Clapham Common women say they are afraid to go out alone

Clapham Common women say they are afraid to go out alone

October 1, 2021

EXCLUSIVE ‘I used to trust the police, but now I feel scared’: Women on Clapham Common reveal Sarah Everard murder has left them afraid to go out alone – and say Met Police’s strategy doesn’t make them any feel safer

Women in Clapham Common where Sarah Everard was picked up by Wayne Couzens during a ‘fake arrest’ say they do not feel any safer under the Met Police’s new measures.

The strategy states victims who are being abducted by a police officer should attempt to wave down a bus, run into a house or shout out to a passer by.

The guidance has been described as ‘insulting and derisory’ with critics saying it puts the onus on women rather than tackling violent men. 

But speaking today, women in south London say they are now more fearful and less trustworthy of the police and believe the new measures won’t make any difference.

Lawyer and commentator David Green also warned the ‘unrealistic and misconceived’ new guidance by the Met Police could cause chaos and in extreme cases see women Tasered for resisting arrest. 

The Met’s advise to flag down a bus has caused particular anger and MPs today called for an independent inquiry into the murder of Miss Everard and how the Metropolitan Police failed to root out Wayne Couzens.

Jess Phillips, Labour’s shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, said the advice is ‘tone deaf’, adding she ‘would have got in the car and almost anybody would have got in the car’ and ‘the onus is on the Metropolitan Police to do better’.

Shadow cabinet member Wes Streeting said: ‘Apparently bus drivers should stop if someone is waving them down in the street away from a bus stop, just in case, because that’s a better answer than the Met getting their act together?! Utterly woeful’.

Meanwhile Met Commissioner Lord Stevens said there had been ‘extraordinary blunders’ in the run up to Sarah’s murder and the forces’ vetting system is not ‘fit for purpose’ because he slipped through the net and went go on to commit the appalling crimes. 

Here, women who live near the spot where Miss Everard was stopped by Couzens in March give their thoughts on the new guidance. 

Jenny Putt, 30, a nurse from Belfast who is visiting a friend in Clapham Common

‘It’s hard to say whether the government’s advice works because it hasn’t been put to the test yet.

‘Every scenario is going to be very difference and so you can’t come up with a single solution.

‘I’m from Belfast and where I’m from the police say things and then don’t necessarily do them all the time.

‘So even with this advice, it won’t stop this from happening again.

‘I think educating children when they’re young is more important. Teaching kids first aid and self-defence would be better, I think.

‘If I’ve got my headphones in and am walking home at late at night, I’ll sometimes hold my keys between my fingers.

‘But I think if someone wants to attack someone they’ll figure a way to do so.’

Gabriella Rose, 27, a web developer who lives in Clapham  

‘I feel you get told a lot of that stuff anyways – it’s basic parental or school guidance.

‘But for the problem they’re trying to fix, I don’t think the advice is going to make a difference.

‘It doesn’t make women or anyone else walking around London for that matter feel any safer.

‘There needs to be actual physical measures put in place, like making sure streets are well lit at night.

‘Sarah Everard’s case is really difficult because he was a police officer.

‘I would have probably trusted him myself and most of my friends would have too.

‘It’s not only the system though, there are just some people out there who are dangerous.

‘I still trust the police because in general – 99.9 per cent of cases, they are here to help.

‘That’s why Sarah Everard put her trust in him, but then all it takes is one sick individual.

‘It’s made me wary of the police, especially if a single officer approached me in normal clothes.

‘It’s all good the police giving out this advice, but it’s common sense.

‘I think the problem is a much bigger thing. It’s a complex situation and there’s no easy answer.

‘Saying men beware and girls stop acting like this or that isn’t going to solve anything.’

Funda Gunduzalp, 31, a nursery teacher from Wandsworth

‘It’s hard because he was a police officer, so she must have trusted him.

‘Then when she realised something was wrong it was too late.

‘I think the government should limit what officers can do when they’re on their own.

‘I don’t think you will necessarily be able to follow the advice because you’re probably going to be feeling scared and worried.

‘You’re probably asking yourself what have you done wrong – especially if it’s during lockdown.

‘You could be paralysed with fear and your body just shuts down, you know.

‘So I don’t think it’s fair to put everything on women.

‘The system needs to pick up on officers who are showing early signs violence.

‘I used to trust the police, but now I feel scared.

‘I used to walk and run around the Common and Battersea park on my own. But I wouldn’t do that now.’

Megan James, 24, a civil servant who lives on Clapham Common 

‘I think it’s good in theory, but it needs to be communicated more widely, otherwise it won’t work in practice.

‘I don’t know if I would feel comfortable approaching a stranger or bus driver and asking them for help.

‘Plus by the time you think of triggering those solutions – the government’s advice, it’s probably too late.

‘In the Sarah Everard case, which I’ve been followed quite closely, the officer wasn’t even in uniform.

‘I think more needs to be done – the fact she was literally arrested shows the system doesn’t work.

‘It shows some people are clearly going to abuse their position of power. I used to think of the police safety net, but now I’ve realised they are just like everyone else.

‘If I was in that position, I think I would have bowed down to that police officer quite easily – so definitely, more needs to be done to make us comfortable on the streets

‘I live in a house with three other girls and we’ve taken matters into our own hands, because you’re constantly looking over your shoulder.

‘We always carry our keys in our hand and share our locations in a WhatsApp group whenever we go out.’

Ningi Chambers, 37, a support worker from Brixton 

‘I don’t think the government’s advice to wave down a bus and things like that are enough.

‘I think they should put more police officers on the streets in uniform and women should carry a rape alarm.

‘I still trust the police, they are still doing their job and at they are not all the same.

‘If they weren’t wearing their uniform and don’t have a badge you know something is wrong.’

Josie Rachell, 23, who lives in Clapham and works in green finance 

‘Me and my friends were really freaked out after hearing what happened to Sarah Everard.

‘Especially because she did everything we do and it still happened.

‘I guess it’s good to have more ideas about what women can do in that situation.

‘But it’s still putting the burden on us [women] rather than men and cops.

‘If you can’t trust the police to keep you safe, then why are they even here?

‘These are all temporary things, because a much bigger cultural shift needs to happen.

‘It’s an intimidating situation and you want to trust a person who says they’re a cop.

‘It’s easy for the government to give advice but not necessarily easy for women to follow it.

‘My friends and I all share locations with each other.

‘We all bought little key chain alarms after hearing what happened to Sarah.

‘But I accidentally set mine off in the middle of the night once and nobody woke up.’

Natasha Bush, 45, who works in banking and lives in Clapham

 ‘Just because they’ve got a strategy doesn’t make me feel any safer.

‘I’m not going to refer to a handbook if I feel threatened – it’s ridiculous.

‘It’s obviously a step in the right direction, but what we really need is more police presence.

‘I give my five year old son the same advice, if you ever don’t feel safe you need to run to someone.

‘The problem is, it only works if you can do that, because at night there isn’t a lot of traffic or people around.

‘It almost fills me with more fear that they need to have a policy about officers being on their own.

‘Surely a better way of dealing with this would be to make sure they are always in pairs.

‘I still trust the police because you can’t villainise them based on the action of a single officer.

‘Statistics show women are more susceptible to attacks than men.

‘If I get into a cab or something, I’ll get my phone and take a photo or something.

‘If I’m walking home at night, I’ll let my husband know that I’m on the way.’

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