Sarah Everard: Wayne Couzens charged with kidnap and murder
The 33-year-old was last seen walking home after leaving a friend’s house on Leathwaite Road in Clapham, southwest London, at about 9pm on March 3. Her disappearance sparked a huge operation to find her, but yesterday it was confirmed her body had been found in a woodland in Kent. Reclaim These Streets had been planning to host a gathering on Clapham Common in south London today, near to where Ms Everard went missing.
But organisers expressed their “disappointment” that their attempts to work with police to ensure the vigil could go ahead safely did not work out.
The group tweeted this morning: “We have been very disappointed that given the many opportunities to engage with organisers constructively, the Metropolitan Police have been unwilling to commit to anything.
“While we have had positive discussions with the Lambeth officers present, those from Scotland Yard would not engage with our suggestions to help ensure that a legal, Covid-secure vigil could take place.”
They added that “in light of the lack of constructive engagement from the Metropolitan Police, we do not feel that we can in good faith allow tonight’s event to go ahead”.
Vigils for Sarah Everard have been cancelled today
Reclaim These Streets said they would “strongly encourage people not to gather this evening on Clapham Common”.
Instead, members of the public can help the group raise £320,000 to donate to women’s charitable causes on their JustGiving page.
Their JustGiving page said: “We appreciate the outpouring of support over the past 48 hours, and we are clear that women’s voices will not be silenced, now or ever.
“We were told that pressing ahead could risk a £10,000 fine each for each woman organising. Even if we came to this amazing community for help in meeting those costs, we think that this would be a poor use of our and your money.
READ MORE: Sarah Everard: Suspect Wayne Couzens rushed to hospital again
Tributes were left in Clapham Common following Sarah’s disappearance
“We do not want to see hundreds of thousands of pounds contributed to a system that consistently fails to keep women safe – either in public spaces or in the privacy of their homes. Women’s rights are too important.”
They are also planning virtual gatherings instead.
They added: “We will be announcing the details of a virtual gathering later today and would encourage all those originally planning to join us on Clapham Common to take part.”
A High Court judge refused to intervene yesterday on behalf of the group in a legal challenge over the right to gather for a protest during coronavirus restrictions.
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Sarah was last seen walking home from a friend’s house
People had planned to attend the London event, despite the Metropolitan Police warning the public they should “stay at home or find a lawful and safer way to express your views” due to the ongoing national Covid lockdown.
Other vigils, which were due to be held in Edinburgh today, have also been cancelled by organisers and replaced with an online-only event.
Chloe Whyte, one of the Edinburgh organisers, said on Facebook: “Following the decision of the High Court in London and comments from the Scottish Cabinet Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman MSP, the organisers of the #ReclaimTheseStreets Edinburgh vigils have decided to build upon events currently being hosted online and cancel all of our in-person gatherings.
“Please do NOT go to Holyrood or St Andrew’s Square tomorrow, as sadly any gatherings there will be dispersed by police.
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“We are now building upon our ‘doorstep vigil’ activities, which shall include a stream of our speakers all sharing their stories from home & answering questions and comments live. More information to come on this.”
Ms Freeman said she herself would join commemorations if “we were in normal times”, but added: “We are not in normal times.
Assistant Commissioner of the Met Police Nick Ephgrave confirmed her body had been found following her disappearance.
He added his “thoughts and prayers, and those of the entire organisation” remain with Sarah Everard’s family “at this awful time”.
Wayne Couzens has been charged with kidnap and murder
He said: “Specialist officers remain in constant contact with Sarah’s family, and will continue to support them throughout the investigation and beyond.
“That investigation continues at a pace and we have hundreds of officers working round the clock to establish the full circumstances of Sarah’s disappearance, and her murder.”
Later on Friday evening, Wayne Couzens, a Met Police officer who was not on duty at the time of Ms Everard’s disappearance, was charged with kidnapping and murdering her.
He will appear before Westminster Magistrates’ Court this morning.
You can donate to Reclaim These Streets’ JustGiving page here.