Remembering Jo Cox: Her family one year on – BBC News

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Media captionJo Cox’s parents: ‘We have to stay positive’

On 16 June 2016, Labour MP Jo Cox was shot and stabbed in her constituency. Now, as the anniversary of her death approaches, her parents and sister say they are still learning to cope with the loss.

As Jean Leadbeater, Jo’s mother, waits to welcome us at her front door, the first thing she does is to pull everyone in for a hug.

Jo’s father, Gordon, is just behind her with a big smile on his face.

They bustle around, getting the kettle on, as their daughter Kim makes the introductions.

Within minutes, everyone is huddled around Kim’s phone as she shows a video of her and Jo doing karaoke together.

It was filmed at her birthday, just six weeks before her sister was murdered.

It shows the two sisters in the middle of a party, but they’re lost in the moment and may as well be alone in the room.

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Media captionJo Cox sings karaoke with her sister Kim

It’s a poignant clip, and you might expect Jo’s family to be in tears watching it. But actually, there are peals of laughter as the two women do their best impression of Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson.

And really, that sums this family up.

They’ve gone through one of the toughest things imaginable and have emerged with their warmth and humour intact.

But their grief is only just below the surface.

Image caption Jo Cox was MP for Batley and Spen in Yorkshire

Jean remembers the moment when she got the call telling her that her daughter been attacked: “The phone rang and it was her aide.

“He said, ‘Jo’s been shot, I think.’ That was it.”

The couple didn’t know if she was alive or dead as they raced to get to her.

“We jumped in the car, and we couldn’t get near,” she tells the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme. “So we set off running. I don’t know how we ran. I don’t know how we managed to get there.”

Gordon picks up the story: “If someone says, ‘Jo’s been shot,’ that’s bad. But people are shot and recover. So we didn’t know.”

But he describes a police inspector breaking the news: “He doesn’t have to tell you, you can see by his expression.”

Kim listens to her parents silently, but the pain is etched across her face.

Image caption Kim says her love for Jo’s children is now “100 times deeper”

She moves the conversation on, talking about how the family are now trying to “create a new level of normality”.

They don’t focus on Jo’s death, or the man who killed her.

Jean admits the family “will always be broken, because there’s a piece missing”.

“I think to the outside world, we do appear strong, but there’s a lot of days when it’s bad. It’s bad.”

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Image caption Floral tributes and candles were left at a vigil for Jo Cox in Parliament Square

Gordon adds: “It’s not, after one year it gets better. It doesn’t. It won’t go away. But we have to be positive.”

They now prefer to focus on Jo’s children. Cuillin and Lejla were aged five and three when their mother died.

“Going forward, build on the children,” Gordon says. “Jo’s children have got so much of her in them. That’s a great legacy. We love that.”

Love ‘100 times deeper’

Jean and Gordon’s house, however, still retains many memories of Jo.

When Jo decided to run for Parliament – and at the time was based in London – her parents decided to extend their home.

They built a loft conversion on their bungalow for Jo to work from.

Gordon admits he couldn’t go up to the room for the three months after she died.

But now, when their grandchildren come to stay, they all sleep in the loft together.

Kim is a devoted auntie – and says her love for the children is “100 times deeper now”.

She admits that Jo’s death has not fully hit her yet.

“I’ve got those facts, but I don’t think I’ve got them on a deep emotional level yet, and that worries me.

“I’m not in denial. I think there must be a difference between denial and disbelief. I cannot believe that it’s happened.”

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Kim led a tribute to her sister in the days following her death

Kim has spent this year trying to build a legacy for her sister and best friend.

Days after her sister’s death, she gave a speech thanking people for their kindness. That was just the start.

She has worked on causes that were close to Jo’s heart, such as tackling loneliness and getting communities to integrate better.

So this weekend, exactly a year after her sister’s death, she will be at a series of events for the Great Get Together.

She’s asking people to organise street parties, barbecues and bake-offs as a reason to spend time with their neighbours. Because, as she puts it, “me and Jo loved us food”.

She says she is looking forward to it, but also feels “some trepidation, because it will be a difficult weekend in some ways”.

“But it will also be a wonderful celebration – the best way to remember Jo, as she was all about people.”

Watch the Victoria Derbyshire programme on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 BST on BBC Two and the BBC News channel.

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