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London murder case triggers fear about women's safety

by Reuters
Thursday, 11 March 2021 11:48 GMT

A handout image of Sarah Everard via the Metropolitan Police

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s most senior police officer has sought to reassure women it is safe to walk the streets of London at night after one of her officers was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and murdering a 33-year-old woman.

Sarah Everard’s disappearance and the announcement that human remains had been found prompted woman to flood social media with posts about the steps they take when out alone at night to keep safe, including clutching keys to use as a weapon and wearing trainers to help them run.

Others detailed a catalogue of incidents of harassment by men in public over the decades since they were schoolgirls.

Everard was last seen at 9:30 p.m. on March 3 as she walked home from a friend’s house in south London. Her image, smiling at the camera or caught on CCTV that evening, has been splashed across the newspapers all week.

Cressida Dick, the head of London’s police force, said news that a serving officer had been arrested had sent waves of “shock and anger” through the public and the police.

“I know Londoners will want to know that it is thankfully incredibly rare for a woman to be abducted from our streets,” she said.

“But I completely understand that despite this, women in London and the wider public, particularly those in the area where Sarah went missing, will be worried and may well be feeling scared.”

The arrested officer worked to guard diplomatic buildings in Westminster. In his 40s, he is also under suspicion of indecent exposure. A woman in her 30s has also been arrested at the same location on suspicion of assisting an offender.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday he was shocked and deeply saddened by developments in the case.

The disappearance prompted #saraheverard to trend online as women relayed their experiences, prompting men to ask what they should do differently, such as not following closely behind a woman walking on her own. Another trend of #NotAllMen also appeared.

Social media user Caroline Oakes said on Twitter: “We should not feel afraid to walk the streets, to go for a run at night. We should not have to place our keys in through our fingers like a weapon if anyone comes near.”

A vigil is due to be held on Saturday night called Reclaim The Streets.

(Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Alison Williams.)

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