UK lawmaker David Amess has died after being stabbed several times by an attacker during a meeting with constituents at a church in Essex in eastern England.

An undated handout photograph released by the UK Parliament shows Conservative MP for Southend West, David Amess.
An undated handout photograph released by the UK Parliament shows Conservative MP for Southend West, David Amess. (AFP)

British Conservative lawmaker David Amess has died after being stabbed during a meeting with constituents at a church in eastern England. A 25-year-old man has been arrested.

The Essex Police force said officers were called to reports of a stabbing in Leigh-on-Sea just after noon on Friday. It said “a man was arrested and a knife recovered.

“We are not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident and do not believe there is an ongoing threat to the wider public," police said.

The force said later that a man injured in the stabbing had died. It did not release his name.

The suspect is being held on suspicion of murder, police said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed heartfelt shock on the incident, lauding the lawmaker as "one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics".

"I think all our hearts are full of shock and sadness today at the loss of Sir David Amess MP, who was killed in his constituency surgery, in a church, after almost 40 years of continuous service to the people of Essex and the whole of the United Kingdom," Johnson told reporters.

Police said that counterterrorism officers were leading the investigation killing but that they had not yet determined whether it was a terrorist attack. 

They did not identify the suspect, who was held on suspicion of murder.

“The investigation is in its very early stages," Essex Police Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington said.

Attack during meeting

Sky News and others said Amess was attacked during a regular meeting with constituents at Belfairs Methodist Church in a residential area of Leigh-on-Sea, a seaside town east of London.

Aerial footage showed several ambulances and an air ambulance was waiting nearby the church.

READ MORE: Far-right extremist who killed British lawmaker jailed for life

John Lamb, a local councilor, said Amess had not been taken to hospital more than two hours after the attack and the situation was “extremely serious.”

Amess, 69, had been a member of Parliament for Southend West, which includes Leigh-on-Sea, since 1997, but has been a lawmaker since 1983.

He was a well-liked member of parliament, best known for his ceaseless campaign to have Southend declared a city.

'Horrific and deeply shocking'

Politicians from across the political spectrum expressed shock at initial reports of the stabbing. Labour Party leader Keir Starmer tweeted that it was “Horrific and deeply shocking news. Thinking of David, his family and his staff.”

Former Prime Minister David Cameron, a Conservative, tweeted: “Very alarming and worrying news reports coming from Leigh-on-Sea. My thoughts and prayers are with Sir David Amess and his family.”

Violence against British politicians is rare, but in June 2016 Labour Party lawmaker Jo Cox was fatally stabbed and shot in her northern England constituency. A far-right extremist was convicted of her murder.

Cox's widower, Brendan Cox, tweeted that “Attacking our elected representatives is an attack on democracy itself. There is no excuse, no justification. It is as cowardly as it gets.”

British lawmakers are protected by armed police when they are inside parliament, but have no such protection in their constituencies.

Amess published the times and locations of his open meetings with constituents on his website.

Two other British lawmakers have been attacked this century during their “surgeries,” regular meetings where constituents can present concerns and complaints.

Labour legislator Stephen Timms was stabbed in the stomach and injured in May 2010 by a female student radicalised by online sermons from an Al Qaeda-linked preacher.

In 2000, Liberal Democrat lawmaker Nigel Jones and his aide Andrew Pennington were attacked by a man wielding a sword during such a meeting. Pennington was killed and Jones injured in the attack in Cheltenham, England.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies