The family of murdered Sir David Amess have urged people to be tolerant and “set aside hatred” as counter-terrorism officers investigate the Conservative MP’s killing.
In a statement released through the Metropolitan Police, Sir David’s family said they are “absolutely broken” after he was attacked while meeting constituents at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on Friday.
Paying tribute to the MP, who was married with four daughters and a son, the family said: “Strong and courageous is an appropriate way to describe David. He was a patriot and a man of peace.
“So, we ask people to set aside their differences and show kindness and love to all. This is the only way forward. Set aside hatred and work towards togetherness.
“Whatever one’s race, religious or political beliefs, be tolerant and try to understand.
“As a family, we are trying to understand why this awful thing has occurred. Nobody should die in that way. Nobody.”
Tributes have flooded in from parliamentarians from across the political spectrum as well as constituents, and the family said these had given them “strength”.
“The family would like to thank everyone for the wonderful, wonderful tributes paid to David following his cruel and violent death. It truly has brought us so much comfort,” they said.
“The support shown by friends, constituents and the general public alike has been so overwhelming.”
A 25-year-old man, understood by the PA news agency to be Ali Harbi Ali, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of Sir David’s murder and remains in police custody.
He has been detained under section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and a warrant of further detention, which allows detectives to hold the suspect until October 22, was granted at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Saturday.
The Met earlier said its investigation had “revealed a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism”.
The Home Office would not comment on reports that the suspect has the same details as a man previously referred to Prevent, the Government’s anti-terror scheme.
Officers have searched addresses in London thought to be linked to the counter-terrorism investigation.
Two police constables were seen guarding a property in Lady Somerset Road, Kentish Town, north London, throughout Saturday as officers set up a forensic tent and later carried several large bags earlier on Sunday.
And neighbours said officers had searched a home in Croydon, south London, where the suspect was believed to have lived several years earlier.
One neighbour, who did not want to be named, said the Lady Somerset Road property, a Victorian terrace house that has been split up into a flat and a maisonette, consisted of a private property and a council-owned home.
She said she believed officers are searching the council-owned maisonette.
She told the PA news agency: “We knew the family quite well as superficial neighbours. Very nice family, the mum was very, very nice.
“They’d say hello in the street, that kind of thing.
“A mother lives there with several boys, my husband believes there’s three boys. The youngest has got to be in his 20s. I never saw a father there.
“They’ve been here for years, we’ve lived here for 20 years and they’ve been here longer than us.”
She added the family have not been seen in the area for a while.
“I’m completely, utterly shocked and surprised that police have started searches here,” she said.
“You just don’t expect it to be next door. This is a lovely road, it’s charming.”
Neighbours also described seeing plain-clothed and uniformed officers arriving at a house in Cranmer Road, Croydon, on Friday and carrying out searches until Saturday.
A third address in Bounds Green Road, north London, was also visited by police on Sunday.
One neighbour, who also did not want to be named, in Cranmer Road told PA: “When I came back on the Friday, police were everywhere. They arrived about 2.30pm and stayed until late last night.
“They were going in and out, in and out, taking things from the house in sealed bags. It was uniformed police and ones in suits too.”
She added: “The family are a really nice family, really quiet, very kind. They’ve lived there for years – we’ve been here about 16 years and they were here longer than us.
“A boy who used lived there has the same name as the man that was arrested. He moved out about three, four years ago.
“A woman lives there now with a boy and two girls. She did have a husband who lived with her but he left years ago – she told me that he went back to Somalia a long time ago.”
Describing the family, she added: “They’ve always kept themselves to themselves, never really interacted with anyone apart from I think, one of their other neighbours.
“They’ve been helping him with his medication and food shopping during lockdown. They’re just really nice people.”
Another neighbour told the MailOnline the property was a childhood home of the boy with the same name as Ali.
“He worked for the health service – he told me so – but in what capacity I don’t know. I think one of his sisters also works for the NHS. They are a lovely family, it’s such a shock,” the neighbour told the MailOnline.
“His mum and sisters helped my wife and I during lockdown, they went and got my shopping when I needed it and my medication. They’d do anything to help us.”
Earlier on Sunday, Home Secretary Priti Patel said police protection for MPs at constituency meetings is among the options being considered in the wake of Sir David’s death, which came little more than five years after the Labour MP for Batley and Spen, Jo Cox, was murdered on her way to a constituency surgery.
She said a “whole spectrum” of measures was being considered to address safety concerns in the wake of the killing.
Sir David’s family urged the public to support Sir David’s causes, including a campaign to make Southend-on-Sea a city and establish a memorial to the late entertainer Dame Vera Lynn.
The statement came shortly after dozens of mourners attended a special church service in memory of Sir David on Sunday evening.
Residents gathered at St Michael’s and All Angels church, opposite the late Southend West MP’s constituency office in Leigh-on-Sea, to pay their respects and share their memories of Sir David.
Mark Churchward, who spoke on behalf of a network of Southend church leaders, described Sir David, a devout Catholic, as “a man of honour, a man of compassion and a man of faith”, who dealt with everyone respectfully.