Woman’s Disappearance Prompts Outcry Over Safety on London’s Streets

LONDON — Thousands of women across Britain have shared stories online of harassment and fear in public spaces after a woman went missing in London last week and a police officer was arrested in connection with the case.

Many women urged the authorities to make streets safer and address gender violence at a time when pandemic lockdown restrictions have emptied the country’s streets.

“We’re scared, we’re shaken and we’re intimidated,” Mandu Reid, the leader of the Women’s Equality Party, who is running for mayor of London in an election in May, said in an interview.

“While we have been confined to our homes, going out for walks has been an important release,” Ms. Reid said. “Now this has happened, and we feel under threat and under siege.”

Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, was last seen on March 3 in the Clapham neighborhood of south London. The police said on Wednesday that human remains had been found as part of their investigation into her disappearance, prompting an outpouring of grief from lawmakers, community leaders and London residents.

70 percent of women in Britain had experienced sexual harassment in public.

Boris Johnson and Mayor Sadiq Khan of London expressed sadness over Ms. Everard’s disappearance. Commissioner Dick called the situation “every family’s worst nightmare.”

Online, women offered countless testimonies about facing catcalls, unwanted attention, threats and assaults in public spaces. As Ms. Everard’s name trended on Twitter in Britain on Thursday, stories included recollections of anxious walks, of being followed in the streets and having to run and of being harassed in a public space.

Women also listed measures they felt compelled to take to mitigate risks, such as sharing with other women the addresses of places they go at night, keeping keys clenched in their hands as a weapon, choosing better-lit routes in the hope of avoiding danger, and having an app that sends a text with the person’s location when it detects a scream.

“Headphones at lowest volume, keys clenched in my hand, rape alarm in my pocket, fearful of the dark at 8.30 p.m.,” Joanna Montgomery, a 43-year-old London resident, wrote on Twitter as she shared a picture of walking two dogs on a street.

hundreds shared tips on how to help women feel less threatened.

While city officials have acknowledged that “too many women feel unsafe when traveling, working or going out at night,” activists and community leaders say little has been done to make the streets safer amid lockdown restrictions, when walking remains one of the few activities that people are allowed to do in public.

Ms. Everard left a friend’s house in south London around 9 p.m. on March 3. Her journey back home should have taken her around 50 minutes, and she was last spotted on CCTV at 9:30 p.m. near a road intersection in a residential area.

Police officers have searched hundreds of houses in the neighborhood, as well as ponds in a park, Clapham Common, that Ms. Everard may have walked through that night.

But hopes that she would be found alive grew slimmer on Wednesday evening, when Ms. Dick said that officers had found human remains in Kent, around 50 miles southeast of London. Ms. Dick said the police could not confirm the identity of the remains, adding that doing so could take “considerable time.”

Ms. Everard’s disappearance is likely to add pressure to Mr. Johnson’s government, which plans to introduce measures to address violence against women and girls this year. According to national statistics, more than 55,000 rapes were recorded in England and Wales in 2019 and 2020, and one in five women in Britain will be subjected to sexual assault during their lifetime.

It was even more shocking to many that the main suspect in Ms. Everard’s disappearance was a police officer. The Metropolitan Police said on Tuesday that the man, in his 40s, had been arrested on Tuesday in Kent and was being kept in custody on suspicion of kidnapping, murder and indecent exposure. A woman in her 30s was arrested at the same location on suspicion of assisting an offender.

The officer, who serves in the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command, and whose primary role was to patrol diplomatic premises, was not on duty when Ms. Everard disappeared, the police said.

On Wednesday Ms. Dick, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, sought to quell any mistrust the public may have about the force she oversees.

“I speak on behalf of all my colleagues when I say that we are utterly appalled at this dreadful, dreadful news,” she said.

But Ms. Reid, the leader of the Women’s Equality Party, said that even beyond devoting more funding to address gender violence and improving city planning to protect women, the police had a lot to do to win women’s trust.

“It’s not about safety — it’s about freedom in the public space,” Ms. Reid said. “Most of us have accepted that the streets are too dangerous for us,” she added. “But we can’t accept this any longer.”

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Police Officer Is Arrested Over London Woman’s Disappearance

LONDON — A London police officer was arrested on Tuesday in connection with the disappearance of a woman who went missing last week as she was on her way home in the southern part of the city.

Sarah Everard, 33, left a friend’s house on the evening of March 3 and was last spotted on CCTV in the Clapham neighborhood, according to the Metropolitan Police.

In the week since she was last seen, officers have searched more than 750 houses in South London, extended patrols in the area and urged witnesses to come forward, but the arrest was the most significant development in the case, the police said.

The officer was arrested in Kent, in southeastern England. He was taken into custody along with a woman who was arrested at the same location on suspicion of assisting an offender, the police said, without providing further details about the suspect’s alleged involvement in the case.

have acknowledged that “too many women feel unsafe when traveling, working or going out at night,” little has been done to make the streets safer during the lockdown, when walking is one of the few activities that residents are allowed to do in public.

“Sarah’s disappearance feels so close to the bone because every time women walk alone after dark, however subconsciously, we carry the fear that something awful might happen,” Marisa Bate, a freelance writer, said on Twitter.

said, “When people are no longer safe walking home through residential streets of South London isn’t it time for lockdown to end??”

This week, officers searched ponds in Clapham Common and cordoned off a block of apartment buildings near where Ms. Everard disappeared, British news outlets reported. The police were also searching several woodland areas and places in Kent, around 70 miles southeast of London.

London has nearly 700,000 CCTV cameras, according to one estimate, and throughout the week the Metropolitan Police have urged residents to check their private security systems.

“We have seized a number of CCTV recordings, but we know that there are likely to be many more out there,” Detective Chief Inspector Katherine Goodwin said in a statement. “Please, even if you’re not sure, check your doorbell or CCTV footage just in case it holds a clue.”

Pictures released by the Metropolitan Police show Ms. Everard on the night of her disappearance, wearing a green coat and white and blue pants. She also seemed to have been wearing green earphones and a white hat, the police said.

Detective Goodwin said on Tuesday that the case was still being treated as a missing person investigation.

“I want to remain clear that at this time we have no information to suggest that Sarah has come to any harm,” she said. “And we retain an open mind as to the circumstances.”

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