Man due in court over murder of British lawmaker Jo Cox

Cox’s killing has shocked the nation, uniting politicians and leading to the suspension of hostilities.

British MP Jo Cox was attacked as she prepared to hold a meeting with constituents in Birstall. Picture: Facebook.

LONDON - A 52-year-old man was due in court on Saturday accused of the murder of British lawmaker Jo Cox in an attack that has brought campaigning for next week's referendum on European Union membership to a standstill.

Thomas Mair is charged with killing Cox, 41, a member of the leftist opposition Labour Party and supporter of Britain staying in the EU, who was shot and stabbed in the street in her electoral district in northern England on Thursday.

Cox, married with two young children, was preparing to hold a regular session to give advice to her constituents.

A 77-year-old man who intervened to try to protect Cox is in hospital after suffering a serious abdominal injury.

Mair, who lives in the town of Birstall, in Yorkshire, where Cox was killed, will appear at London's Westminster Magistrates Court charged with murder, causing grievous bodily harm, and possession of a firearm and another offensive weapon.

Cox's killing has shocked the nation, uniting politicians and leading to the suspension of hostilities in what had become increasingly bitter campaigning ahead of the 23 June referendum on Britain's EU membership.

On Friday, Prime Minister David Cameron joined Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in laying flowers in Birstall.

"It is a vile act that has killed her," Corbyn said.

Cameron has agreed to recall parliament on Monday to allow lawmakers to pay tributes to the popular Member of Parliament (MP), who was only elected in 2015.

The murder has sparked debate in Britain, which has strict gun controls, about the safety of lawmakers, the heightened tempo of political confrontation and whether it would affect the outcome of the EU vote.

CAMPAIGNS ON HOLD

Both sides in the referendum contest have put on hold their national campaigns until at least Sunday.

Polls have suggested the vote hangs in the balance, but in the last week had indicated that the campaign to leave had been taking the lead.

A telephone survey by BMG for Scotland's The Herald newspaper on Saturday showed the "In" camp on 53 percent and "Out" on 47 percent, although a separate online poll by BMG showed Out leading by 10 points, with 55 percent support compared to In's 45 percent.

Both polls were carried out before the killing of Cox.

Those wanting to stay in the EU can count on the support of many of Britain's biggest businesses, most economists and foreign leaders such as US President Barack Obama, who spoke to Cox's husband on Friday to offer condolences on behalf of the American people.

The International Monetary Fund, which has previously warned that Britain and the world economy could be hit by a so-called Brexit, said on Saturday an exit could leave Britain's economy more than 5 percent smaller by 2019.

However, the "Out" campaign's message that EU membership is responsible for a loss of political control as well as uncontrolled immigration has appeared to have struck a chord with many Britons.

Both sides have accused each other of making up facts to support their arguments, and the debates had become more heated and personal in the days leading up to Cox's death, with London Mayor Sadiq Khan telling Sky News politics had become "poisonous".

LAWMAKERS FEARS

Cox had arrived in Birstall for a "surgery" in a library with members of the public, a one-to-one meeting much like when a patient consults a doctor.

In Westminster, where lawmakers do much of their work in parliament, armed police patrol the entrances, corridors and halls but there is often no security in their home electoral districts, or constituencies.

The last British lawmaker to have been killed was Ian Gow, who died after an Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomb exploded under his car at his home in 1990.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that women MPs had repeatedly raised concerns about their security with Cameron's office, with one writing to say if it was not improved there would be a "tragic fatality".

Police have said they had reiterated advice and guidance to MPs, some of whom have canceled surgeries after Cox's death.

Leaders across Europe and the world have expressed shock at the killing of Cox, a former charity worker whose job took her to countries such as Afghanistan and Darfur.