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Family of murdered MP Jo Cox pledge support to husband Brendan after 'inappropriate' behaviour

The sister of murdered MP Jo Cox says her family will support widower Brendan after he quit two charities set up in her memory after sexual assault allegations from his past resurfaced.

Ms Cox's sister, Kim Leadbeater said Mr Cox "did the right thing" in admitting "inappropriate" behaviour while he worked at Save the Children in 2015.

Mr Cox denies preying on two women while he was married to the late politician, but said: "I made mistakes and behaved in a way that caused some women hurt and offence."

He has left roles at More in Common and the Jo Cox Foundation after the Mail on Sunday published accusations made by a former colleague while they both worked at charity Save the Children in 2015.

Months later, it is alleged he forced himself on a woman during a trip to Harvard University in the US.

He claimed allegations against him were a "massive exaggeration", during an interview with the newspaper.

But he said: "At the root [of the rumours] was a sense, which is fair, that I could overstep the line."

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Ms Leadbeater described Mr Cox's resignation as "another very difficult day for our family".

She continued: "The last 20 months have been a constant roller-coaster of emotions which we are still dealing with on a daily basis.

"My priority is and always will be looking after Jo and Brendan's children and supporting my parents, who have already been through so much.

"As a family we will support Brendan as he endeavours to do the right thing by admitting mistakes he may have made in the past, and we respect him for doing so.

"We all make mistakes. Brendan is a wonderful father and I have no doubt about the happiness he brought to Jo.

"My other focus is to wholeheartedly continue the work I have begun through the More in Common movement at a local and national level and to support The Jo Cox Foundation in continuing its valuable work.

"I have a fantastic team of people who have supported me so far and I know they will continue to do so as we focus on creating a positive legacy for Jo. Thank you to everyone for your ongoing support."

Jo Cox, a Labour MP, was shot and stabbed as she arrived at her constituency surgery in Birstall, West Yorkshire by far-right terrorist Thomas Mair during the EU referendum campaign in June 2016.

I want to apologise deeply and unreservedly for my past behaviour and for the hurt and offence that I have caused.

In the aftermath of Jo's murder, I promised that I would dedicate my life to two things, firstly loving and protecting our children and secondly fighting the hatred that killed Jo.

In the last few days allegations from several years ago have resurfaced that makes concentrating on both of those tasks much more difficult.

For that reason, while away over half-term, I decided to step down from my current public roles for the time being.

While I do not accept the allegations contained in the 2015 complaint to the police in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I do acknowledge and understand that during my time at Save the Children I made mistakes and behaved in a way that caused some women hurt and offence.

This was never malicious but it was certainly inappropriate.

In the past I have focused on disputing what I felt was untrue in the allegations, but I realise now that it's more important to take full responsibility for what I have done.

I am committed to holding myself to much higher standards of personal conduct in the future.

– Statement from Brendan Cox
Jo Cox was murdered in June 2016

The Mail on Sunday claimed Mr Cox drunkenly harassed a female employee at Save the Children in London - allegedly holding her by the throat and making a lurid comment. He left his role at the charity shortly afterwards.

He conceded that there were "instances" where he made people feel uncomfortable at Save the Children which were viewed as inappropriate, adding: "I think that charge is a fair one."

He continued: "Certainly, I had too much to drink at times.

"I probably behaved in a way I thought was sort of jokey, or flirtatious. I often wasn't being serious, but that was perceived differently by others."

Speaking on ITV's Peston On Sunday, Labour MP Jess Phillips, a friend of Ms Cox, said Mr Cox was right to stand back from the charities.

"I think the truth of the matter is we live in an era where men are going to have to address (their) behaviour both previously and in the future and what I want to see, I don't like this idea that we just switch off our feelings ... I love Brendan, he's my friend," the Birmingham Yardley MP said.

"His family are friends with my family, but the fact of the matter is, is that it's not enough just to say 'oh I'm sorry', you have to show how you're going to change the way you are in the future and I think Brendan, more so than many I've seen in this area is actually trying to do that."

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Details of his alleged behaviour at Save the Children comes as charities face intense scrutiny about their handling of sexual exploitation claims.

Oxfam has been plunged into chaos after it emerged that aid workers sent to earthquake-shattered Haiti had used prostitutes in 2011 - an episode the charity is accused of covering up.

A spokesman for the Jo Cox Foundation said: "The board of the Jo Cox Foundation has accepted Brendan Cox's resignation as trustee.

"Since establishing the Jo Cox Foundation, the trustees and staff have admired the integrity, commitment and dedication that Brendan has shown in our work to create a positive legacy for Jo.

"The Jo Cox Foundation was established in September 2016 to channel the energy and determination generated by Jo's life and murder into practical efforts to advance the causes she championed.

"The trustees and staff remain committed to continuing this important work and honouring Jo's life."

In a statement, the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS), one of the recipients of funds raised by the Jo Cox Foundation said it would continue to work with the charity in the wake of Mr Cox's resignation.

“Royal Voluntary Service was honoured to be one of the charities selected by Jo’s family to receive funds from the Jo Cox Foundation that was set up after she was murdered," Catherine Johnstone, Chief Executive of RVS said.

She continued: "Working with Jo’s family and the local community, we have developed services in Jo’s former constituency of Batley & Spen, designed to reduce the loneliness Jo was so determined to tackle.

"We will continue to work with the trustees and staff at the Foundation to honour Jo’s legacy in the wake of Brendan’s resignation.”