‘I feel like I am not safe with anyone’: locals speak out after Sarah Everard revelations | Crime
“It could have been anyone. We would all have done the same thing and got into the car, especially during Covid restrictions,” says Jenny, 33, holding her five-month-old daughter in her arms.
On Poynders Road, in Clapham, south London, where Sarah Everard was last seen alive before police officer Wayne Couzens used his Met ID to falsely arrest and kidnap the 33-year-old before murdering her, this sentiment is repeated among female residents.
As cars buzz up and down the street, including delivery and waste trucks, the fear and anger are palpable among locals, who say the revelations have shattered their trust in the police. Any of them would have done exactly as Everard did: they would have thought a senior officer would protect them, not murder them. They would have got into his vehicle, believing he was following protocol.
Couzens, who joined the Metropolitan police in 2018, was handed a rare whole-life sentence on Thursday for Everard’s death. The details of the case are shocking: Couzens stopped Everard as she walked home, before he kidnapped, raped and strangled her.
As Rehana pushes her daughter’s pram along Poynders Road she thinks about the awful events that occurred in March. “I said to my husband, ‘If an officer stopped me and said I need to take you into the station for breaking Covid rules [as Couzens did], I would trust the police’. It was an easy way to get someone in that car,” she said.
The mother of two passes Poynders Road to take her daughter to nursery daily and has not changed her route, but she does feel more fearful. When asked how the Metpolice can rebuild the trust that has been broken, she says: “I want to know what to do in that situation if you feel uncomfortable.”
Jenny thinks it’s hard for the police to do anything publicly. “One thing won’t make a difference. I suppose a lot of it is about how they vet their staff and that is not something we always see,” she said.
Xanya Lindsey, 25, who also has a daughter, feels the same. “It makes me feel unsafe. Anyone can say they are arresting you for something and have a different intention. I feel like I am not safe with anyone, especially those who are there to protect me. I don’t come out as much especially when it’s dark but I felt nervous before Sarah as anything can happen.”
Movements to empower women have emerged following Everard’s tragic death. Chanya, from the British feminist direct action group Sisters Uncut, is running police intervention training, which has already had 5,000 people sign up since it was announced on Wednesday.
“It is about people in the community questioning what they see when they observe a police officer interacting on the street … If I see an officer handcuffing a young woman, I am going to be asking: is she OK? I am going to be checking his badge number. If that was a more universal approach would Sarah still be with us today?”
In Edinburgh, Alice Jackson, 21, and Rachel Chung, 27, have created a volunteering group that will allow locals feeling vulnerable to be escorted home safely. The group can be contacted between 7pm and 3am on Friday and Saturday, and 7pm-1 am on Sunday if you are walking alone. Two volunteers meet people for the journey.
Similarly, after the killing of Sabina Nessa, residents in Kidbrooke, south-east London set up a group of volunteers to offer to meet women coming home from work or going out to the gym or shops, who feel unsafe and don’t want to be alone.
Teresa Horan, 64, has lived for decades in the area of south London Everard walked through. “It’s beautiful to see community groups stepping in, but really we need bigger change at a higher level. Women should not have to fight for their safety or feel the need to be accompanied home, it is a human right we deserve.”
“What happened has really affected this community, and left a scar. I hope that if anything we can try and honour Sarah’s memory and improve our society after all this. We are working to do that but at the moment there is a strong sense of shock, sadness and anger.”