Several cabinet ministers “broke down in tears” when they were told about the death of Sir David Amess, Boris Johnson has said ahead of the late politician’s funeral.
The 69-year-old veteran MP for Southend West was stabbed to death in his constituency surgery on October 15.
Mourners will pay their respects at a funeral service and procession in Sir David’s Essex seat this afternoon, ahead of a service at Westminster Cathedral on Tuesday.
The Prime Minister, who was on a cabinet away day in Bristol when he was told of the stabbing before dashing back to London, has now described how his ministers could barely conceal their grief.
“Everybody was absolutely devastated,” he told the BBC. “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.
“I’ve spoken to members of his family and they’ve had a very tough time, as you can imagine.”
Ahead of the funeral service, Mr Johnson paid tribute to the “much, much missed” MP, a father-of-five who was killed in a suspected terrorism attack at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea.
“His legacy really is that he will be a kind of exemplar of what a constituency MP can do,” Mr Johnson added.
Sir David, who was a devout Catholic, will receive a eulogy from his friend and colleague Mark Francois at Monday’s private ecumenical service at St Mary’s Church in Prittlewell.
The Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe is due to read a statement on behalf of the Amess family.
Following the 1pm service, a horse-drawn hearse will carry the casket on a procession through Southend.
It is due to pause outside Southend’s Civic Centre and again outside Sir David’s constituency office, Iveagh Hall, before returning to the chapel of rest.
‘Incredibly emotional day’
On Tuesday, a Requiem Mass will be held at Westminster Cathedral in London, where a message from the Pope is to be shared.
Ian Gilbert, leader of Southend Council, said Monday would be an “incredibly emotional day” and that Sir David’s family “understand there are many others in the city who knew and loved him”.