That was a sentiment that had been repeated over and over throughout the afternoon in Birstall even as local residents struggled to take in the news. In the market square, the normally busy heart of the town but now cordoned off by police tape around the spot where Cox was shot and stabbed as she arrived at a constituency surgery at the local library, the mood was quiet and sombre. But the mention of Cox's name to any passer-by elicited an outpouring of admiration and emotion She was a person, they stressed, who "always put others first," a "lovely, caring and genuine politician, a "force of good".

Everyone had their own story to tell about Jo, even though she had been their MP for barely a year: Jo helped them find a better council home; Jo helped their restaurant business stay open later hours; Jo visited their school and taught the children. People recounted fond memories of the hands-on leader who visited their nearby school, mosque, and community centre. For many, it didn't matter if they knew Cox personally or not, or if they'd even met her before – she was trusted, and made everyone feel as if they'd known her for years.

"I drove here when I heard about Jo," Ishmal, who works in Leeds and lives outside of Birstall, told BuzzFeed News as he stood in the marketplace holding held a sign that read: "'RIP Jo Cox, An Angel has flown today".

"She was a good person, she was a unifier," he added. "She epitomized what being British means, she was a humanitarian, she was everything this country could be."

"It's just a little town here," Russell, 42, said as he walked past the line of police tape. "You don't ever think something like this would happen in your home. Jo was such a good person. And, I mean, I didn't think it were dangerous to be a politician."

Cox's passionate investment and commitment to improving relations for the Muslim community was echoed by many. But a few glimpses of local interactions hinted at underlying tensions.

In the late afternoon, across the street from the crime scene of Cox's murder, a young Muslim father carrying his son and walking with his wife were confronted by a young man with several friends. After several minutes of shouting and pushing, the family rushed past and continued to hurry their way down the road.

"They're always kicking my door," the father, who did not want to be named, told BuzzFeed News, appearing distressed. "'He's stupid, he's a bastard'. I said nothing, and he said 'hi dickhead.' He always tells us to go away, to go home."