Sir David Amess killing casts shadow over Leigh-on-Sea constituency

A number of floral tributes have been left near the scene where Sir David Amess was stabbed

The killing of Sir David Amess has shocked the country. But news of the MP's death has perhaps been felt most keenly in his Essex constituency, where he was known to and beloved by many. A day after he was attacked while serving the public, as he had done for almost 40 years, the local community tries to make sense of what happened.

The mood in Leigh-on-Sea is one of bewilderment. Sir David Amess had represented the area for decades and his constituents speak warmly of a man who dedicated his life to serving them.

As detectives attempt to piece together possible motives for his fatal stabbing, a thick gathering of police and global media has descended upon the usually quiet Essex town.

People have gathered to pay tributes outside the Belfairs Methodist Church, on Eastwood Road North, where Sir David was attacked.

Image caption,Sir David died at the scene after being stabbed multiple times

Resident Audrey Martin remembered her MP as "an absolute gentleman" who "dedicated his whole life to his constituents here".

"For many, many years he's just been a pillar of society, helping out all different people," she said.

She told the BBC how Sir David had "taken time out" to speak to her when she first moved to the area from Scotland.

"I just wanted to talk and just tell him how I was feeling at that moment in time, moving to Leigh-on-Sea, leaving my friends behind in Scotland and not having friends here.

"He just had this aura about him."

Audrey Martin
Image caption,Audrey Martin remembered her MP as "a true gentleman"

Abigail Mkhize held back tears as she recalled how Sir David had helped her with her Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

"Six years ago I was having chemotherapy and because I was working as an agency nurse, I had problems with getting the help with ESA, so I went and saw him," she said.

"He said, 'This is not right, you've been here for so long and you don't deserve this - I will sort it out' and he did."

Ms Mkhize has lived in Southend for 20 years and said she "always felt comfortable" knowing Sir David was around to help.

"He was the father of all nations, that's how we can describe him," she said. "Whether you were black, white, irrespective of where you come from he gave that love, affection, kindness, caring."

Abigail Mkhize and her sister Ntombi
Image caption,Abigail Mkhize, pictured on the left, with her sister Ntombi, said Sir David was "an amazing man"

A steady trickle of locals have been slowly edging to the cordon tape to lay flowers and stand for a moment, remembering their MP.

Clusters of bouquets have been laid near the scene of the attack, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Keir Starmer among those to have paid their respects.

Residents said they were touched that Mr Johnson had paid a visit so soon and felt he seemed clearly affected by what had happened.

Those who knew Sir David have remembered him as "universally liked" regardless of their politics.

"What he was was a thoroughly decent man: he believed in right and wrong. He was always a positive person, always had a smile on his face," said Councillor Tony Cox, of Southend Borough Council.

Local people have "lost a great man, they've lost a great MP, they've lost a respected parliamentarian and they've lost a good constituency advocate," he said.

Chief Constable of Essex Police B. J. Harrington, BritainIMAGE SOURCE,REUTERS
Image caption,Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer layed tributes at the scene where Sir David was stabbed

Constituent Lorraine Migliorini highlighted Sir David's work for children and young people with special educational needs.

"He was genuinely interested and listened to them which was fantastic," she said.

"He got things done and I think all of the special needs groups around here are very very grateful for what he's done."

Julie Everitt, a constituent, said she would "always remember him for his genuine smile" and his passion for animal rights.

"He would go on campaigns, he was against the badger cull, he was against trophy hunting and fox hunting," she said.

Ms Everitt has co-ordinated a vigil for people to "pay our respects to Sir David and our heartfelt sympathies to his loved ones".

"I wrote to him on several occasions and he would always reply.

"He was a good gentleman, he had a good heart," she said.

Julie Everitt, at the scene to lay tributes
Image caption,Julie Everitt has organised a vigil in a local park

Some said they were especially shocked to hear police were investigating a possible terrorism link to Sir David's killing.

"For it to be classed as a terrorist attack is scary, very scary," said Tara Wilkinson.

She said Leigh-on-Sea was a close-knit community and one where you would "never" expect a terrorist attack to occur.

"It's just such a small community, to hear this here is just awful."

Tara Wilkinson
Image caption,Tara Wilkinson said her community was "devastated" by the death of MP Sir David

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