LONDON (AP) – The alleged kidnapping and murder of a young London woman on her way home has dismayed Britain and reignited a painful question: why are women too often not safe on the streets?
The fate of Sarah Everard is all the more shocking given that the suspect accused Friday of kidnapping and killing her is a British policeman whose job it was to protect politicians and diplomats.
Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, undertook the 50-minute walk to a friend’s house in south London around 9 p.m. on March 3. She never arrived. Police confirmed on Friday that a body found hidden in a forest 50 miles southeast of the city was his.
London police on Tuesday arrested a member of the force’s parliamentary and diplomatic protection command as a suspect in the case. Police charged Constable Wayne Couzens with kidnapping and murder on Friday night. Couzens, 48, was scheduled to appear in court on Saturday.
In a statement released Thursday, the Everard family said “our beautiful daughter Sarah has been taken from us and we appeal for any information that will help solve this terrible crime.”
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“I know the public is hurt and angry about what happened, and these are feelings that I personally share,” Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said,
Everard’s disappearance and murder sparked an uproar across the country, with thousands taking to social media for information to help him find her. Women have also started to share their experiences of threats or assault – or simply dealing with the daily fear of violence when walking alone.
“When she disappeared, any woman who has ever walked home alone at night felt that instinctive and sinister sense of recognition,” columnist Gaby Hinsliff wrote in The Guardian. “Footsteps in a dark street. Keys grasped between your fingers. There but for the grace of God.”
Organizers of a planned Everard memory vigil have failed in a legal attempt to win the right to hold the event despite coronavirus restrictions that ban mass gatherings.
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The organizers of Reclaim These Streets want to hold a socially distant gathering on Saturday on Clapham Common, an open space on the walk back to Everard.
A High Court judge on Friday refused to grant an order saying such a rally would be legal, meaning organizers could face fines of up to $ 14,000.
“I understand that this decision will be a disappointment for those who hope to express their strength of feelings, but I ask women and allies across London to find a safe way to voice their opinions,” said Police Commander Catherine Roper.
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Despite the court ruling, some women said they still plan to protest on Saturday.
The case raised difficult questions for the police. Britain’s police watchdog is investigating how the force handled a indecent complaint against the same suspect, three days before Everard’s disappearance.
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The Independent Office for Police Conduct is also investigating how the suspect sustained head injuries while in detention. Police said he was found injured in his cell and taken to hospital for treatment before being returned to the police station.
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