Sarah Everard went missing from the Clapham area of South London on March 3, 2021. She had been visiting a friend in the area before she vanished off the streets of London while walking home at around 9pm. Sarah was headed towards her home in Brixton, the walk should have taken her just under an hour, but she never made it. Sarah, originally from York, had studied at Durham University before moving to London where she had lived for over a decade. She was working as a marketing executive before she went missing.
London is notorious for the amount of CCTV cameras in the capital. There are an estimated 600,000 cameras watching over the city and on the night of March 3, Sarah Everard was recorded by one of them walking through Clapham common at 9:30pm in what would be one of the last known moments of her alive.
Descriptions of Sarah and what she was wearing on the day she went missing were published in a desperate search for her whereabouts. She was dressed in a white beanie hat, navy blue trousers with a repeat white print, turquoise and orange On cloud running shoes and a mint rain jacket.
The police released the footage on March 6. Sarah Everard’s friends and family had heard nothing from her since she left her friends flat on March 3 and were beyond concerned. As news of the case spread, more footage of the missing 33-year-old began to trickle in from London residents who had captured Everard on home security devices as she made her journey from Clapham to Brixton. One woman handed over a recording of Sarah Everard from her doorbell camera on March 7. The footage showed Everard walking on Poynders Road, along the A205, also known as the South Circular Road, in South London. Police put out a call for residents to submit any footage with Sarah on it.
Were you driving in the Poynders Road area after 9.30pm on Wednesday 3rd March?
PLEASE check and double check your dash and door cams for footage.
If you have any information call the incident room on 0208 785 8244 (Met Police Twitter, March 9, 2021)
Although Everard’s family insisted that her disappearance was completely out of character and that it was unlike her to go without contacting anyone for several days, head of the investigation, Detective Chief Inspector Katherine Goodwin of the London Metropolitan police, attempted to reassure the public, saying she did not think Sarah was in any danger and said they would continue the search. Tragically, this would not be the case.
By March 9 police had started searching areas around the route the missing woman took home that day. Media outlets reported that officers with dogs had been searching public areas such as gardens and nearby bodies of water where Sarah was thought to have made her last phone call. Her boyfriend, Josh Lowth, said he talked to her for around 15 minutes as she was walking home. Images of forensic teams going in and out of a cordoned housing complex on Ponders Road were published alongside articles about Sarah Everard and news of her disappearance soon began circulating across social media platforms, with users voicing their concerns regarding the safety of women in the U.K.
On March 10, 2021 at 4.45pm, one week after Sarah Everard went missing, the body of a female was discovered in a wooded area of Great Chart, approximately 55 miles from where Everard was last captured on CCTV. The body was found near the Great Chart Golf and Leisure complex, a now disused complex 44-acres in size and around 4 miles from the nearest town, accessible via a stretch of rural road. The only visitors the area sees is those wanting to illegally dump waste and refuse. The usually quiet area became a hive of activity, with police searching by foot and air, and forensic officers combing the area. A house in Deal, Kent was also photographed as it was searched by police who had erected a tent over the front section of the residence and removed two cars from the property.
The previous day on March 9, Wayne Couzens, who is 49 years old and an active member of the Metropolitan Police Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command, was arrested in Kent for the alleged kidnapping of Everard. He was later charged on the suspicion of her murder. A female in her 30’s was arrested the same day for assisting an offender but was later released on bail. The woman was later reported to be the suspects wife. The couple have two children together.
Couzens is an elite officer in a position that would see him guarding Parliamentary grounds and buildings. While being held, Couzens sustained a head injury while alone in his cell. He was admitted to hospital to treat the injury before being returned to custody. The BBC reported that he has a prior allegation of indecent exposure. According to an article in the Times Newspaper, two women had reported being sexually harassed and chased within half a mile of Sarah Everand’s last known location. There is no reported link between the incidents and Couzens.
The female decedent found in woodland of Great Chart was confirmed to be Sarah Everard on March 12. The body was found wrapped in a large builder’s bag and was identified as Sarah through dental records. Autopsy results are still pending.
Nick Ephgrave, assistant commissioner for the Metropolitan police said in a public statement March 10: "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 a formal identification procedure has been undertaken. I can now confirm that it is the body of Sarah Everard...The investigation continues at pace and we have hundreds of officers working around the clock to establish the full circumstances of Sarah's disappearance and her murder and a man remains in custody at a London police station on suspicion of committing those crimes. I know that the public feel hurt and angry about what has happened and those are sentiments that I share personally, and I know my colleagues here at Scotland Yard and across the met share as well. I also recognize the wider concerns that are being raised, quite rightly, about the safety of women in public spaces, in London and elsewhere in the country. I want to say now that this organization and the men and woman in it remain committed to protecting Londoners wherever they are in this city and that commitment is undiminished by these events and if anything, that commitment is strengthened by these tragic circumstances.”
The case has sparked outrage with the British public who have been raising concerns about the safety of women on the streets of London and elsewhere in the U.K. Those paying their respects left bouquets of flowers and notes around Clapham Common bandstand. A gathering at the Clapham vigil went ahead on the night of March 13 despite news of its cancelation. Later in the evening clashes between the Metropolitan Police and attendees was broadcasted nationwide. Footage of police officers hauling women away from the vigil in handcuffs shocked and saddened the public. Four women were arrested in what officers said was an action taken to protect the safety of others.
People around the country lit candles for Sarah, some uploading their posts to social media along with statistics regarding violence against women and concerns for the safety of women in the U.K. Many women shared stories of street harassment and said they feared walking alone, especially at night. Others posted images that read: She was just walking home.
Data collected from a 2017 Crime survey performed in England and wales, published on Rapecrisis.org, found that 20% of women (3.4 million) have experienced a form of sexual assault. (Sexual offences in England and Wales: year ending March 2017 Analyses on sexual offences from the year ending March 2017 Crime Survey for England and Wales and crimes recorded by police.)
Poll results from Plan international U.K revealed that 2 out of 3 girls reported being harassed in a public space. Many admitted to crossing the street to avoid men, changing their outfits before going outside, taking a longer route home to avoid harassment, carrying personal alarms and defense sprays and avoiding going out at night completely.
The U.K government has now taken measures, such as investing £2.5 million in more CCTV cameras and improved lighting for those walking at night. The BBC reported that police officers in street clothes would be present in more bars and clubs soon in an operation dubbed: project vigilant. The government’s response has been criticized and a call to tackle street harassment against women as well as domestic violence and changes to how rape is prosecuted in the U.K. has been made. The Rapecrisis.org website states: “Conviction rates for rape are far lower than other crimes, with only 5.7% of reported rape cases ending in a conviction for the perpetrator. (Kelly, Lovett and Regan, A gap or a chasm? Attrition in reported rape cases, 2005)”
Most women do not have access to women’s shelters and resources. (more information here)
Funding for extra lighting at night and inserting plain clothed officers into bars and clubs implies women only get attacked in specific situations, which is not the case.
According to the report: Domestic abuse in England and Wales overview: November 2019, 1 in 3 women will be the victim of domestic abuse.
The Homicide in England and Wales report ending March 2018 states that 2 women per week on average are killed by their partner or ex-partner.Around 1.6 million women are victims of domestic abuse in the U.K (statistics collected March 2019 from the Office for national statistics.gov.uk).
Couzens appeared in court via video March 16. He is set to have a hearing July 9, 2021 and a provisional trial October 25, 2021. He is being held without bail.