Sarah Everard, 33, was returning home at around 9 pm after visiting a friend. She had also checked in with her boyfriend but never made it home.
There are some events that impact people in a significant way even when they are not directly linked to it. The kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard, 33, in the UK was one of those incidents. Women across the world were horrified at how hard it is to protect themselves from predators even after doing everything right. What makes it worse is that the suspect is a police officer, someone who should have been protecting people instead of harming them.
The 33-year-old marketing executive disappeared after leaving a friend’s house in Clapham at about 9 pm on March 3. Three days later, the Metropolitan Police released a CCTV image of her, while announcing that they were searching for her. The authorities revealed that she walked through Clapham Common to go home in Brixton. It should have taken her around 50 minutes, according to the Independent.
The New York Times reported that she took a long route so she would be walking through well-lit and populated areas. She also wore bright clothes and shoes she could run in. She had also told her boyfriend that she was leaving from her friend's flat, but all these precautions were not enough to protect her. The investigation into her disappearance and murder is being led by Scotland Yard’s Specialist Crime Command because of the “complex nature," the authorities said, according to the Independent.
Sarah's remains were found a week after her disappearance 50 miles away from where she was last seen. Prior to that, on March 9, the police revealed that a police officer was arrested from Kent. Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said it was "both shocking and deeply disturbing" that a serving police officer was the suspect. They also arrested a woman from the same address for assisting an offender.
The same day, Detective chief inspector Katherine Goodwin said the force is still "doing everything we can to find Sarah." The chances of finding her alive were slim at that point.
The next day, it was revealed that Wayne Couzens, 48, was not on active duty when he took Sarah into captivity. He used to work for the force’s Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command.
A neighbor of Wayne, who lived with his wife and two children, said, "They just seemed like a normal, regular family, there was nothing strange about them at all." She also revealed that the police were digging up the garden.
Wayne was being held on suspicion of kidnap. He was later arrested on suspicion of murder and a separate allegation of indecent exposure. Now, there are multiple investigations into whether the Metropolitan Police officers "responded appropriately" when a report of indecent exposure was made against Wayne. The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is looking into two officers who protected the suspect instead of apprehending him.
On March 12, Assistant commissioner Ephgrave said, "As you know, on Wednesday evening detectives investigating the disappearance of Sarah Everard discovered a body secreted in woodland in Kent. The body has now been recovered and formal identification procedure has now been undertaken. I can now confirm that it is the body of Sarah Everard."
Groups of women who wanted to conduct a vigil after the confirmation were told by the police that they won't be receiving permission for it. The anger against the authorities had boiled over after the police went door-to-door in South London, where Sarah went missing, telling women to not venture out alone. However, British women wanted to stage a protest against male violence. Instead, they were arrested by male police officers while gathering peacefully.
Police officers handcuffed the women to remove them from the gathering on Clapham Common on March 13. Home Secretary Priti Patel has instructed the police watchdog, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), to "conduct a lessons learned review in to the policing of the event", the prime minister Boris Johnson said, reported BBC.
The prime minister added he was "deeply concerned" by what happened on Clapham Common and that the police is "committed to reviewing how this was handled". He added, "The death of Sarah Everard must unite us in determination to drive out violence against women and girls and make every part of the criminal justice system work to protect and defend them."
Cover image source: Getty Images | Photos by Leon Neal