June 17, 2016 / 12:56 PM / 4 years ago

Britons leave flowers and messages as they mourn slain lawmaker

LONDON (Reuters) - Britons left floral tributes and heartfelt messages in London and Yorkshire on Friday as they reflected on the shocking death of lawmaker Jo Cox, shot dead in her constituency a day earlier.

People look at tributes left for Labour Member of Parliament Jo Cox in Parliament Square, London, Britain June 17, 2016 REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Outside parliament, mourners and tourists surveyed the dozens of bouquets laid in a show of respect for the 41-year-old mother of two, a former aid worker who became a legislator only last year.

At her London home, a houseboat on the River Thames, friends had fashioned the barge into a work of art, arranging candles, peonies, lilies, roses and sunflowers into a spread of colour on the deck.

Cox, who had been an active supporter of the campaign for Britain to stay in the EU ahead of next week’s referendum, was attacked after a meeting with residents 200 miles (320 km) away in Birstall, West Yorkshire. A man was subsequently arrested.

Mourners gathered in the market place there to leave flowers on the steps of a statue of the town’s most famous son, Joseph Priestley, the discoverer of oxygen. One message read simply: “Why? Rest in peace Jo”.

The death of Cox left Britain’s increasingly bitter and angry EU referendum debate in limbo after both sides suspended their campaigns.

That was a relief for Penny Windsor, 38, and her four-year-old daughter who laid a bright pink gerbera in Parliament Square, home to statues of political icons like Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela.

Windsor said she felt compelled to visit because of the “dirty” tenor of the referendum debate.

    “I think everything’s gone a bit crazy lately. It’s important for us to show that the country’s got more compassion than people realise and ... to show support for what (she) stood for.”

Some of the handwritten messages also hinted at regret over the divisive nature of referendum debate.

    “We are not Remain/Leave, Tory, Labour or Lib Dem tonight. We are Britons with a belief in parliament and democracy,” one read.

Members of the public visiting Westminster to pay their respects were also given marker pens to leave messages on a large canvas, alongside the tributes from Cox’s parliamentary colleagues.

Justine Greening, Britain’s minister for international development and a political opponent of Cox’s Labour Party, wrote: “From one proud Yorkshire lass to another. I hope that your legacy in parliament will be as long as your time here was short.”

A book of condolence was opened by Cox’s neighbours at the moorings on the riverbank, where the family home is one of more than a dozen boats forming a floating village just downstream from Tower Bridge.

“Your inspirational energy will live on and on. You will be sorely and deeply missed by the community, many communities,” read one message simply signed “Julie.”

Reporting by Sarah Young, Andy Bruce and Paul Sandle; editing by Stephen Addison

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