Safety Reassurance Offered to Women in Wandsworth

Sarah Everard had visited friend in the borough on day of her disappearance

Sarah Everard
Sarah Everard

The disappearance and alleged murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard has dominated this week’s news, and left many residents in South London, particularly young women, concerned for their safety.

However Wandsworth councillors have sought to reassure the public that despite this week’s tragic events, they should not feel unsafe in the their area.

They also confirmed that there are more police patrols taking place around Clapham Common to reassure people.

Sarah left a friend’s house on Leathwaite Road, Battersea, about 9pm on Wednesday 3 March and shortly after disappeared.

She was last captured on doorbell camera footage on A205 Poynder Road towards Tulse Hill at 9:30pm.

There were a number of searches in Clapham Common and neighbouring Lambeth in the last week, before police began to focus on a home in Deal and woodland in Ashford.

On Tuesday (9 March) a serving Metropolitan Police Officer was arrested in Kent on suspicion of Ms Everard’s kidnap and was later rearrested on suspicion of her murder.

The following day (10 March) human remains were found in a woodland in Kent.

Today (12 March) it was confirmed by police that a body found during the search was hers.

Shaftesbury ward councillor Jonathan Cook, who is also chair of the Wandsworth Safer Neighbourhood Board, acknowledged that’s lots of people have been feeling very worried, and there has been “a profound sense of shock” locally.

“We’ve all felt it, haven’t we? I live in Battersea, my ward is Battersea. It’s extraordinary isn’t it when you see reported a street, in this case Leathwaite Road, which you know well, and all the shots of Clapham Common and everything and you think ‘I know that, that’s my patch.'”

However he stressed what appears to be the one-off nature of this case and the amount of resources being put into the investigation.

He said, “Wandsworth has been the safest inner London borough for many years now for just about every crime type, certainly violent crimes and this sort of thing is incredibly rare.

“I’ve chaired the Safer Neighbourhood Board here, with a short break, basically for the last 10 years, and I can’t remember anything remotely like this.

“It is incredibly unusual so people should be reassured by that. But obviously when something like this has just happened it’s often difficult to see it that way.”

Northcote ward councillor, Louise Calland, said lots of women have been thinking about if they feel safe when they’re walking home at night or jogging on their own.

“Women shouldn’t have to worry about that in this day and age but still do. That’s a lot of feeling nationally, not just locally.”

She said many residents have felt quite attached to the case. Lots of them are a similar age, know somebody just like Sarah, or have walked or jogged her route.

However, she also stressed that despite the “shocking and terrible” news, people should go about their lives as normal.

When asked about safety concerns on Clapham Common in recent years, she said the majority of complaints are about drug dealing and anti-social behaviour.

Most of this is dealt with by Lambeth Council who manage the park, but Wandsworth did install a temporary CCTV camera on the west side in recent weeks in response to concerns about drugs.

However, there has been “nothing to indicate a particular rise in crime in the area,” according to Cllr Calland.

“People should hopefully still feel safe, but lots of women will come out and say that they don’t feel safe full stop and I think that’s a much larger problem that needs to be addressed.”

She said local WhatsApp groups she’s part of have been circulating apps people can download to text emergency contacts their location if they ever feel unsafe when walking home, just to give that added layer of reassurance.

Queenstown ward cllr Aydin Dikderdem also said people generally feel safe on Clapham Common nowadays.

“I think it’s important this is not made to be about how safe it is to walk home in south London, it’s about violence against women,” he said.

Latchmere cllr Kate Stock added there has “definitely been a lot of concerns with women about safety” in the last week and that she has been “dwelling and reflecting” on the case herself.

“It’s difficult and really shocking,” she said.

Sian Bayley - Local Democracy Reporter

March 16, 2021