Sarah Everard Killing: British Police Officer Charged With Murder

LONDON — A police officer was charged late Friday with kidnapping and murdering Sarah Everard, a marketing executive who went missing in South London last week and whose disappearance had touched off a national outcry over violence against women.

The Metropolitan Police said that the officer, Wayne Couzens, 48, whose primary role was patrolling diplomatic premises, would appear in court on Saturday to face the charges.

A body that was found this week in a wooded area in southeast England was definitively identified as Ms. Everard’s earlier on Friday, ending days of uncertainty.

In just days, her case had come to symbolize a longstanding problem that many women said plagues Britain and could no longer be ignored: that at home or in public spaces, many women are not safe.

The alleged incident occurred on Feb. 28 at a fast-food restaurant in South London, the police watchdog said, three days before Ms. Everard disappeared. It remains unclear why Mr. Couzens was not suspended following the incident.

“If that had been followed up, he would have been suspended from duty,” said Mick Neville, a former chief detective inspector at the Metropolitan Police. “Officers must have treated this as a minor matter, not thinking that he was a police officer, and in hindsight, it took tragic proportions.”

Mr. Couzens worked on the day of Ms. Everard’s disappearance, but was off duty when she was last seen.

In a separate but related dispute, the organizers of a vigil for Ms. Everard that was planned for Saturday said that the Metropolitan Police had called the gathering unlawful because of coronavirus restrictions, and that it had threatened to fine them.

A court in London ruled on Friday that the gathering could be deemed unlawful by the authorities. “Our message to those who were looking to attend vigils in London this weekend, including at Clapham Common, is stay at home or find a lawful and safer way to express your views,” Cmdr. Catherine Roper of the Metropolitan Police said.

Home Secretary Priti Patel, who oversees the country’s police forces, sought to contain mounting criticism against the Metropolitan Police on Friday.

“If you are feeling angry or worried, please try to remember that tens of thousands of police officers are equally sickened by what has happened, and there are currently hundreds of dedicated officers working night and day to bring the perpetrator to justice,” Ms. Patel wrote in The Sun newspaper.

Nick Ephgrave, an assistant commissioner at the Metropolitan Police, said, “I know that the public feel deeply hurt and angry and I speak on behalf of all my colleagues when I say that we too are horrified.”

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