Sarah Everard: Met police face probe over suspected officer

An officer is suspected of murder and indecent exposure in a case that has raised serious concerns about women’s safety.

Sarah Everard
Everard, 33, was last seen walking home from a friend’s apartment in London on March 3 [Photo by Metropolitan Police/AFP]

The police watchdog for England and Wales has launched an investigation into London’s Metropolitan Police Service (Met) over its handling of alleged indecent exposure by a police officer suspected of murdering a 33-year-old woman.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said in a statement on Thursday that it will consider if the force “responded appropriately” to the reported incident, which took place three days before Sarah Everard’s disappearance.

The IOPC’s announcement came as women in the United Kingdom shared their fears and anger over how unsafe they feel walking the streets after Everard went missing in London last week, and the subsequent arrest of a Met police officer on suspicion of her kidnap and killing.

A “Reclaim the Streets” vigil was organised for Saturday evening in southwest London, near where Everard was last seen, in a bid to highlight the challenges faced by women.

It was not yet clear if the event would take place, with police having raised concerns the event may breach COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

Similar events were planned for other cities and towns.

Human remains confirmed as Everard’s

Everard, 33, vanished shortly after 21:00 GMT while walking home from a friend’s apartment in the capital on March 3.

Her image, smiling at the camera or caught on CCTV that evening, has been splashed across UK newspapers all week.

On Friday, police confirmed that human remains found in woodland near Ashford, a town in the neighbouring county of Kent, were Everard’s.

The suspect, a serving Met officer, is in his 40s and was arrested on suspicion of kidnap and murder late on Tuesday in Kent. He remains in custody.

A woman in her 30s was also arrested at the same location on suspicion of assisting an offender. She has since been released on bail.

‘Terrible crime’

The arrested officer had been reported to police on February 28 over allegations of indecent exposure in a south London fast food restaurant.

Announcing its probe on Thursday, the IOPC said it had received a voluntary referral from the Met over a conduct matter in relation to the indecent exposure case.

The watchdog also said it would probe how the suspect sustained head injuries while in custody that required hospital treatment; police say the officer was injured when he was alone in his cell following arrest.

Everard’s family paid tribute to her on Thursday, saying: “[Our] beautiful daughter Sarah was taken from us and we are appealing for any information that will help to solve this terrible crime.

“Sarah was bright and beautiful – a wonderful daughter and sister. She was kind and thoughtful, caring and dependable.”

Their statement came as legislator Jess Phillips, the opposition Labour Party’s policy chief on domestic violence, read out in Parliament the names of all 118 women murdered by men last year.

“The message that needs to be sent is that male violence is something that has to be tackled and challenged, and the justice system and society has to wake up to that,” said Phillips.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies