Death of Sarah Everard sparked ‘tidal wave’ of grief and concern

The death of Sarah Everard sparked an outpouring of concern about women’s safety.

Campaigners questioned how she came to be kidnapped and killed as she walked home along a busy city road at around 9.30pm, having been on the phone to her boyfriend just minutes before.

Her death prompted thousands of women to share stories on social media about how they had been harassed while out in the street or on public transport.

Sarah Everard
Sarah Everard (Family Handout/PA)

The outpouring prompted the Home Office to reopen a public consultation on tackling violence against women and girls, which then received more than 160,000 responses.

In the days after Ms Everard’s disappearance on March 3 and the discovery of her body, plans were mooted for improving women’s safety, including posting undercover police officers in nightclubs.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at the time: “The horrific case of Sarah Everard has unleashed a wave of feeling about women not feeling safe at night. We must do everything we can to ensure our streets are safe.

“Ultimately, we must drive out violence against women and girls and make every part of the criminal justice system work to better protect and defend them.”

Jamie Klingler, one of the founders of campaign group Reclaim These Streets that was formed in the wake of the marketing executive’s death, said it was the start of a movement.

Jamie Klingler from Reclaim These Streets
Jamie Klingler, from Reclaim These Streets, speaking to the media in Clapham Common, south London, in March (Aaron Chown/PA)

She said: “It feels like a tidal wave of half of the population saying: ‘This is your problem, you need to fix it and you need to fix it now – we’re not taking it any more’.”

A series of vigils were held across the country in memory of the 33-year-old as the public reacted with shock at her death.

The event due to be held in London on Clapham Common, near where Ms Everard disappeared, was mired in controversy after the Metropolitan Police arrested a number of protesters.

The original organisers Reclaim These Streets had cancelled their planned event after the force told them they could face £10,000 fines under coronavirus restrictions.

Mugshot of Pc Wayne Couzens
Pc Wayne Couzens pleaded guilty to murder on Friday (Metropolitan Police/PA)

But up to 1,500 people including the Duchess of Cambridge attended the March 13 vigil anyway, remaining peaceful for several hours during the afternoon before clashes with police in the evening.

The Met’s handling of the event drew unfavourable comparisons with Nottingham, where a smaller vigil attended by around 150 people was held peacefully.

Watchdog Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of the Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) later cleared the force of accusations of heavy-handedness and breaching the right to protest.