A Polish mayor died on Monday after a convicted criminal stabbed him while on stage at a charity event.
Gdansk Mayor Pawel Adamowicz grabbed his belly and collapsed after being stabbed in the abdomen multiple times in front of the audience on Sunday night.
The attack happened during the “Lights to Heaven” fundraiser organised by the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity, Poland’s most important charity.
Mr Adamowicz was taken to a hospital where he underwent five-hours of surgery. Medical officials appealed for blood donations.
However, on Monday hospital officials said that the mayor had succumbed to his injuries.
Polish broadcaster TVN said the assailant shouted from the stage that he had been wrongly imprisoned under a previous national government led by Civic Platform, a party to which the mayor formerly belonged. The suspected attacker was arrested.
TVN broadcast footage of the perpetrator, just after the attack yelling that his name was Stefan and that “I was jailed but innocent. … Civic Platform tortured me. That’s why Adamowicz just died.”
Police said the suspect was a 27-year-old with a criminal record and had carried out bank robberies. A police spokesman, Mariusz Ciarka, said the attacker gained access to the area with a media badge.
Radio Gdansk said Mr Adamowicz was stabbed in the area of his heart, but did not cite its source.
TVN footage showed Mr Adamowicz on stage just before the attack with a sparkler in hand telling the audience that it had been a “wonderful day” and then the attacker coming toward him.
Mr Adamowicz had been on the streets of his city on Sunday collecting money for the charity, along with volunteers around the country.
In Gdansk volunteers sharing the same rare 0 RdD negative blood group as the mayor rushed to give blood after an appeal by local health authorities for extra supplies.
“When I heard about the attack I was distraught,” one donor told the TVN television network. “After the appeal for blood I decided to come and donate.”
Mr Adamowicz, 53, had been mayor of Gdansk, a Baltic port city, since 1998. He was part of the democratic opposition born in that city under the leadership of Lech Walesa during the 1980s. After leaving Civic Platform, he was re-elected to a sixth term as an independent candidate in the fall.
As mayor, he was a progressive voice, supporting LGBT rights and tolerance for minorities. He marched in last year’s gay pride parade, a rare action for a mayor in Poland.
He also showed solidarity with the Jewish community when the city’s synagogue had its windows broken last year, strongly denouncing the vandalism.
The Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity raises money to buy state-of-the-art medical equipment for Poland’s cash-strapped hospitals, mostly for children.
The last attack on a politician in Poland was in 2010 in Lodz. A man shouting that he wanted to kill Law and Justice party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski fatally shot an aide to one of the party’s lawmakers to the European Parliament. A second man was stabbed and injured.
At the time Law and Justice was in the opposition and Kaczynski blamed the attack at an “atmosphere of hate” under the rival party, Civic Platform.