Women in Britain have poured out their fears and anger at how unsafe they feel walking the streets after the disappearance of a woman in London and the arrest of a police officer on suspicion of her kidnap and murder.
Sarah Everard, 33, was last seen on the night of March 3 as she walked home from a friend’s house in south London.
Her image, smiling at the camera or caught on CCTV that night, has been splashed across British newspapers all week.
Anxiety turned to grief after news late on Wednesday that police investigating Ms Everard’s disappearance had found remains in a wood outside London.
“The disappearance of Sarah and the absolute tragedy around that has really touched a nerve with a lot of women,” said Anna Birley, 31, one of the organisers of a planned “Reclaim These Streets” vigil to honour Ms Everard and demand change.
“We feel really angry that it’s an expectation put on women that we need to change our behaviour to stay safe. The problem isn’t women, the problem is that women aren’t safe on our streets.”
Women flooded social media with posts about the steps they take when out alone at night to keep safe, including clutching keys to use as a weapon and wearing trainers to help them run. Many raged at the violence against women that made them feel they had to take such measures.
Others detailed a catalogue of incidents of harassment by men in public over the decades since they were schoolgirls.
“These are so powerful because each and every woman can relate,” Home Secretary Priti Patel said. “Every woman should feel safe to walk on our streets without fear of harassment or violence.”
In parliament, Green Party peer Jenny Jones called for a daily curfew for all men – to keep women safe.
“I argue that, at the next opportunity for any Bill that is appropriate, I might put in an amendment to create a curfew for men on the streets after 6pm,” she said.
“I feel this would make women a lot safer, and discrimination of all kinds would be lessened.”
The head of London’s police force, Cressida Dick, said she and her colleagues were “utterly appalled” by news a police officer had been arrested in connection with Ms Everard’s abduction.
On Thursday (local time), police were given extra time to question the officer, whose job is to guard diplomatic buildings, on suspicion of kidnap, murder and indecent exposure.
A woman in her 30s, who media said was his wife, was also detained on suspicion of assisting an offender. She has since been released on police bail.
Ms Dick sought to reassure women, saying it was “incredibly rare” for a woman to be abducted from the streets.
Although the remains have not yet been formally identified, Ms Everard’s family paid tribute, saying their “beautiful daughter Sarah was taken from us and we are appealing for any information that will help to solve this terrible crime”.
The “Reclaim These Streets” vigil will take place on Saturday in Clapham Common in south-west London, near where Ms Everard was last seen.