‘If we can’t trust the police to protect our daughters, who can we trust?’

·8-min read
Sarah Everard - Family Handout/CPS/PA Wire
Sarah Everard - Family Handout/CPS/PA Wire

Reading the words of Sarah Everard’s mother, Susan, on the impact of her daughter’s death has been harrowing. Lord Justice Fulford’s sentencing remarks acknowledged them when he said how Susan, Jeremy and Katie Everard all spoke “with great dignity” which “revealed the true human impact of his warped, selfish and brutal offending”.

Here, five mothers of daughters share their emotions and reactions to Susan’s words of love and loss.

‘What stranger is “safe” when a policeman fakes an arrest?’

Sarah Rodrigues

Sarah Rodrigues - Clara Molden
Sarah Rodrigues - Clara Molden

Parent or not, there can scarcely be a heart in the world that remains unbroken after reading the victim statement written by the mother of Sarah Everard. My own gut roiled and twisted as I read it: her grief is, at once, palpable and unfathomable. It’s impossible to imagine how she has survived since the day her daughter disappeared; as a mother, I truly don’t know how I would navigate the days after a loss so horrific.

They say there is no love as great as the love a parent has for a child. I think back to the times when my children have been hurt, scared or sad. Their pain has been my pain. The idea of not even being able to try to comfort them – of being denied that opportunity - is unthinkable. Even eight years later, the memory of momentarily losing my youngest child in a crowded train station makes the bottom fall out of my stomach. The fact that he approached “a man with a clipboard, because I knew he must be safe” for help is terrifying – for what stranger is “safe” when a policeman fakes an arrest in order to rape, kill and burn? We bring up our children to respect authority, to accept punishment when they have done the wrong thing – who can ever expect that this might, one day, endanger them?

“We have kept her dressing gown – it still smells of her and I hug that...” This is the point at which my tears spilled. To Sarah’s mother, I can only say that I am so, so sorry for what you have endured and for what you will continue to endure in the absence of your daughter. To her killer, I say only: You are less than nothing. Whatever you have taken, you can never take away love.

‘I’m so sad the world must be framed as a dangerous place, but it’s necessary’

Clover Stroud

Clover Stroud
Clover Stroud

Like many women, I’ve walked through the past two days in a veil of tears. Learning of the details of Sarah Everard’s death was shattering. Reading her mother Susan’s statement was beyond heartbreaking, but I’ve also been struck by her grace and courage as she shared her pain, and memories of Sarah, with us. More than anything, after this terrible trial, I hope we remember Sarah who was a caring daughter, a clever, practical girl, a woman with purpose, a brilliant listener, a beautiful dancer and a wonderful daughter.

But as a mother of two daughters, it’s impossible not to feel acute dismay that the message I’ve always sent them into the world with – that they’re strong and independent and should face life with self-belief – is wrong. Violence against women no longer feels like random isolated cases. In the same week we learn of the fate of Sarah’s killer, we’re also mourning Sabina Nessa.

I must temper my message, telling my daughters that, rather than go fiercely out into the world, they should take much greater care of themselves. Don’t travel after dark alone, even as early as 9pm, but stick with your friends. Don’t trust any lone male who approaches you. Be vigilant, always, for your safety. I’m so sad the world must be framed as a dangerous place, but reading Sarah’s mother’s statement makes me see how necessary this is. And somewhere, I hope that Sarah is free and happy, surrounded by the brightest light and warmest love, and that she is dancing.

‘I must find a way to reassure my daughter because we cannot live in fear’

Annabel Heseltine

Annabel Heseltine - Andrew Crowley
Annabel Heseltine - Andrew Crowley

Reading Susan Everard’s impact statement this morning made me feel sick to the core. She so eloquently and beautifully expresses the pain and anguish which every mother fears but which, terribly, has become her reality. As I let my 19-year-olds twins, a boy and a girl, loose on London for the first time this week I have never felt so vulnerable nor so exposed.

They are new to the capital and anxious. My daughter has read the news and I cannot easily reassure her when I know that a man masquerading as a keeper of the law can brazenly abduct a girl on a high street in front of others early in the evening. But I must find a way because we cannot live in fear.

Sarah was a lovely, pretty, young girl who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and my heart goes out to her mother but we cannot take the dreadful sin of one man and visit it on the millions of others living in the same city. London is a big and exciting metropolis with so many wonderful opportunities and my children can only grow by taking on new challenges, whether that’s the first bus they take, the first Uber or, dare I say it, the first time they walk down a London high street on their own.

‘The thought of your child alone, petrified and defenceless is unendurable’

Helena Frith Powell

Reading the statement by Sarah Everard’s mother made me feel a combination of sorrow, pity, fury and anxiety. As a mother (and stepmother) of three young women, everything Susan Everard said resonated. The first thing I wanted to do was to hug my daughters (aged 20, 21 and 27) and never let them leave the house again. I have always told them to trust their instincts, that if someone seems strange in any way they probably are. I wonder if there was a moment when Sarah doubted her killer’s authenticity? But then dismissed her fears because he was a figure of authority to be obeyed.

For me, the most painful part of Susan Everard’s speech was the horror of not knowing how long her daughter was aware that this man was evil and how much terror she endured before her brutal ordeal was finally over. For a mother who has spent decades protecting her children, the thought of your child alone, petrified and defenceless is unendurable. That the family had some small consolation from the fact that he burnt her after murdering her is agonising. The image of Sarah’s mother hugging the dressing gown that still smells of her beloved daughter is tender and tragic.

Like Sarah’s mother, we will all be haunted by the horror of what happened to her daughter. Not only because of the pain we feel for her and her family, but also knowing that it could so easily have been one of our own.

‘My first instinct is to warn her to trust no one – especially not a policeman’

Sharon Walker

Sharon Walker - John Nguyen/JNVisuals
Sharon Walker - John Nguyen/JNVisuals

My heart goes out to Sarah Everard’s mother and to her family. To think of your daughter dying in such a horrific way would haunt anyone forever.

Like so many other women I’m disgusted, horrified and angry. I’m also gripped by fear for my own 21-year-old daughter’s safety. My first instinct is to warn her to go nowhere alone and to trust no one, especially not a policeman.

But why should she have to curtail her freedoms? She should be able to go about her life and work feeling safe. It makes me furious that any woman should feel she needs a chaperone to go about her daily business in this day and age. What century are we in?

And it’s not as if this is an isolated incident: 78 women have died since Sarah Everard’s death and 71 per cent of us have experienced sexual harassment in public spaces, with the number rising to 86 per cent of 18-24 year olds.

Wayne Couzens abused his power as a policeman, citing Covid rules and used his police badge and handcuffs to abduct her. How is anyone supposed to trust the police now? Especially after learning that Couzens was caught flashing six years ago before joining the police and was even nicknamed “the rapist” when he worked in the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC). He had been accused of indecent exposure three times before he abducted Sarah Everard on March 3.

Two further police officers have been charged with misconduct after taking selfies at the scene where murdered sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman lay in Wembley Park and sharing them on WhatsApp.

The police force and justice system is clearly broken and needs fixing. I want the Government to take action and I want to know what is going to be done to protect women? What is being done to ensure that young women are safe on the streets, in their homes and at the hands of the police? Let’s face it, if we can’t trust the police to protect our daughters, who can we trust?

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