Jo Cox, a 41-year-old British lawmaker who leaned left and served as a member of the Labour Party – and who was an outspoken supporter of refugee rights and favored opening borders to those fleeing Syria – was stabbed and shot to death in a bold Thursday attack just outside a public library near the city of Leeds.
Cox, considered a rising political star in some circles, also wanted to keep Britain in the European Union, a consideration that’s due to go to vote in the coming days.
The attacker, an as-yet unnamed 52-year-old man who was taken into custody by police, shouted “Britain First!” according to reports in the Guardian and Sky News, citing witness statements. But authorities said they don’t yet have an official motive for the assault.
Still, “Britain First” is actually the name of a group that puts on public displays and demonstrations pointing to the radical side of the Muslim faith. After the attack, the group posted a website statement that condemned the attack and clarified it “would never encourage behavior of this sort,” the Washington Post reported.
Cox was initially brought to a nearby hospital for treatment of injuries regarded as critical in nature, but died a short time later.
The assailant seemed to have been waiting for Cox to emerge from a meeting she was holding with constituents, witnesses said to various media outlets. He attacked her with a gun and a knife, continuing to stab her even as she fell to the ground, covered in blood, the Washington Post said.
Britain’s Press Association reported one witness said a dry cleaning worker whose shop was located near the scene of the attack actually tried to stop the assault. But then the gunman fired, and it was too late, the witness said.
“[The attacker] was fighting with her and wrestling with her and then the gun went off twice and then she fell between two cars and I came and saw her bleeding on the floor,” said the witness, Hithem Ben Abdallah, in the Press Association.
Cox, who leaves behind two children, was elected in May 2015. As the Washington Post noted: “In Parliament, Cox had been outspoken about the need to do more to protect civilians in Syria, and had argued in the House of Commons for Britain to accept 3,000 child refugees.”