Leeds & West Yorkshire

George Cross call for Jo Cox attack 'hero' Bernard Kenny

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Media captionResidents of Birstall, West Yorkshire called Mr Kenny a "hero"

Calls are growing for a man who tried to save MP Jo Cox to be officially honoured for his bravery.

Bernard Kenny, 77, was stabbed in the stomach as he went to the aid of Mrs Cox when she was shot and stabbed in Birstall, West Yorkshire, on Thursday.

Mr Kenny, who was discharged from hospital earlier, called her death "a very sad loss for the community".

An online fund in memory of the murdered Labour MP passed the £1m mark on Monday evening.

Thomas Mair, 52, has been charged with the murder of the 41-year-old MP for Batley and Spen.

A petition to Cabinet Office minister Matthew Hancock describes Mr Kenny as a hero who deserves the "highest honour".

It passed its initial target of 4,000 backers earlier on Monday and has now reached more than 17,000.

Meanwhile more than 30,000 people have contributed to the fund set up in memory of Mrs Cox, which will aid three charities.

Her husband Brendan tweeted: "Thank you to everyone for your incredible generosity. This will change lives in Syria, Batley and across the UK."

The George Cross is the highest bravery honour that can be given to non-military personnel.

Mr Mair, who appeared via videolink at the Old Bailey on Monday, is charged with murder, grievous bodily harm, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence and possession of an offensive weapon.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Jo Cox, 41, was MP for Batley and Spen in West Yorkshire
Image copyright PA
Image caption The MP was attacked in Birstall, West Yorkshire, where she was due to hold a surgery on Thursday

Mr Kenny is understood to be a former miner who was part of the rescue operation during a 1973 Yorkshire mining disaster.

Seven men died when part of the now-closed Lofthouse Colliery, near Leeds, flooded.

The petition calls on the Home Office "to award the George Cross to hero who fought attacker of Jo Cox MP".

It adds: "We believe that Bernard Kenny deserves the highest honour for bravery that this country can award."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Bouquets of flowers and messages have been laid both in her constituency and in London

Eddie Downes, a mining historian and engineer, said: "He's a rescue man, they put their lives on the line whenever they went into a mine, they're a breed apart."

He described Mr Kenny's actions as "superb", adding "not a lot of people would have done that."

After leaving hospital, Mr Kenny and his family issued a statement in which they expressed their sincere condolences to the family of Mrs Cox.

It said: "We would also like to thank people at the scene, the police, ambulance service and the staff at LGI who were excellent in dealing with the situation.

"Finally, many people have shown great kindness over the last few days; this has been much appreciated by the whole family, but now we hope you will respect the fact that we need time and privacy for Bernard to recover."

Image copyright MOD

The George Cross

  • The highest award for bravery that can be presented to civilians
  • Also presented to members of the military for heroism not in the presence of the enemy
  • Introduced in 1940 to recognise the courage of civilians during German bombing raids

Mr Kenny's actions were remembered at a church service at St Peter's Church in Birstall on Sunday.

Parishioner Leif Wickes said that "despite his 77 years" Mr Kenny "intervened in the attack to try to save Jo's life and was stabbed and badly injured".

He added: "We give thanks for his courage and his example and pray for his speedy recovery."

MPs, who had been in recess for the EU referendum, have been recalled to the Commons to remember Mrs Cox.

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