Flowers for Sarah at York Minster

THE steps of York Minster this morning were adorned with flowers for York woman Sarah Everard – and messages of support.

“In memory of Sarah and in solidarity with all people who face violence,” said one message, attached to a railing above a bunch of white and red flowers.

“For Sarah,” said another.

“Reclaim these streets,” added a third.

Dozens of people turned up at 6pm last night for a vigil in memory of Sarah – even though the event had officially been called off because of coronavirus.

They wore face masks and observed social distancing. The event remained peaceful – unlike the vigil last night in Clapham, south London.

Police officers at the scene beside the Minster encouraged people to move on, and by 6.30pm, most had been dispersed.

York Central MP Rachael Maskell today stressed that women had a right to protest.

Last night’s vigil was all about paying respects to Sarah and raising awareness about issues of concern to women, she said.

“Women must never be silenced,” she told The Press. “We have strong women leadership in our police and I will be liaising with them next week.”

After officially calling off last night’s event Reclaim These Streets York had urged people to post a picture of a lit candle at 9:30pm last night with the hashtag #ReclaimTheseStreets in a tribute to Sarah.

But the organisation also suggested that those who were passing the Minster might like to lay flowers.

Many of those who attended last night’s event said they had themselves been victims of harassment or assault.

A student who gave her name as Miriam said she herself had been sexually assaulted in the past – as had her mum. “I know how important it is to be here,” she said.

Gillian Singer, another of those who turned up for the vigil, said: “I’m very angry.

“I have a daughter who went to Durham University and lives in Brixton – it could have been my daughter.”

Another woman, who gave her name as Charmine, said she and her friend had been cat-called even when they were children in school unform.

“It has been happening since we were kids,” she said. “It has happened to every single woman I know. I know there is a pandemic on, but violence against women has been going on for years.”

While the York vigil remained peaceful, there was growing anger this morning at the way the vigil on Clapham Common, south London, near where Sarah disappeared, was handled.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick is facing calls to resign after clashes between police and crowds.

Officers from the Metropolitan Police were seen grabbing several women and leading them away in handcuffs.

The force later said four people were arrested for public order and coronavirus regulation breaches.

But there has been condemnation of the policing of the vigil, which centred around a bandstand covered in flowers left in tribute.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has demanded a full report on events – and described the scenes as “upsetting”.

Sarah, from York, went missing on March 3 after leaving a friend’s home in the Clapham area of London to walk the two-and-a-half miles home.

She was reported missing by her boyfriend on March 4.

A body discovered on March 10 in a wooded area of Ashford, Kent, has been formally identified as Sarah.

Serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, was yesterday remanded in custody after his first court appearance. He is charged with kidnapping and killing the 33-year-old marketing executive.

York Press | News