Watch: Southend pays tribute to MP Sir David Amess
Hundreds of mourners have lined the streets to pay their respects to Sir David Amess.
The Conservative MP’s funeral took place on Monday, a month after he was stabbed to death while hosting a constituency surgery.
In a eulogy at Monday’s private ecumenical service at St Mary’s Church in Prittlewell, Sir David's friend and colleague, Conservative MP Mark Francois, called him "a bit of a legend".
The father-of-five was stabbed to death while holding a constituency surgery at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea on 15 October.
Sir David’s coffin, draped in a union flag, was brought to the St Mary’s churchyard entrance in a hearse driven at walking pace.
Pall bearers from Southend Fire Service carried the coffin the short distance to the church as they were saluted by members of 3rd Chalkwell Sea Scouts.
Members of the public who lined the streets outside the church broke into spontaneous applause as the pall bearers made their way along the churchyard path.
After the service, Sir David's coffin was placed in a horse-drawn hearse for a procession through Southend, scheduled to pause outside Southend’s Civic Centre and again outside Sir David’s constituency office, Iveagh Hall, before returning to the chapel of rest.
On Tuesday, a Requiem Mass will be held at Westminster Cathedral in London, where a message from the Pope is to be shared.
Francois told mourners: “Our electors employ us to represent them in a contract renewable every few years.
“We work for them and not the other way around, and no-one was ever more conscious of that than David Amess.
“But, boy, did David Amess honour the contract with his employers – and in his own inimitable style.
“He was the original Essex cheeky chappy. In short, David Amess had more front than Brighton.
“He was deeply honoured to be knighted by Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor.
“He subsequently celebrated by hiring a lightweight suit of armour and turning up to the mayor of Southend’s annual reception on a horse.
“When he was asked what he thought he was doing, he simply replied: ‘I’m a knight’.”
After his death, it was announced that Southend will be awarded city status, something that Sir David had long campaigned for.
Francois said: “He put Basildon firmly on the map and he worked tirelessly for Southend.
“In the end, I think his constituents loved him for it.
“Just look at the turnout here today in this beautiful house of God, which, before long, will form part of the city of Southend – forever.
“So, he won in the end. Some would say, including me, that David was a bit of a legend really.”
The former minister also recalled how Sir David had helped break the world record for the most centenarians at one lunch during an event in Southend, recorded an album with Bananarama and had a boiled sweet blessed by the Pope.
Finishing his tribute, Francois said: “The David Amess I knew never yielded on an important point of principle to anyone, and so neither shall we.
“Despite this awful tragedy, we are going to keep calm and carry on, because I earnestly believe that is exactly what he would have wanted us to do.
“So, we come to say farewell, or perhaps it is adieu, to Sir David Amess – a wonderful husband and father to Lady Julia and their children, a fine parliamentarian and an absolutely brilliant constituency MP.
“Whatever the weaknesses of Parliament, David Amess was the living embodiment of all its strengths.
“You see, ladies and gentlemen, in the end he really was, quite literally, a jolly good fellow. And so, I am sure, say all of us.”
In a statement read out by Sir David’s friend and former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe, his family said: “This is the only way forward. 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.
“Our hearts are shattered.
“However, there was still so much David wanted to do – this we know from the events of the last few days.
“So, 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.”
Earlier, prime minister Boris Johnson revealed that several members of his Cabinet broke down in tears when he told them the news that Sir David had been killed.
Johnson had been on a Cabinet away day when he learned of Sir David’s death.
He told BBC Essex on Monday: “Everybody was absolutely devastated. 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.”
In a separate interview on Monday, Johnson told Sky News the funeral is “a chance for everybody who knew and loved David to reflect on his amazing contribution to politics, to the people of Essex, to Southend”.
Johnson said: “He was a guy who campaigned about things he really cared for, whether it was animal welfare, people who suffered from endometriosis, which he brought to widespread public attention, or campaigning against fuel poverty.
“He showed what you can achieve as an MP to change lives of people up and down the country and he will be much much missed.”
Johnson also paid tribute to Sir David’s “posthumously successful” campaign to achieve city status for Southend.
Sir David’s family have requested that, in lieu of flowers or other tributes, donations are made to the charities that he supported through a JustGiving page.
These include The Dog’s Trust, The Music Man Project, Prost8, Endometriosis UK and the Dame Vera Lynn Memorial Statue.
Ali Harbi Ali, 25, from Kentish Town, north London, has been charged with Sir David’s murder. A provisional date for his trial has been set for 7 March next year.
Watch: Boris Johnson pays tribute to Sir David Amess ahead of his funeral