UK Home Secretary Backs '888' Walk-You-Home Line in Wake of Everard Murder
15:11 GMT 09.10.2021 (Updated: 15:47 GMT 09.10.2021)
The murder of Sarah Everard by a policeman sparked a national outcry, prompting calls for new laws to criminalise misogyny and for the head of London's Metropolitan Police to resign in disgrace over the failure to spot criminal tendencies in a serving officer.
British Home Secretary Priti Patel has supported plans for a new safety phone line and app aimed at women travelling alone at night.
The "888" number was proposed by telecoms giant BT Group chief executive Philip Jansen following the conviction of police officer Wayne Couzens
last month for the kidnap, rape, and murder of London woman Sarah Everard.
Users would download an app onto their mobile phones, which would be activated by dialling or texting the number 888 — close to the 999 emergency services number that BT has run for the past 84 years. Jansen said the service could cost around £50 million and be up and running by Christmas.
The user would give an estimated time of arrival at home, and the app would use the smartphone's GPS location finder to track their progress. If the user is overdue, the app would automatically notify their nominated emergency contacts and, finally, the police.
"This new phone line is exactly the kind of innovative scheme which would be good to get going as soon as we can", Patel said on Friday night. "I'm now looking at it with my team and liaising with BT".
Jansen said the service would be run on a non-profit basis and could be used by anyone who felt vulnerable, not just women.
"I was watching the non-stop TV coverage of the despicable situation surrounding Sarah Everard and just despairing at it", he said.
"It's very rare that people get kidnapped, raped and murdered, and the whole story is just awful", Jansen said. "But what is not rare is the number of people who feel worried or fearful on a walk home. It happens every day in massive numbers, with people walking by themselves, looking over their shoulder, constantly worried".
Couzens, then a serving officer in the Metropolitan Police Service's VIP protection unit
, abducted Everard on the night of 3 March this year on Clapham Common in South West London, an open public park in an affluent area criss-crossed with footpaths and surrounded by busy roads.
Despite being off-duty and in plain clothes that evening, Couzens was able to use the pretext of arresting the 33-year-old woman for an alleged breach of COVID-19 restrictions to handcuff her and force her into the car he had rented that day.
Couzens drove Everard out of London to Kent, where he raped her, strangled her, and then burnt her body in an old fridge in a wood. He returned two days later to hide her remains in a pond.
The murder prompted a crisis of confidence in the police, including calls for Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick to resign over the crime and her heavy-handed response
to a candlelight vigil by women on Clapham Common — which was attended by Prince William's wife Kate Middleton.