Sarah Everard: Tackling violence against women “absolute priority” says Merseyside Police Commissioner

In the weeks between Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa’s tragic murders, 82 more women were killed.

<p>Police and Crime Commissioner Emily Spurrell. </p>

Police and Crime Commissioner Emily Spurrell.

Merseyside’s Police Comissioner has reiterated her ‘absolute’ commitment to tackling violence against women in the wake of the sentencing of Sarah Everard’s killer yesterday.

Ms Everard was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a London Metropolitan Police officer in March this year.

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On Thursday, Wayne Couzens was given a whole life sentence by a judge at the Old Bailey and is expected to die behind bars.

The sentencing came just days after a man was charged with the murder of 28-year-old Sabina Nessa, whose body was found in Cator Park in London, just a few minutes’ walk from her home.

Sarah Everard

Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Emily Spurrell said: “I have made tackling violence against women and girls an absolute priority in my Police and Crime Plan and I know the Chief Constable shares that commitment.

“In the weeks between Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa’s tragic murders, 82 more women were killed.

“Their names are not known. Their pictures are not all over the media. Their cases are not in the public spotlight.

“That’s because they died behind closed doors and because violence against women and girls is still not taken as seriously as other forms of serious violence.

“This has to change.”

Merseyside’s plan to tackle violence against women

Spurrell, who was elected as PCC in May 2021, has pledged to create a taskforce and region-wide strategy to tackle the “epidemic of violence” against women and girls.

The PCC has also called upon Merseyside Police to treat misogyny as a hate crime, warning that violence against women and girls (VAWG) doesn’t get treated as seriously as other crimes.

She has also said she is looking to recruit a VAWG lead who will help spearhead the taskforce and aid strategy.

The way support services are funded is also under review.

Merseyside Police have already set up a VAWG board to ensure the response to crimes of this nature is prioritised.

The force says the board also identifies other policing activity to address the safety of women and girls.

The Sarah Everard case

Couzens used his Metropolitan Police-issue warrant card and handcuffs to snatch 33-year-old marketing executive Ms Everard as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, on the evening of 3 March.

The firearms officer, who had clocked off from a 12-hour shift at the American embassy that morning, drove to a secluded rural area near Dover in Kent, before parking up and raping her.

Wayne Couzens, 48, who has been handed a whole life order at the Old Bailey for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard.

Ms Everard, who lived in Brixton, south London, had been strangled with the officer’s police belt by 02:30am the following morning.

Couzens then burned her body in a refrigerator in an area of woodland he owned near Ashford, Kent, before dumping the remains in a nearby pond.

Amid extensive publicity as officers searched for Ms Everard, the 48-year-old took his family on a day out to the woods where he had dumped her body and allowed his two children to play close by.

Couzens was arrested at his home in Deal, Kent, on 9 March after police connected him to a hire car used to kidnap Ms Everard, whose remains were discovered by police dogs the following day.

At Thursday’s sentencing at the Old Bailey in London the judge said the case was “devastating, tragic and wholly brutal”.

Lord Justice Fulford added that the seriousness of the case was so “exceptionally high” that Couzens would never be released from jail.

PCC response to the Everard case and trust in police

“The details which have emerged over the last two days about the murder of Sarah Everard are utterly heart-breaking and devastating,” said Spurrell.

“My heart goes out to Sarah’s family, friends and everyone who knew and loved her.

“The details of how she spent her final hours are gut-wrenching and it is absolutely right, given the horrendous betrayal of trust, that her killer received a whole life sentence today.

“The police officers and staff that I have spoken to are utterly appalled at the circumstances of this case and are deeply concerned at the impact this will have on the confidence women and girls have in the police.

“People join the police to protect the public, to serve their communities and to support victims.

“Sadly, the actions of this barbaric individual will reverberate across policing. And it is only right that Chief Constables and all of us in positions of leadership use this moment to deliver genuine change.”