After these killings of London women over the past 18 months...enough is enough

·4-min read
Clockwise from far left: Sarah Everard, Nicole Smallman, Bibaa Henry, Maria Rawlings, Marlene Coleman, Sabina Nessa, Bella Nicandro, Louise Kam, and Agnes Akom.  (ES composite)
Clockwise from far left: Sarah Everard, Nicole Smallman, Bibaa Henry, Maria Rawlings, Marlene Coleman, Sabina Nessa, Bella Nicandro, Louise Kam, and Agnes Akom. (ES composite)

Priti Patel has led calls from across Britain for landmark social change to tackle violence against women declaring: “Enough is enough”, after the murder of Sarah Everard.

Speaking to the Evening Standard, the Home Secretary stated that “monster” Pc Wayne Couzens, 48, would rightly spend the rest of his life behind bars. But she also captured a surge in anger and demand for the scourge of male violence against women and girls to be countered once and for all with full force.

“I don’t just say this as Home Secretary. I think women have basically said that’s it — enough is enough,” she said.

She was joined by victims, their families, MPs and campaigners calling for the horrific abduction, rape and murder of Ms Everard, 33, to galvanise Government, the police and society as a whole into urgent action to combat these “heinous and unspeakable” crimes.

Amid the demands for Ms Everard’s death to become a watershed moment in society:

  • Home Office minister Kit Malthouse, highlighting the scale of the crisis facing policing in lost trust, said it would be understandable if women called 999 if they doubted an officer’s identity or motives. They could ask for “verification” of the officer by asking to speak to the control room, he told LBC Radio, “or in extreme circumstances if they are very worried then they can call 999 and ask for verification”.

  • Former Met Police Commissioner Lord Stevens said there had been “extraordinary blunders”, with the vetting system not “fit for purpose”, which allowed Couzens to slip through the net and go on to commit the appalling crime. The officer, who joined the armed Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command last year, is reported to have indecently exposed himself in a McDonald’s in south London just days before Ms Everard’s murder. He was also nicknamed “The Rapist” by former colleagues at the Civil Nuclear Constabulary in Kent and allegedly drove around in a car naked in 2015, three years before he was hired by the Met.

  • The Met’s reputation was further hit after it emerged that the Independent Office for Police Conduct is investigating five serving officers, including three from the London force, who allegedly shared grossly offensive material with Couzens on a WhatsApp group months before he murdered Ms Everard. Some of it was reportedly misogynistic, racist and homophobic.

  • Policing minister Mr Malthouse rejected calls for Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick to resign, but former home secretary Jacqui Smith cast doubt on whether she could lead the change now needed.

  • More than 750 Met officers and staff have faced sexual misconduct allegations in the past 11 years with just 83 of them sacked, according to a Freedom of Information Request. Nearly 450 of the instances were found to be unsubstantiated or led to “no case to answer”.

Mr Malthouse faced accusations that he was not recognising the scale of the problem of violence against women.

Police vetting is being reviewed, after a senior officer admitted a check on Couzens was not done “correctly” when he joined the Met in 2018.

Former Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens (PA Media)
Former Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens (PA Media)

Couzens was starting his first full day behind bars after his life sentence, and was believed to be in a special wing for his own protection, while an investigation is under way into whether he committed other crimes.

Ms Patel said: “This was a monster that absolutely abused power and authority and that’s an absolute scandal and that’s where the police will have to make some changes through the reforms, through being held to account and through difficult conversations.

“But actually, it is wider, in terms of attitudes, behaviours, perpetrators, the whole of society. There’s a role for education here, for health, different aspects of the state, institutions of the state and society coming together, saying yes this is unacceptable.”

Her predecessor at the Home Office Sajid Javid, now Health Secretary, added: “Whether you are a young man, or a young woman, in London you should equally feel safe to walk the streets of London, to go out with your friends, stay out late at night.

“Clearly, that’s not the case at the moment for many women in London.”

Ms Everard’s murder was just one in a series of killings of women. Last month primary school teacher Sabina Nessa, 28 was killed in Kidbrooke, south-east London.

In July, 19-year-old Danyal Hussein was convicted of the murders of two sisters, Nicole Smallman, 27, and Bibaa Henry, 46, in a London park last year.

Other women who have been killed over the last 18 months include Maria Rawlings, 45, Agnes Akom, 20, Marlene Coleman, 53, Louise Kam, 71, and Bella Nicandro, 76.

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