As tributes pour in for British lawmaker Jo Cox, new information is emerging about potential extremist group ties held for years by the suspected killer of the “champion of refugees” and humanitarian who “fought for a better world.”
Cox, a Labour Party MP and 41-year-old mother of two, died Thursday after being shot and stabbed while meeting with her constituents in Birstall, West Yorkshire.
According to Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn, Cox was killed by a “well of hatred.” Corbyn joined Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday to pay tribute to Cox in Birstall.
The attack occurred one week ahead of the so-called Brexit referendum, when Britons will say whether or not they wish to remain in the European Union. The death of pro-EU Cox prompted both the official Leave and Remain campaigns to be halted for a second day on Friday.
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Witnesses reportedly heard the attacker shout “Britain first,” perhaps a reference to the far-right, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim party.
The suspect has been identified in multiple media reports as 52-year-old Thomas Mair, a constituent of Cox. He is now in police custody. They have not yet cited any motive.
Neighbors describe Mair as a loner, while Mair himself also spoke to a local paper six years ago of suffering from mental health issues.
According to the U.S.-based Southern Poverty Law Center, (SPLC):
In addition, according to reporting by the UK’s Daily Telegraph, Mair was also a subscriber to the South African magazine S. A. Patriot, which was published by the pro-apartheid White Rhino Club.
Such ties could suggest a connection to the fatal attack on Cox. As Foreign Policy In Focus columnist Conn Hallinan wrote, “The awkwardly named ‘Brexit’ has stirred up a witches’ brew of xenophobia, racism, and nationalism.” The Washington Post reports on this backdrop as well:
USA Today notes that the last time a serving member of the UK Parliament was killed was in 1990, “when Conservative lawmaker Ian Gow died after the Irish Republican Army placed a booby-trap bomb under his car outside his English home”