Leeds & West Yorkshire

Jo Cox murder: MP's aides talk of 'surreal' loss of friend

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Media captionFazila and Sandra have spoken about the late Batley and Spen MP for the first time

Murdered MP Jo Cox's assistants, who were with her when she was killed, have spoken about coping with the "surreal" loss of both a colleague and friend.

Fazila Aswat and Sandra Major were leaving a car with the MP ahead of a surgery in Birstall, West Yorkshire, in June when the MP was shot and stabbed.

Mrs Major said the MP tried to protect them, even while she was under attack.

Ms Aswat, Mrs Cox's office manager, said witnessing such an incident "can't not change your life".

On Wednesday, a man was jailed for life after being convicted of the 41-year-old Labour MP's murder.

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Image caption Jo Cox was Labour MP for the Batley and Spen constituency in West Yorkshire

Speaking to BBC Look North, Ms Aswat said: "I think in the aftermath of what happened it was very difficult to find anything good about that situation, but actually what I take away from that is Jo wasn't on her own.

"That's a massive thing for me now, where I console myself with, 'she wasn't on her own, she was with two people that very much loved and cared for her'".

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Mrs Major, her senior case worker, said: "I think the fact that Fazila and I were both with Jo on the day and have that shared experience has been a great help and comfort to us.

"She went to all those war-torn places of the world, and then she got killed in Birstall. That's why it's all so surreal and so hard to believe that it ever happened."

Ms Aswat said: "On a personal level, you're coping with the loss of a friend.

"On a professional level, you're mourning the loss of a woman that, in no doubt in anybody's mind, was going to be a minister."

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Image caption Fazila Aswat said the MP entered the political sphere to "change it"

During the attack, her colleagues attempted to intervene, along with passer-by Bernard Kenny, 78, who suffered stab wounds.

Ms Aswat continued: "When you see something like that, it can't not change your life.

"It wasn't just me and Sandra on the day, it was Bernard Kenny, it was multiple people that were in that little village.

"The sense of grief people felt on that day was not just at the horror of what we saw, but it has that ripple effect where it affected all of Birstall, Batley and Spen and also wider implications about our political state."

'Polar opposites'

Mrs Major said one positive was the "love, support and community spirit" which had risen in the wake of the murder.

A charity fund set up in memory of the former Batley and Spen MP has now raised more than £1.9m, with 45,000 people donating to organisations close to Jo's heart.

She said: "I think the fact that Jo was killed as an act of hatred has changed my life and made me want to help to carry on with Jo's legacy.

"I think that he was a very evil person for what he did, and Jo was an amazing person. They were polar opposites."

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Media captionBrendan Cox: 'She fought for her beliefs'

Ms Aswat said she would not allow the situation to "consume" her.

"It is an opportunity for me to be stronger, bolder and to take forward some of Jo's mentality which is to look at the positives in a very negative situation," she said.

Her office manager said she would be remembered as an MP who came into politics "to change it".

"She was a bundle of energy and would fill her diary from nine in the morning to 10 at night," she said.

"Even if there was 100 people in a room, she would want to talk to every single person."

Mrs Major concluded: "Jo wasn't just our boss, she was our friend and we loved her."

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