Murdered MP Sir David Amess's family have pleaded with the public for unity as the late politician is laid to rest in his Southend constituency.
Mourners have lined the streets to pay their respects to the 69-year-old Conservative MP, who was stabbed to death while holding a constituency surgery at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea on October 15.
The coffin of the veteran MP for Southend West, Essex, was draped in a Union flag, was brought to the St Mary's churchyard entrance in a hearse driven at walking pace this afternoon.
Members of the public clapped as pallbearers from Southend Fire Service carried the murdered MP's coffin into the church.
Following the 1pm service, a horse-drawn hearse will carry the father of five's casket on a procession through Southend.
In an emotional statement to be read by MP Ann Widdecombe on behalf of Sir David's family – his wife Julia and four daughters – said their "hearts are shattered" and asked people to "set aside their differences and show kindness and love to all".
"This is the only way forward. Set aside hatred and work towards togetherness," it continued.
"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.
"We ask at this time that the family's privacy be respected so that we can grieve in private."
This morning, Mark Francois, MP for Rayleigh and Wickford and close friend of Sir David, said when he arrived at the church: "I think today is an opportunity for the people of Southend to come together as a community to express their grief and sorrow for the loss of Sir David.
"The family have been greatly consoled from the outpouring of sympathy. He was my best friend in parliament.
"We were very close and if I’m honest, today is very emotional for me but I hope when I do my eulogy I will do justice.
"He was my friend but also a loving husband, father and fine parliamentarian. One of the privileges of knowing him as you never knew what he was going to do next."
The man accused of killing Sir David, Ali Harbi Ali, 25, is charged with murder and the preparation of terrorist acts, and will stand trial next year.
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