British police holding a fellow officer on suspicion of kidnap and murder said yesterday a body discovered in woodland was that of a missing woman at the centre of a high-profile case that has stoked national anger in the UK.
The woman, a 33-year-old marketing executive, vanished while walking home from a friend’s flat in south London on the evening of March 3.
The case has sent shockwaves through the London force — and the wider public — and triggered a debate about women’s safety.
The latest development came as detectives said they had been given more time to question a serving member of the Metropolitan Police’s elite diplomatic protection unit in connection with the case.
“The body has now been recovered and a formal identity procedure has taken place. I can now confirm that it is the body of Sarah Everard,” Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Nick Ephgrave told reporters.
Ephgrave said hundreds of officers were “working around the clock to establish the full circumstances of Sarah’s disappearance and her murder.
“A man remains in custody at a London police station on suspicion of committing those crimes,” he added.
The case has sparked widespread anger in the UK, and on Thursday MP Jess Phillips read out the names in parliament of 118 women and girls killed in Britain in the last year.
“Dead women is a thing we’ve all just accepted as part of our daily lives,” said Phillips, reading the names of victims whose killings involve a man charged or convicted.
“Killed women are not vanishingly rare. Killed women are common,” she added.
Vigils in doubt
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), a watchdog dealing with policing complaints, is probing the police over its handling of the case.
That includes examining how the suspect ended up requiring treatment in hospital Thursday for a head injury, which police have said he sustained while in custody alone in a cell.
The suspect, whose identity has not been released by officials but has been widely named in the media, was originally detained in Kent, southeast England, late Tuesday on suspicion of kidnapping.
He was arrested for murder the following day and is also being questioned on a separate allegation of indecent exposure.
The IOPC watchdog has said it will probe whether Met officers responded appropriately to the indecent exposure accusation, which occurred several days before Everard disappeared.
Meanwhile vigils planned for today in south London and elsewhere to honour Everard were thrown into doubt yesterday after a High Court judge declined to rule on the legal right to protest under coronavirus restrictions.
Reclaim These Streets, a volunteer collective planning the socially-distanced events, urged the Met to work with organisers to ensure it could go ahead.
But the force said the judge had reaffirmed the police’s right to conclude that large gatherings were currently unlawful and urged people to “find a lawful and safer way to express your views”.”
“We continue to speak with the organisers… in light of this judgement and will explain the rules and urge people to stay at home,” the Met added.