When Sarah Everard, a marketing executive living in London, a Durham University graduate; a girlfriend, friend, daughter; a human being, was abducted, raped, and murdered by a complete stranger when she was walking home one evening, the nation was shook.
For days, social media was ablaze with rightly furious women posting about what had happened to them at the hands of men. Men they trusted. Men they never trusted. Men who were in positions of power over them. Men they had never seen before, and have never seen again.
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80% of us – women, that is – have been subjected to some kind of sexual assault or harassment. That’s almost all of us, and being a young woman with friends who are also young women, this statistic is not at all shocking.
People who were shocked have not been paying attention. And now it has come to light that the fury ignited by Sarah Everard’s murder had even more of a right to erupt. Why? Because the Metropolitan Police – yet again, may I add – failed.
The man who has pleaded guilty to the abduction, rape, and murder of Ms Everard – whose name I will not even type in an article about this young woman, who had her life callously stolen from her – was a police officer. In fact, he was protecting Parliament and embassies around London.
We already knew that just days before Sarah’s murder, the man who did it was accused of indecent exposure in public. We already know he was still allowed to continue serving as an officer.
But even more of this behaviour has emerged – dating right back to 2015. In June that year, the police officer was alleged to have been driving around Kent semi-naked from the waist down. This was reported to the police at the time, and it is believed there would have been enough evidence to identify the man as the one who went on to take Sarah’s life.
Three years later, the Metropolitan Police hired him. And when he was moved to the diplomatic protection force – which included providing the officer with a firearm – no extensive vetting checks were carried out.
This particular incident was referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) two months after Sarah Everard’s murder.
Since then, the IOPC have said that twelve officers from several forces have so far been served with gross misconduct or misconduct notices in relation to Sarah’s case.
They have also revealed that the officer was accused of exposing himself on two other occasions. There are concerns that the Metropolitan Police did not investigate this properly.
After the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the Met Police found to be institutionally racist, failing to investigate Mr Lawrence’s murder properly, and to provide him with adequate immediate medical care.
After the murder of Sarah Everard, the Met Police refused to allow women to gather peacefully for a candle-lit vigil in her name. They used brutal tactics against women, shoving them to the ground at Clapham Common, where Sarah was last seen alive.
But anti-lockdown marches and football gatherings were not treated with the same disdain and disrespect. You would think that when a Met Police officer had been accused of such heinous crimes, they’d do everything in their power to stand with – not against – those appalled by his actions.
According to The Mirror in March this year, former female police officers – including a former chief constable – revealed a toxic, sexist culture within the Met. They told of how male officers passed around pornography while on duty, made comments about women they passed while patrolling the streets, joked about having sex with a missing woman, and “bumped into” female colleagues to rub against their breasts.
In June last year, twins Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry, were stabbed to death in Wembley; pronounced dead at the scene. Two Met Police officers took and shared photographs of their dead bodies on WhatsApp.
After Sarah Everard’s murder, a Met Police officer was taken off duty and referred to the IOPC after allegedly sending an inappropriate and offensive image regarding her case on WhatsApp.
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What seems clear to me is that there is a serious problem with the Met Police. How can they continuously get almost everything not involving a straight, white, cisgendered man wrong? And, perhaps more to the point, how could they possibly fail to identify one of their own as a potential sex offender when he was actually nicknamed by colleagues ‘The Rapist’?
Yes, that’s right. The man who murdered Sarah Everard was given that as he had a tendency to make women feel uncomfortable.
Some of the press and the police may act surprised that this man went on to abduct, rape, and murder a young woman “randomly”, but it’s just untrue. It doesn’t take a genius to see that a behavioural trend has been swept under the carpet by the only people with the power to stop it.
And the Met Police itself no doubt has the same, institutional issue. For years, it seems, police up and down the country just get away with being in what has been described as a “boys club”, where sexism is rife.
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Channel 4 reported that 129 women approached the Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ) since 2019 with claims of being raped, beaten, and coerced by their police officer partners.
It’s all right there in front of us, just like Sarah’s murderer was too. He could have been spotted years beforehand – even months – if someone had the sense to speak up about his behaviour, or if the forces involved had bothered to do their job.
Maybe when we have an effective, functioning police force in this country, it will be easier to trust them. But until then, we will remember what happened to Sarah Everard, and we will always know that we cannot fully trust the police. We can’t even trust them not to murder us.
Not when the evidence is so much to the contrary.