Mainly Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old woman, died in the UK in early March. She was kidnapped and murdered on foot in south London that evening. Since then, the country has sunk into emotion and anger. Understand the matter that rocked the UK for ten days in five questions.
Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old young woman, was killed on March 3 in London. She was going home in southwest London when she was kidnapped and then murdered. Since then, the country has sunk into emotion and anger. La Dépêche comes back to this matter that rocked the UK for ten days.
Sarah Everard disappeared on the night of March 3rd when she was going home after visiting friends in the south of the British capital. On the way, the young woman, a 33-year-old marketing manager, called her companion around 9:30 p.m., with whom she spoke on the phone for about fifteen minutes. No news since then.
Human remains were found in a forest in Kent, a county southwest of the capital, on Wednesday March 10th. Authorities confirmed this on Friday March 12th: it is indeed Sarah Everard’s body.
Who is his alleged murderer?
The suspicion quickly fell on a 48-year-old police officer, Wayne Couzens, who lives near the places where the human remains were found. The man is an officer in the London Police Unit responsible for protecting diplomatic missions. He was charged with kidnapping and murder on Friday March 12th. He has been in custody ever since.
What was the first reaction in the UK?
Reactions have been strong among many Britons, The Guardian reported: “When the discovery was made public Wednesday night, grief overwhelmed it before it quickly gave way to a great wave of anger.”
Social networks and newspapers were overflowing with messages of support for the relatives of the victim. They very quickly gave way to testimonies of personal experiences: many women then told in their messages the fear they feel when they come home alone at night.
They also shared their methods of protecting themselves from possible attacks: wedging keys between their fingers, walking quickly by turning around regularly to make sure they weren’t being obeyed, calling relatives to reassure them, choosing informed routes etc. This message highlights a problem that affects not only the British: the trivialization of violence against women and the issue of their harassment in public spaces.
How did the Sarah Everard meetings go?
In response to Sarah Everard’s death, a dozen rallies took place across the UK in Glasgow, Nottingham or even Bristol on Saturday March 13th. A spontaneous vigil in homage to the young woman gathered around a hundred people in London.
The vigil sank into chaos as tensions erupted with the police. On the pretext of non-compliance with health regulations and social distancing, police intervened forcibly to disperse the crowd. Several women were restrained and handcuffed. Four people were arrested for violating anti-coronavirus rules and public order.
Read also: United Kingdom: London police criticized after clashes during a rally in honor of Sarah Everard, who was killed by a police officer
The “Reclaim These Streets” movement was the origin of the organization of the vigil on Saturday, which was canceled due to the lack of an agreement with the London police. Despite the cancellation of the event, a large crowd was present on Saturday afternoon. Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge and wife of Prince William also attended.
One of the women arrested, Dania Al’Obeid, said she knew the vigil had been canceled but that she “had to go and offer her condolences”. She said on BBC Radio 4’s’ Today ‘show,’ I think that’s where the frustration lies. […]We felt silenced. “
The images of the “muscular” arrests were massively disseminated on social networks. They aroused many condemnations and the indignation of MPs. Home Secretary Priti Patel asked the Chief Police Inspector to review the actions taken by their teams during the vigil. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has meanwhile called for an independent investigation.
How did the authorities react?
Cressida Dick, police chief in London, responded positively to these inquiries. Nevertheless, she did not give in to the calls for resignation initiated against her. “Nobody wants to see the events we have attended,” she said on Sunday evening.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also reacted. On Sunday evening he said in a press release that “like anyone who has seen them, I am deeply concerned about the footage” of the arrests that took place in London on Saturday. On Monday March 15, following a meeting of the crime and justice group he chaired, the Prime Minister announced new measures to combat violence against women.
British MPs, meanwhile, are trying to fix legal flaws. A text on domestic violence is passed by the UK Parliament. This law recognizes “economic and emotional violence” against women. In addition, invoking “brutal sexual relations” during rape trials is no longer accepted by the courts.