LONDON: A British lawmaker died on Thursday after a shock daylight street attack, throwing campaigning for the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union into disarray just a week before the crucial vote.
Jo Cox, a 41-year-old mother-of-two from the opposition Labour Party, was left bleeding on the pavement after reportedly being shot and stabbed in the village of Birstall in northern England, according to witnesses quoted by local media.
Police later announced the death of Cox — a leading campaigner for Britain to remain in the 28-member bloc — and said a 52-year-old man had been arrested.
“We are not in a position to discuss any motive at this time,” West Yorkshire Police chief Dee Collins told reporters.
But she added: “We are not looking for anyone else in connection with this incident.”
After the attack, the “Remain” camp said it was “suspending all campaigning for the day” while a spokesman for the rival Vote Leave group said their ‘battle bus’ was returning to headquarters.
Prime Minister David Cameron cancelled a planned rally during a historic but controversial visit to Gibraltar as part of his campaign for Britain to stay in the EU in the June 23 vote.
“The death of Jo Cox is a tragedy. She was a committed and caring MP. My thoughts are with her husband Brendan and her two young children,” he said on Twitter.
One witness, local cafe owner Clarke Rothwell, said that Cox had been shot three times.
“He shot this lady once and then he shot her again, he fell to the floor, leant over shot her once more in the face area,” he told the BBC.
Sky News television quoted unconfirmed reports that the shooter shouted “Britain first” — possibly a reference to a far-right group of the same name.
The attack halted a frantic day of campaigning, as two new opinion polls indicated that more Britons now want to leave the EU than want to stay.
If they prove correct, Britain would become the first country in the nearly six-decade history of the bloc to leave.
Cameron was already on his way to Gibraltar when news of the attack broke, on the first trip to the rocky outcrop by a British premier since 1968.
His visit has angered Spain, which also claims the tiny territory.