A British lawmaker was stabbed to death on Friday in a church by a man who lunged at him at a meeting with voters from his electoral district, knifing him repeatedly.

David Amess, a 69-year-old lawmaker from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party, was attacked at around midday at a meeting at the Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, east of London.

“He was treated by emergency services but, sadly, died at the scene,” police said. “A 25-year-old man was quickly arrested after officers arrived at the scene on suspicion of murder and a knife was recovered.”

Armed police swooped on the church and detectives said they were not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident. There was no detail about the motivation for the attack.

Emergency services had fought to save his life inside the church – where a sign says “All are welcome here” – but in vain.

Colleagues from across parliament expressed their shock and paid tribute to Amess, who held regular meetings with voters on the first and third Friday of the month, saying he was diligent in his duties to his local area.

Flags in Downing Street were lowered in tribute.

Amess, married with five children, was first elected to parliament to represent Basildon in 1983, and then stood for Southend West in 1997. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth for his public service in 2015.

His website listed his main interests as “animal welfare and pro-life issues.”

He was popular with lawmakers and known for his active contributions to debates – often about issues relating to his Essex constituency or animal rights.

“He was stabbed several times,” John Lamb, a local councillor at the scene, told Reuters.

Attack on democracy

The stabbing at a meeting with constituents has echoes of a 2010 incident when Labour lawmaker Stephen Timms survived a stabbing in his constituency office, and the 2016 fatal shooting of Labour’s Jo Cox just days before the Brexit referendum.

“Attacking our elected representatives is an attack on democracy itself,” Cox’s husband Brendan said on Twitter.

“There is no excuse, no justification. It is as cowardly as it gets.”

“This brings everything back. The pain, the loss, but also how much love the public gave us following the loss of Jo. I hope we can do the same for David now.”

As grim news of the attack emerged, Prime Minister Johnson rushed back to London from a meeting in Bristol, western England. Colleagues said Amess was a gentle man and cast him as a true gentleman.

“This is the most devastating, horrific & tragic news,” former Prime Minister David Cameron said on Twitter.

“Words cannot adequately express the horror of what has happened today.”

Johnson’s wife, Carrie, said she was devastated.

“Absolutely devastating news about Sir David Amess. He was hugely kind and good,” she said on Twitter. “An enormous animal lover and a true gent. This is so completely unjust.”