Steve Allen 4am - 7am
'Our hearts are shattered': Mourners gather for funeral of Southend MP Sir David Amess
22 November 2021, 15:25 | Updated: 22 November 2021, 15:31
Mourners gathered for the funeral of Sir David Amess in Southend today, as the Conservative MP's family pleaded for people to "set aside hatred".
Sir David was stabbed to death last month while holding a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea.
The father-of-five's coffin, draped in a Union Jack flag, was carried by pall bearers from Southend Fire Service into St Mary's Church, Prittlewell, on Monday afternoon.
Members of the public lining the streets outside the church broke into spontaneous applause as the pall bearers made their way along the churchyard path.
Members of 3rd Chalkwell Sea Scouts, the Royal Naval Association Standard Bearer and the 1312 Royal Air Force Air Cadet Standard lined the entrance to the church.
Sir David's friend, former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe, read a statement from the veteran Southend West MP's family, thanking people for the "wonderful, wonderful tributes paid to David following his cruel and violent death".
The family said in the statement: "The support shown by friends, constituents and the general public alike has been so overwhelming. As a family, it has given us strength.
"We have realised from tributes paid that there was far, far more to David than even we, those closest to him, knew. We are enormously proud of him."
The family continued: "Our hearts are shattered.
"However, there was still so much David wanted to do... this is not the end of Sir David Amess MP.
"It is the next chapter and, as a family, we ask everyone to support the many charities he worked with."
The statement added: "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.
"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."
Friend and fellow Essex MP Mark Francois praised Sir David's service to his constituents during his eulogy.
He told mourners: "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."
Following the funeral service, pall bearers carried Sir David's coffin to a horse-drawn hearse for a procession around Southend.
Hundreds of people gathered outside Southend's Civic Centre to pay their respects as the hearse, led by four black horses, paused in front of it.
Uniformed police officers bowed their heads as the hearse arrived, with members of the public breaking into applause.