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Jane O'Brien reports for BBC News
"Friends and colleagues paid tribute"
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Carole Walker reports for BBC News
Violence is rare, though threats are not"
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Saturday, 29 January, 2000, 18:08 GMT
MP pays tribute to sword victim

Scene Police are to question a local man about the attack

An MP injured in a frenzied sword attack has paid tribute to a colleague who died as a "giant of a person."

Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones is said to be in a "comfortable and stable" condition in hospital following surgery overnight.

He was a giant of a person, who devoted his whole adult life to serving the community
Nigel Jones
He suffered cuts to his arms and hands, as he fended off blows from the attacker at the party's office in St George Street, Cheltenham, on Friday afternoon.

Liberal Democrat councillor Andrew Pennington, 39, died from multiple stab wounds to his chest and abdomen as he tried to protect Mr Jones.

Mr Jones paid a glowing tribute to his dead colleague.

"I am devastated by the death of my right-hand man and close friend Andrew Pennington," he said in a statement from his bed in Cheltenham General Hospital.

"He may not have been tall, but he was a giant of a person, who devoted his whole adult life to serving the community.

"Nobody could have worked harder than Andy to help people.

'Two-foot blade'

"Nobody could have been better to work with. His death is an incalculable loss. I send my warmest condolences to his family and thousands of friends."

Detectives have revealed that the attacker was carrying a sword, which had a two-foot long blade.

"My husband underwent an operation to repair a tendon to a finger last night," Mr Jones' wife Katy said on Saturday.

"He had a fairly comfortable night and is expected to leave (Cheltenham General) hospital in a day or two and make a full recovery."

Nigel Jones Nigel Jones: Recovering in hospital
Detectives are questioning a 49-year-old local man after the attack which occurred during a routine constituency surgery.

A police spokesman said: "A man is still waiting to be questioned and is not likely to be charged today.

"Inquiries are continuing and we have no idea as yet about the motive of the attack."

Forensic scientists are continuing to examine the scene of the murder.

The MP raised the alarm at 1630 GMT on Friday, after staggering out of the office where Mr Pennington had died.

An armed police response unit attended the scene, and a man was arrested shortly afterwards. A weapon was recovered.

'Appalling attack'

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes on Saturday called for a national debate on violence, and a fresh look at security for those in public life.

"This horrific incident has to be seen against a background of rising figures for violent crime," he said.

"While there should be proper protection for everyone in society, public figures appear particularly vulnerable.

"The tragedy in Cheltenham follows the killing of (TV presenter) Jill Dando and the attack on (ex-Beatle) George Harrison."

Conservative MP Alan Duncan said Mr Pennington should be honoured for his bravery.

"We all live with an element of risk," said Mr Duncan. "But from what we can see, it would appear that Councillor Pennington did something quite heroic.

"I hope he will be considered for the appropriate, posthumous civilian award for bravery."

Charles Kennedy: Shock at the attack
Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy is to visit Mr Jones in hospital on Sunday, Hereford Lib-Dem MP Paul Keetch said.

He added: "It has just started to sink in with him his family and with us what has happened. He is bearing up after surgery and is well on the road to recovery."

Mr Kennedy had earlier described the attack as "a wicked act".

"It is tragic that an MP and his staff, carrying out their duties, should be subjected to an appalling attack of this nature," he said.

Mr Pennington, of Hesters Way Road, Cheltenham, was first elected to the county council 15 years ago.

Neighbours described him as a "good Samaritan figure" who would go out of his way to help those in the community.

Fellow Gloucestershire county councillor and former Cheltenham mayor, Brian Cassin, said Mr Pennington had a "very kind side".

Mr Pennington, he said, had cared for a girlfriend who suffered from crippling multiple sclerosis until she died about eight years ago.

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See also:
29 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Attack prompts MPs to rethink security
28 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
MPs condemn 'senseless tragedy'
28 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Nigel Jones: A constituency man

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