Sarah Everard was a 33-year-old marketing executive kidnapped and murdered by a serving London Police officer whilst walking home from a friend’s house near Clapham Common in London on 3rd March 2021. We have all heard about Sarah and her tragic story, but why did such a thing happen? And how can we stop similar things from happening again?

What happened to Sarah?

Wayne Couzens pleaded guilty to all three counts of murder, kidnap and rape and was sentenced to life imprisonment on a whole life order. He was a serving police officer who used his authority to falsely arrest Sarah, under the pretence of having ‘breached COVID 19 regulations’, where he then drove her to near Dover, in Kent. Wayne then raped her, strangled her, burnt her body, and disposed of the remains in a nearby pond.

A shocking crime to anyone – but the detail that has led to extensive media coverage and backlash is that Couzens used his position as a serving Metropolitan Police Officer to mislead Sarah, using handcuffs and his police badge. Even more concerning was that Sarah and Wayne were strangers. On average, about 57% of female victims were killed by someone they know, most commonly a partner or ex-partner. 

The Backlash

Since the attack, there has been a widespread backlash towards Sarah’s murder. Many have come forward and explained rights when it comes to being arrested. This is in the hope that people are more aware of their options if they are ever feeling uncomfortable around a police officer they may be with. The government has also reopened its public consultation on its violence against women and girls strategy. There has been an additional 160,000 responses in just two weeks. Many have argued that this is a poor attempt at implementing change.

A 28-year-old primary school teacher, Sabina Nessa, was also murdered while on her way to meeting a friend in Kidbrooke, South London. Sarah and Sabina’s deaths were within six months of each other. So, why is it that unknown men have aimlessly murdered two women, and how can women increase their safety? As it stands, in England and Wales, almost one in three women will experience domestic abuse; a current or former partner kills two women a week, and more than half a million women are raped or sexually assaulted each year. The statistics are so much higher in reality.

The Aftermath

Thousands of women and girls up and down the country have now spoken out in fear that they have been or will be failed by a system we are all encouraged to trust. Many women have expressed concern that they will not get justice if the worst were to happen. Another worry is that they could be stopped by a single police officer and meet a similar destiny to Sarah.

People are now being encouraged to read and understand their rights when it comes to being arrested and when it comes to being stopped and searched.

Sarah Everard’s story is considered shocking to anyone, but hopefully, in the future, it will be used as a warning for people everywhere to stay vigilant. We encourage you to learn and know your legal rights.