76-Year-Old Arrested Over Alleged Death Threat to UK Lawmaker Days After 1 Fatally Stabbed

Wales police said on Monday that they arrested a 76-year-old man who is suspected of sending a death threat to a U.K. lawmaker, the Associated Press reported.

The arrest comes days after British Member of Parliament David Amess was stabbed to death, prompting concern over how lawmakers are protected amid increasing political tensions and extremism.

The U.K. government ordered a review of security for lawmakers following Friday's attack on Amess in Leigh-on-Sea, about 40 miles east of London. Police are holding Ali Harbi Ali, a 25-year-old British man with Somali heritage, under the Terrorism Act for murder suspicion after arresting him at the scene of the stabbing.

Though the amount of online and in-person abuse against politicians in the U.K. has risen, British lawmakers are guarded by armed police only when they are in Parliament. When in their home districts, they are not typically extended such protection, AP reported.

Labour Party lawmaker Chris Bryant, the recipient of the death threat allegedly sent by the 76-year-old man, described the political tone as "more sour now than I've known it in 20 years."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

David Amess Memorial
Wales police said on Monday that they arrested a 76-year-old man who is suspected of sending a death threat to a U.K. lawmaker, days after a member of Parliament was stabbed to death. Above, an image of British Member of Parliament David Amess is displayed opposite the Houses of Parliament in London as a memorial by supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran on October 18, 2021. Matt Dunham/AP Photo

Prime Minister Boris Johnson led a somber British Parliament on Monday in honoring the deceased lawmaker.

The tributes from shaken and grieving colleagues came as detectives tried to determine whether Amess was targeted simply because he was a legislator, or for more individual reasons. Police say the suspect may have had a "motivation linked to Islamist extremism."

The prime minister told lawmakers that "this House has lost a steadfast servant."

"Sir David was taken from us in a contemptible act of violence, striking at the core of what it is to be a member of this House and violating the sanctity both of the church in which he was killed and the constituency surgery that is so essential to our representative democracy," Johnson said, referring to the open meetings British lawmakers hold with those they represent.

The death of the popular legislator—who had served in Parliament for almost 40 years and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2015—has shocked Britain, especially its politicians. It came five years after Labour Party lawmaker Jo Cox was shot and stabbed to death by a far-right extremist. Cox was the first British lawmaker to be killed since a peace accord ended large-scale Northern Ireland violence almost 30 years earlier.

The House of Commons returned Monday from a three-week break for a session that opened with a prayer from the speaker's chaplain, Tricia Hillas, and a minute of silence. Then lawmakers from all parties stood recall Amess fondly as a hard-working legislator who never sought high office but, as Johnson put it, "simply wanted to serve the people of Essex," his home county.

Amess, 69, was a social conservative who opposed abortion, campaigned for animal rights and strongly supported Britain's exit from the European Union.

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, who often differed with Amess politically, said the late lawmaker held his beliefs "passionately but gently," and his life was a reminder that "civility matters."

After the tributes, lawmakers crossed the street from Parliament to the medieval St. Margaret's Church, for a memorial service that included prayers for those who "feel vulnerable in public service."

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said that, despite the horror of Amess' death, "the light lit by public service must never be put out."

"In the face of mindless injustice, we determine to shine it all the more brightly," said Welby, the leader of the Church of England.

While many politicians fear for their safety, most also resist putting more barriers between themselves and the public in a country where lawmakers regularly hold "surgeries" to hear their constituents' complaints and suggestions.

The killing has also renewed debate about the threat from people radicalized by Islamic extremist or far-right ideology.

Multiple media outlets have reported that the suspect was referred several years go to a government-sponsored program to steer people away from extremism but was not considered a current subject of interest by the security services.

Ali comes from a family prominent in politics in Somalia. His father, Harbi Ali Kullane, a former adviser to Somalia's prime minister, told the Sunday Times he was "traumatized" by the attack and his son's arrest.

Ali is being questioned at a police station and has not yet been charged or appeared in court. Police have until Friday to charge or release him—though that time can be extended. They are working to determine what, if any, connection he had to Amess.

Amess had campaigned for children with disabilities, women with endometriosis and—tirelessly—for the town of Southend to be made a city. To cheers in Parliament on Monday, Johnson announced that the queen had agreed to grant Southend city status.

Amess was also a member of several committees, including the All-Party Parliamentary group for Tamils, which promotes the rights of the minority ethnic group in Sri Lanka, and was chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary British-Qatar Group, which aims to build ties between the two countries. Amess visited the Gulf state just days before he was killed.

U.K. investigators so far have not found any evidence that the link to Qatar is significant.

On Monday, lawmakers and parliamentary staff left bouquets of flowers and handwritten notes in a courtyard at Parliament. Outside the Methodist church in Leigh-on-Sea, his widow, Julia, wiped away tears as she viewed the many flowers, notes and cards left by residents.

Amess' family said in a statement that they were struggling to comprehend what had happened.

"We ask people to set aside their differences and show kindness and love to all," said Julia Amess and the couple's five children. "This is the only way forward. Set aside hatred and work towards togetherness."

David Amess Memorial Service
British lawmaker David Amess was killed on Friday during a meeting with constituents at the Belfairs Methodist church, in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, England. Above, members of the Anglo-Iranian communities and supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran hold a memorial service for Amess outside the Houses of Parliament in London on October 18, 2021. Alberto Pezzali/AP Photo