British police say right-wing extremism is an important line of inquiry in the murder of MP Jo Cox after a man with suspected neo-Nazi links and a history of mental illness was charged over the killing.
Mrs Cox, 41, a supporter of Britain staying in the EU, was shot and stabbed on Thursday by a man who witnesses say shouted “Britain first” in her electoral district in West Yorkshire.
Sole suspect Thomas Mair has been charged with murder and will appear in court later today.
West Yorkshire Police’s Detective Superintendent Nick Wallen said Mair, 52, had been charged with a number of offences related to Mrs Cox’s death.
“We have now charged a man with murder, grievous bodily harm, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence and possession of an offensive weapon,” he said.
Mair will appear at Westminster Magistrates Court later today.
Mrs Cox’s murder has left Britain in shock, with campaigning for next week’s referendum on European Union membership suspended as a mark of respect.
The Queen has written a letter of condolence to Cox’s husband and on Friday members of the public and MPs laid flowers outside the Houses of Parliament.
Others put flowers on the houseboat on the River Thames where Cox had lived with her husband and two young children, aged three and five.
Counter-terrorism officers are involved in the investigation.
“We are aware of the speculation within the media in respect of the suspect’s link to mental health services and this is a clear line of inquiry which we are pursuing,” West Yorkshire Police Temporary Chief Constable Dee Collins said.
“We are also aware of the inference within the media of the suspect being linked to right-wing extremism which is again a priority line of inquiry which will help us establish the motive for the attack on Jo.”
Britain First, a far-right nationalist group, denied any links with Mair but a US civil rights group said he had been associated with a neo-Nazi organisation.
“It is a vile act that has killed her,” Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party which Cox represented, said as he laid flowers in Birstall with Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday.
“We will not allow those people that spread hatred and poison to divide our society.”
The killing prompted campaigning to be suspended for the June 23 EU referendum, the tone of which has become ugly and included bitter personal recriminations as well as furious debate of issues such as immigration and the economy.
The murder sparked debate about the safety of politicians, the heightened tempo of political confrontation and whether the killing would affect the outcome of the referendum.
Cameron has agreed to recall parliament on Monday in tribute to former aid worker Cox who was considered an outstanding member of the new intake of Labour parliamentarians.
The implied probability of a vote to remain in the EU rose to 67 per cent, up from 65 per cent on Thursday, according to Betfair odds. Some investors suggested sympathy for Cox could boost the Remain campaign which opinion polls indicate had fallen behind Leave.
The Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), a civil rights group based in Alabama, said on its website it had obtained records showing a Thomas Mair had links with the neo-Nazi organisation National Alliance (NA) dating back to 1999.
The SPLC posted images showing what it said were purchase orders for books bought by Mair from the NA’s publishing arm, including a manual on how to build a pistol.
Mair’s brother said Mair had not expressed strong political views.
“He has a history of mental illness but he has had help,” his brother, Scott Mair, said.
“My brother is not violent and is not all that political. I don’t even know who he votes for.”
Neighbours described a man who had lived in the same house for at least 40 years and helped locals weed their flowerbeds and inquired after their pets.