Sarah Everard: Police clash with crowd at vigil
Kate, 38, mixed with other women and men who had gathered at the Victorian bandstand on Clapham Common, where a sea of flowers and tributes had been left in memory of 33-year-old Sarah. After placing a bouquet, Kate paused in front of the tributes for a moment’s quiet reflection during her brief private visit. She also stood next to a sign that read “I am Sarah” – one of many put up as a signal of solidarity at the memorial.
A Palace source said: “The Duchess wanted to pay her respects to Sarah and her family. She remembers what it felt like to walk around London at night before she got married.”
Last night, a candle was lit on the doorstep of No10 Downing Street while Boris Johnson and partner Carrie Symonds lit another in the garden for their tribute.
Writing on Twitter, the Prime Minister said: “Tonight Carrie and I will be lighting a candle for Sarah Everard and thinking of her family and friends. I cannot imagine how unbearable their pain and grief is.
“We must work fast to find all the answers to this horrifying crime. I will do everything I can to make sure the streets are safe and ensure women and girls do not face harassment or abuse.”
Sarah disappeared on March 3 after leaving a friend’s home in Clapham, south London, to walk home to Brixton. She vanished shortly after 9.30pm. Her body was found in woodland in Ashford, Kent, on Wednesday.
The Duchess of Cambridge laid a floral tribute at Clapham Common’s shrine
Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, yesterday appeared in court charged with Sarah’s kidnap and murder.
Kate’s visit to Clapham Common, near where Sarah was last seen, came as planned public vigils – including one on the Common – were cancelled because of Covid-19 restrictions.
Last night police were accused of being heavy handed as scuffles broke out and officers grabbed women before leading them away to screams and shouts.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “I have asked the Metropolitan Police for a full report on what happened. My thoughts remain with Sarah’s family and friends.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan called the scenes “unacceptable” and said he was “urgently seeking an explanation.” from Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick.
Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse tweeted: “Is this really 21st century Britain? What is our police doing?”
The Duchess joined mourners to pay her respects at a shrine set up for Sarah yesterday
Labour’s Sarah Owen posted: “This is heartbreaking and maddening to watch. No one can see these scenes and think that this has been handled anything but badly by the Metropolitan Police.”
A shine-a-light doorstep vigil at 9.30pm – around the time Sarah disappeared – also took place across Britain.
TV presenter Sandi Toksvig opened an online vigil and said it is not a “small change” that is needed but a “cultural shift about how women are viewed and treated, both in the public and private space”.
She said: “This has to be a turning point where ending violence finally becomes a political priority. The truth is, of course, I don’t want to be here at all. I do not want to attend a vigil for a bright young woman in her early 30s, a woman with her life before her.”
Richard E Grant, Sheridan Smith, Rebecca Ferguson and Katy Brand were among the famous faces who took part in the virtual vigil, which included lighting candles and observing a minute’s silence.
A candle was lit on the doorstep of No10 Downing Street
One of the Clapham mourners, Hannah, 29, who preferred not to give her surname, said: “It feels like we finally have people’s attention. So it was important for me to be here in spite of the ban on the vigil and to honour Sarah’s memory.”
Sisters Uncut, which campaigns to prevent violence against women, also defied the vigil ban. It said: “We will not be silenced.”
Groups also stood to honour Sarah at other locations, including Glasgow, Bristol and Nottingham.
The vigils had been organised by the Reclaim These Streets movement which was set up in response to Sarah’s murder. It had sought to overturn the ban at the High Court on Friday. But after being warned it faced a fine if the 32 planned vigils went ahead, urged people to join a virtual event.
Planned public vigils – including one in Clapham Common – were cancelled because of restrictions
Streatham’s Labour MP Bell Ribeiro- Addy, 36, posted yesterday: “I laid flowers at Clapham Common in memory of Sarah Everard and all the women lost to violence. The police’s decision to cancel the vigil makes no sense.’’
Reclaim These Streets also smashed its fundraising target of £320,000, representing the total fine faced if all the vigils had gone ahead.
The group said on the page: “We were told that pressing ahead could risk a £10,000 fine for each woman organising an event. We do not want to see hundreds of thousands of pounds contributed to a system that fails to keep women safe.”
The group has been in touch with Sarah’s family about how the funds are to be spent.
Met Police Commander Catherine Roper said before the vigil: “We take no joy in the vigil being cancelled but it is the right thing to do.”