stephen Timms, was stabbed during a similar election rally in 2010. Timms paid tribute to Ames on Friday evening as a “kind and generous man.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised Ames as a “kind, beautiful, most polite” person in Parliament. “We have lost a good government employee and a very dear friend and colleague today.” Johnson said Ames “believed with passion in this country and in the future”.
Ames, 69, has served as Tory MP for nearly four decades, representing the Southeast West since 1997.
He was arranging a surgery for elements at the Belfast Methodist Church in Le-On-C when a man entered the building and stabbed him several times.
Essex police say a 25-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder and a knife was recovered.
Home Secretary Preeti Patel asked all forces to immediately review the security arrangements for the MPs, the Home Office said.
Patel said Ames’ death represented “an unjustified attack on democracy” and added that “the protection of our country’s elected representatives is being properly questioned.”
Ames’ death highlights the growing hostile environment for MPs, including abuse through social media in recent years.
House Speaker Sir Lindsay Howell praised Ames as a dedicated person in his constituency, saying the incident would “send a message of condolence to the parliamentary community and across the country.”
“We need to discuss and examine the safety of our MPs in the coming days and what action we can take, but for now we have our thoughts and prayers with David’s family, friends and colleagues,” he said.
Ames himself highlighted how MPs’ threats made them accessible to their constituents. In his memoirs published this year, he wrote that “these growing attacks have rather ruined the great British tradition of meeting their elected politicians in public”.
The first MP was elected on 1 Marg when Margaret Thatcher was Conservative Prime Minister, Ames Southend-on-Sea, a large coastal city, and often called for it to be given city status.
He was a supporter of Brexit, a member of the Leave means Leave pressure group and an advocate for animal welfare.
Ames was a practicing Catholic and a supporter of socially conservative values. He is survived by his wife Julia, one son and four daughters.
Ames has been praised by political circles. It was a “dark and tragic day” for the United Kingdom, said Sir Care Starmer, leader of the opposition Labor Party, adding: “We have been heartbroken before.”
Jackie Smith, a former Home Secretary and chairman of the Joe Cox Foundation, founded after his assassination, said: “It’s a tragic loss for those who knew and loved Sir David. I knew him as a generous and dedicated colleague in Parliament. Public life must be safe for them. ”
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davy described the death of Ames as “tragic and horrific” news. “It’s a really scary day for British politics but our most important prayer is with those who love David,” he said.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister and leader of the Scottish National Party, also paid tribute to Ames.
“In a democracy, politicians must be accessible and open to scrutiny, but no one deserves to take their lives while working for and representing their constituents,” he said.