Sir David Amess funeral: Southend says goodbye to much-loved MP

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Sir David Amess's heartbroken family have urged people to "set aside hatred" in a message of tolerance as they laid the MP to rest.

Crowds turned out to bid farewell to Sir David, 69, who was stabbed to death at a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on October 15.

Close friend and former Conservative MP, Ann Widdecombe, read a statement on behalf of the Amess family at the funeral, urging people to come together.

In it, they said their "hearts are shattered", but urged people to "please let some good come from this tragedy".

Mourners heard from Sir David's friend Mark Francois, who described the father-of-five as the "original Essex cheeky chappy" who would be remembered as a family man and Southend champion, devoted to his longtime constituency.

In recognition of Sir David’s long-running campaign for Southend to be made a city finding posthumous success, fellow Tory MP Mr Francois said his late friend had “won in the end”.

Sir David Amess' funeral procession drew crowds who lined the streets.

Hundreds lined the streets of Southend as a horse-drawn carriage carried his coffin, draped in the Union flag.Uniformed police officers bowed their heads as the hearse arrived and people applauded.Mr Francois praised Sir David Amess' service to his constituents during his eulogy at St Mary's Church, saying he had never forgotten his duty to his constituents.

A horse-drawn hearse takes the late Sir David Amess to his constituency office at Iveagh Hall, Leigh-on-Sea. Credit: PA

"Whatever one thinks of members of Parliament - and opinions do vary - in my experience MPs of all parties do genuinely try and help other people. However, collectively in recent years we have perhaps not always helped ourselves, and I humbly suggest today that we need to learn from that.

"But, boy, did David Amess honour the contract with his employers - and in his own inimitable style."

Mourners arrive at the funeral of Sir David Amess in Prittlewell, Southend. Credit: PA

'We are absolutely broken'

A statement that was set to be read by Ms Widdecombe at the service on behalf of the Amess family asked people to “set aside their differences and show kindness and love to all”.

The statement said: “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.

Flowers left in memory of Sir David Amess MP Credit: Dominic Lipinski, PA

“Please let some good come from this tragedy. We are absolutely broken, but we will survive and carry on for the sake of a wonderful and inspiring man."

Ms Widdecombe, a former MP and close friend of Sir David, herself told ITV News the service was intended as "a celebration of David's life".

"This is where he was at home. He loved Southend... I will always remember David as the man with the permanent grin. Nothing ever managed to wipe away that smile."

The public lines the streets outside Sir David's constituency office at Iveagh Hall, Leigh-on-Sea. Credit: PA

Charlie Frost - ITV News Anglia reporter in Southend

There was not a cloud in the sky as Southend today paused to pay its respects to its late MP.

As Sir David's coffin was unloaded from the hearse, there was a round of applause from the members of the public who had gathered outside this private service for friends and family.

Everywhere you looked were signs of Sir David’s close connection with his own community - there was a guard of honour from a local Sea Scouts group, his coffin was carried by officers from the county fire service, and most people here had a story to tell about what he meant to them.

People I’ve spoken describe him as a local MP whose priority was to stand up for his constituents. Another said simply “He was Southend” - a phrase which neatly captures the enduring bond between Sir David and the people he represented.

PM pays tribute

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the day would be an occasion for "people who knew and loved David to reflect on his amazing contribution".

"He was a guy who campaigned about things he really cared for, whether it was animal welfare, people who suffered from endometriosis, which he brought to widespread public attention or campaigning against fuel poverty," said Mr Johnson.

"He showed what you can achieve as an MP to change the lives of people up and down the country and he will be much, much missed."

In an earlier interview, Mr Johnson revealed several of his Cabinet colleagues, who were with him on an away day at the time, had broken down in tears when told about Sir David's death.

"Everybody was absolutely devastated," he told BBC Essex.

"We were all sitting around. I then got called out and got given the news.

"I had to go back in to tell Cabinet colleagues, many of whom had known David for decades, and I'm afraid several colleagues broke down in tears because it was just an appalling piece of news.

"I think we were also very shaken by the implications of what had happened, and the fact his life had been tragically ended in the way that it was."

Sir David Amess is carried out of St Mary's Church in Prittlewell, Southend, following his funeral service. Credit: PA

On Tuesday, a requiem mass will be held at Westminster Cathedral in London, where a message from the Pope will be shared.

Sir David's family requested that, rather than flowers or other tributes, donations are made to the charities that he supported.

They include The Dog's Trust, The Music Man Project, Prost8, Endometriosis UK, and the Dame Vera Lynn Memorial Statue.

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