Sarah Everard was last seen at 21:30 on the 3rd of March; she disappeared while walking home from a friend’s house in Clapham, London. The 33-year-old’s body has now been identified in woodland in Kent, and a Metropolitan Police officer has been charged with kidnapping and murder. Everard’s family have paid tribute to their “beautiful daughter and sister.”
The officer charged with Everard’s murder is 48-year-old Wayne Couzens. The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has announced it will launch an investigation into the Met’s handling of an indecent exposure allegation made against Couzens: an incident which reportedly happened at a takeaway on the 28th of February. The Met Police has since received a second report of indecent exposure at the same restaurant, on the same day. The IOPC is currently assessing another referral made on the 11th of March, as Couzens was rushed to hospital after sustaining a head injury while in custody.
A day after the Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick confirmed that human remains had been found in the hunt for Everard, assistant commissioner Nick Ephgrave confirmed that the body was hers. He stated, “specialist officers remain in constant contact with Sarah’s family, and will continue to support them throughout the investigation and beyond,” adding: “That investigation continues at a pace and we have hundreds of officers working round the clock to establish the full circumstances of Sarah’s disappearance and her murder.” A postmortem will be conducted to identify the cause of death.
A vigil was planned to take place on Clapham Common, however police have now said partakers would be in breach of COVID-19 restrictions. The organisers claim to have been in direct contact with the necessary authorities, including the Met police, to ensure the gathering could occur “safe[ly] and legally.” Organisers explain that the police had initially agreed to coordinate a “local policing plan” while allowing the vigil to go ahead, although “the Metropolitan Police have reversed their position and stated the vigil would be unlawful and that, as organisers, we could face tens of thousands of pounds in fines and criminal prosecution under the Serious Crimes Act.”
Human rights lawyers representing the Reclaim The Streets group argue that “socially distant, outdoor gathering[s] of this kind are allowed under the current lockdown regulations, when read together with the Human Rights Act.” The Met Police reportedly remain “in discussion” with activists and mourners. Vigils are also set to take place in Cambridge, Cardiff, Leeds, St Andrews, and Liverpool.
Everard’s death has sparked a widespread conversation about gender-based violence, as women have taken to social media to describe the measures they take to feel safer while alone. Some of these steps include: gripping house keys between their knuckles, pretending to be on phone calls, taking longer routes home, and texting friends once they arrive at their destination.