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Police look at possible right-wing extremist links to MP murder

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon (R) and Leader of Scottish Labour party Kezia Dugdale at a memorial service for Jo Cox is Glasgow
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon (R) and Leader of Scottish Labour party Kezia Dugdale at a memorial service for Jo Cox is Glasgow

Police are investigating possible links to right-wing extremism in their investigation into the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox.

West Yorkshire Police said they are working with the North East Counter Terrorism Unit as the probe into the killing of the 41-year-old continues.

The mother of two was attacked in the street outside her constituency surgery in Birstall, near Leeds in West Yorkshire, at lunchtime on Thursday.

Tommy Mair, 52, was detained shortly after the attack and remains in police custody.

West Yorkshire Police said: "A murder investigation is under way by West Yorkshire Police who are working together with the North East Counter Terrorism Unit, who will bring specialist assets in support of the inquiry.

"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.

"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."

Tributes have been paid to Mrs Cox, described by her party leader Jeremy Corbyn as someone who "stood for tolerance, justice, peace and human rights".

It has emerged the MP's last words after the attack in her home town were "my pain is too much".

The father of Mrs Cox's assistant Fazila Aswat has described how his daughter tried to comfort her after the attack, which left her bleeding copiously.

"She tried to help her, she tried to hit (the attacker) with her handbag but he tried to go at her. People came so he followed them and he came back again and shot her again twice," former Labour councillor Ghulam Maniyar told ITV News.

"She said her injury was so bad, and she was in her arms. There was lots of blood. She said 'Jo, get up' but she said 'No, my pain is too much, Fazila'. And I think those were the last words Jo spoke. She could not do anything else. She tried to comfort her."

The attack on Mrs Cox is believed to have been "an isolated, but targeted" one, the force said, adding that they believe the person responsible was acting alone.

Police said the detained man has been cleared by medical staff to be held in detention and interviewed by detectives.

The force said part of its investigation will be to establish how he was able to carry an unlawfully-held firearm.

An eyewitness to the killing said he heard the attacker shout "put Britain first".

It has emerged a Thomas Mair has been named in a newsletter produced by a right-wing organisation which has called for a return to apartheid-style government in South Africa and been linked to the Neo-Nazi organisation National Alliance (NA) dating back to 1999.

Mair's brother Scott said he had a "history of mental illness, but he has had help" and both he and neighbours said he did not really speak about politics.

Explaining what happened outside Mrs Cox's surgery on Thursday, police said the MP had just arrived at the library where she had a planned constituency meeting when she was attacked.

They said a 77-year-old man who "bravely intervened" to help, remains in a stable condition in hospital after being injured in the stomach.

The National Police Chiefs' Council said police forces are contacting MPs around the country to give security advice following the death.

Defiant MPs have said they will go ahead with constituency surgeries in the wake of the horrific murder.

In a visit earlier on Friday to the West Yorkshire town where Mrs Cox was killed, David Cameron issued a plea for tolerance in British political life as he joined Jeremy Corbyn to pay tribute.

The sombre-faced Prime Minister, Labour leader and Commons Speaker John Bercow bowed their heads as they laid bouquets at the foot of Birstall's Joseph Priestley memorial, adding to the impromptu shrine of flowers and messages which has grown up over the past day.

Across the market square from where they stood, police tape still cordoned off the spot where the former aid worker was killed in what Mr Corbyn described as "an attack on democracy".

The Prime Minister said the whole nation was "rightly shocked" at Mrs Cox's death, and called for people to "value, and see as precious, the democracy we have on these islands". Politics was about public service and MPs wanted to "make the world a better place", he said.

Mr Cameron added: "Where we see hatred, where we find division, where we see intolerance, we must drive it out of our politics and out of our public life and out of our communities.

"If we truly want to honour Jo, then what we should do is recognise that her values - service, community, tolerance - the values she lived by and worked by, those are the values that we need to redouble in our national life in the months and years to come."

Both the Remain and Vote Leave sides have suspended national campaigning in light of the death of Mrs Cox, who entered Parliament as MP for Batley and Spen in last year's general election.

Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have announced that they will not contest the by-election resulting from her death, giving Labour a probable free run at retaining the Westminster seat which she won with a majority of 6,057 last year.

In an apparent reference to the referendum campaign, German chancellor Angela Merkel urged British politicians to "draw limits" around the language used in political debate, warning that otherwise "radicalisation will become unstoppable".

Speaking alongside the Prime Minister in Birstall, Mr Corbyn described Mrs Cox as "an exceptional, wonderful, very talented woman, taken from us in her early 40s when she had so much to give and so much of her life ahead of her".

He paid tribute to the "truly wonderful" statement made by Mrs Cox's husband Brendan, which he said was a message that "in her memory we should try to conquer hatred with love and with respect".

Media from across the world had gathered in Birstall market square to witness the rival party leaders stand shoulder to shoulder in memory of Mrs Cox.

A group including Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff, Manchester Withington MP Jeff Smith and Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell wiped tears from their cheeks and shared an embrace as they laid flowers near the scene of the murder.