LONDON — British lawmaker David Amess was stabbed to death Friday while holding a regular meeting with constituents, police said, in a killing that has shaken the country.
Amess, 69, was attacked at a Methodist church in Leigh-on-Sea, a coastal town about 30 miles east of London, according to his office.
Essex Police said they have arrested a man, aged 25, on suspicion of murder and recovered a knife.
Amess, who is survived by his wife, Julia Arnold, and their five children, was praised as a committed public servant and “one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement later Friday.
“David was a man who believed passionately in this country and in its future, and we’ve lost today a fine public servant and much loved friend and colleague,” Johnson said.
The incident carried echoes of 2016 when Britain was rocked by the murder of Labour lawmaker Jo Cox by a far-right extremist. Cox was shot and stabbed in the street in Birstall, a village in north England, where she had been due to hold meetings with constituents.
Officers arrived at the scene just after midday local time (7 a.m. ET) and found Amess injured, Essex Police said in a statement. “He was treated by emergency services but, sadly, died at the scene,” it said.
Photographs from the scene Friday showed police holding automatic rifles and wearing body armor guarding the door of the church, which was behind police tape. At least two police cars and two ambulances were at the scene.
Essex Police have appealed for anyone to contact them who may have captured the incident on doorbell cameras or dash-cams.
Lawmakers from across the political spectrum reacted in horror.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid posted he was “devastated to learn of Sir David Amess’ murder.”
Michael Gove, a senior member of Prime Minister Johnson’s government, described the news as “heart-breakingly sad. Just terrible, terrible news.” He described Amess as “a good and gentle man, he showed charity and compassion to all, his every word and act were marked by kindness.”
Carrie Johnson, the prime minister’s wife, tweeted that Amess “was hugely kind and good.”
“Absolutely devastating news,” she wrote, calling him “an enormous animal lover and a true gent.”
Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, tweeted, “Horrific and deeply shocking news. Thinking of David, his family and his staff.”
Brendan Cox, the husband of the Labour lawmaker murdered in 2016, wrote on Twitter, “My thoughts and love are with David’s family. They are all that matter now. This brings everything back.”
The speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, said that following Amess’ death he would be launching a review into lawmakers’ safety and security.
“This is an incident that will send shockwaves across the parliamentary community and the whole country,” he said in a statement. Flags across the parliamentary estate would be lowered to half-staff, he added.
In the years since Cox’s murder and the highly divisive Brexit referendum, British lawmakers have reported receiving a rising number of death threats, particularly on social media.
In 2010, Labour lawmaker Stephen Timms survived a stabbing in his constituency office. Though none shook British politics like Cox’s murder.
Amess wrote a book, “Ayes & Ears: A Survivor’s Guide to Westminster,” published last year, in which he described how Cox’s death had impacted his life day to day.
Most lawmakers “have modified or changed the way they interact with the general public,” he wrote.
He described how he and colleagues regularly check their locks, and some have security cameras installed. But the biggest change, Amess said, was how they have approached the regular meetings with constituents, known as “surgeries,” the type of meeting where he was killed Friday.
“The British tradition has always been that members of Parliament always make themselves available for constituents to meet them face-to-face at their surgeries,” he wrote. “Now advice has been given to be more careful when accepting appointments. We are advised never to see people alone, we must be careful when opening post and we must ensure that our offices are properly safe and secure.”
Amess first became a member of Parliament in 1983 and has represented the constituency of Southend West since 1997. He was given a knighthood in 2015 for political and public service.
Amess was a staunch supporter of the Brexit campaign that saw Britain exit the European Union.
He was a devout Catholic, and supported animal welfare issues and was anti-abortion. This March, he asked the Johnson in Parliament to do more to combat knife crime after one of his constituents, aged 18, was stabbed to death.
Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said Amess had supported the British charity “for decades” and was “committed to our cause and to his public service.”
U.K. lawmaker stabbed to death while holding meetings with voters is written by Alexander Smith and Segilola Arisekola and Matthew Mulligan and Bianca Britton and Caroline Radnofsky and Chantal Da Silva for www.nbcnews.com