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The London cop whose arrest in relation to the disappearance of a missing woman is sparking outrage and a reckoning on women’s security in the United Kingdom has now been charged with her murder, police said.
Sarah Everard, 33, disappeared walking home the night of March 3 after leaving a friend in the Clapham area of southwest London. On Friday, PC Wayne Couzens was charged with her kidnapping and murder, according to London Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave.
Couzens was arrested at his home in Deal, Kent, on suspicion of kidnapping and later further arrested on suspicion of murder following the discovery of human remains in a wooded area of Kent. The 48-year-old, who joined the Met police in 2018 and was a member of an armed parliamentary and diplomatic protection command since February 2020, appeared in court on Saturday.
Wearing a gray jumpsuit and with a visible head wound, Couzins did not speak during his appearance. He has been hospitalized twice since being taken into custody, the BBC reported. The judge remanded him into custody and he is scheduled to appear at London’s Central Criminal Court on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.
Hours after his court appearance, hundreds gathered on Clapham Common, near where Everard disappeared, for a “Reclaim These Streets” vigil. The crowd, disregarding a judge’s ruling amid pandemic restrictions, carried signs that read “We will not be silenced” and “She was just walking home.”
However, police soon broke up the gathering and demonstrators tussled with officers from the same force as Everard's suspected killer. The British Press Association reported that amid the melee, several women were pulled away in handcuffs by male Met officers as onlookers screamed at them.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan decried the police actions on Clapham Common as “unacceptable,” tweeting in a statement that “the police have a responsibility to enforce COVID laws, but from images I’ve seen it’s clear the response was at times neither appropriate nor proportionate.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said he was “deeply concerned” about footage from the gathering; he scheduled a meeting Monday of the Crime and Justice Taskforce on how to protect women and girls from violence, the PA reported.
Police Minister Kit Malthouse said that an independent “lessons learned” investigation would “make sure that everything was done in accordance with the rules.” He also defended Metropolitan Police Chief Dame Cressida Dick, who is under pressure to resign after the altercation on Clapham Common.
“This particular circumstance, where emotion was running naturally extremely high, everybody incredibly distressed about what had happened, and indeed the police themselves devastated about the implications of this case,” he said. “In these circumstances, it’s very important that we get to the detail of what’s happened and that’s what will emerge over the next couple of weeks.”
Liberal Democrat party leader Sir Ed Davey has led the call for Dick’s resignation, while the feminist Women’s Equality Party co-founder Catherine Mayer said Dick’s position was “untenable.”
On Sunday, Dick spoke about the police response at Clapham Common.
"I wouldn't have wanted to see a vigil in memory of Sarah end with those scenes,” she said. "Indeed, if it had been lawful, I'd have been there. I would have been at a vigil.
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