The Duchess of Cambridge has visited Clapham Common this afternoon to join mourners laying flowers in tribute to Sarah Everard.
The unexpected visit came after a planned vigil was cancelled, with organisers citing the Met Police’s ‘lack of constructive engagement’ to help make it Covid secure.
Kensington Palace said Kate Middleton ‘remembers what it was like to walk around London at night before she was married’ and ‘wanted to pay her respects to the family and to Sarah’, reported Sky.
Groups of mourners gathered to lay dozens of tributes at a grandstand in Clapham Common – where Sarah was last seen alive before her disappearance.
Some mourners broke down in tears as they paid their respects to the 33-year-old marketing manager who disappeared on her way home from visiting a friend on March 3.
A Reclaim These Streets event was due to be held tonight at the bandstand on Clapham Common, near where the 33-year-old went missing, but organisers yesterday failed to secure a High Court ruling that lockdown – which bans gatherings – should not stop their right to protest.
Kensington Palace said Kate (pictured) ‘wanted to pay her respects to the family and to Sarah’, reported Sky . ‘She remembers what is was like to walk around London at night before she was married,’ the palace added
The vigil was planned for Saturday in memory of marketing executive Sarah Everard, who disappeared while walking home to Brixton on March 3
Dozens of floral tributes have been left on Clapham Common as mourners have gathered to pay their respects where Sarah Everard was last seen before her disappearance on March 3
Mourners seen in tears at the memorial site near Clapham Common bandstand this afternoon
People mourn at a memorial site for Sarah Everard at the Clapham Common Bandstand
Hundreds of well-wishers make their way towards the bandstand in Clapham Common
A sketch of Wayne Couzens, 48, a firearms officer from Scotland Yard’s elite Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command, appearing in court this morning
Yesterday Scotland Yard confirmed human remains found in Kent belonged to marketing executive Ms Everard.
Serving police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, was remanded in custody after appearing in Westminster Magistrates’ court today charged with kidnap and murder.
Today the court heard Miss Everard’s body was found inside a builder’s bag in Kent and identified through the use of dental records.
Police had previously warned that each vigil organiser faced a £10,000 fine if events went ahead, the group claimed, adding it did not want to be forced to give money to ‘a system that consistently fails to keep women safe’.
This morning a statement said: ‘We have been very disappointed that given the many opportunities to engage with the organisers constructively, the Metropolitan Police have been unable to commit to anything.’
The organisation is now urging people to take part in a doorstep vigil tonight at 9.30pm.
The group has asked people to ‘shine a light – a candle, a torch, a phone – to remember Sarah Everard and all the women affected by and lost to violence’.
Hundreds of bouquets of flowers have been left around the bandstand as crowds mourned Sarah’s death
Those paying tribute broke down into tears as they laid flowers (right). One person left a placard, left, saying ‘I am Sarah’
Pictured: A photograph of Sarah Everard is left with floral tributes and messages in London
People kept their distance from each other amid coronavirus restrictions as they laid flowers
More and more people descended on the bandstand as the afternoon continued
A sign reads ‘Men, do better. Protect all women’ is among flowers at the memorial site
People mourn at a memorial site on Clapham Common, following Sarah’s kidnap and murder
There was a strong police presence at the event as dozens of people gathered to lay flowers
Commander Catherine Roper, the Met’s lead for community engagement responded that officers had held a number of ‘challenging talks’ with the organisers.
She added: ‘While we understand their frustrations of this cancellation and share the nation’s outrage at this crime, we must all continue to work together to fight Covid-19 and keep each other safe.’
Calling off the event, Reclaim These Streets said it would aim to fundraise £320,000 for women’s causes, equal to £10,000 for every proposed fine for the 32 vigils.
More than £50,000 was raised in the first three hours of the Just Giving page going live.
A virtual vigil is also being coordinated, while a decision on similar events outside of London, that fall under different police forces, will be made later.
Organisers said they had made ‘every effort’ to pull off the vigil to ‘balance our right as women to freedom of expression’ with the current Covid curbs.
Reclaim These Streets is asking people to hold a ‘doorstep vigil’ at 9.30pm this evening and to shine a light in Sarah’s memory
Police officers watch on as people continue to leave flowers and tributes for Sarah Everard at the Bandstand where planned and organised vigil tonight has been cancelled
People gathered to bring flowers to Clapham Common after a planned organisation was cancelled
Women paid their respects to Sarah Everard at Clapham Common
The group brought an urgent action in a bid for a declaration that any ban on outdoor gatherings under coronavirus regulations is ‘subject to the right to protest’, and thus the vigil should be allowed to happen.
Mr Justice Holgate declined to grant the group’s request and also refused to make a declaration that an alleged policy by the force of ‘prohibiting all protests, irrespective of the specific circumstances’ is unlawful.
Reclaim These Streets resolved to continue discussions with the Met, which ordered people not to gather but ‘to find a safe alternative way to express their views’.
Caitlin Prowle, one of the Reclaim These Streets organisers, said they did not want to end up in a situation they were having to raise funds to pay fines.
She said: ‘The police’s lack of co-operation and unwillingness to engage with us to find a compromise means that we can’t go forward in good faith.
‘We can’t put our supporters at risk, quite frankly we can’t put ourselves at risk in that way, and so really they’ve left us with no other option.’
Flowers have been laid at the bandstand all day, with some women saying they would still be attending this evening.
Reclaim These Streets added: ‘We were told that pressing ahead could risk a £10,000 fine each for each woman organising.’
While confident they could raise the money to foot the cost of fines, they said it would be a ‘poor use’ of funds.’We do not want to see hundreds of thousands of pounds contributed to a system that consistently fails to keep women safe,’ they said.
Police officers bring floral tributes, left by the public, to the site as Met Police continue their search near Great Chart, Kent
MPs also expressed regret at the decision and called for laws on freedom of assembly during the pandemic to be clarified.
Senior Conservative MP Caroline Nokes, who had previously said she asked Home Secretary Priti Patel to ‘step in’ and allow the vigil to go ahead, said she hoped people would now take the advice of organisers to gather virtually instead.
She told BBC Breakfast: ‘It is important that women come together. We can do that virtually and recognise the ongoing issue there is with violence against women and girls, perpetrated by men, but do it in a Covid-safe way.’
Labour’s Harriet Harman, who chairs the Joint Committee on Human Rights, said the law on freedom of association amid the coronavirus pandemic should be clarified.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We have said previously that the law on this should be made clearer.
‘The relationship between the Human Rights Act and its protection of freedom of association and the new Covid regulations has not been clearly spelt out.’
Police had warned that each organiser faced a £10k fine if the vigil went ahead, the group claimed after it cancelled the event
One of the dozens of messages and cards left at the memorial site on Clapham Common in tribute to Sarah Everard
Mourners for the life of murdered 33-year-old Sarah Everard, whose remains were found this week in woodland in Kent
Pictured: A message of condolence is seen as mourners for the life of murdered 33-year-old Sarah Everard
Last night, home office minister Victoria Atkins urged people thinking of rallying to stay at home.
The Tory MP said: ‘I would love to go marching in Clapham but we are in the middle of this pandemic and the law is as it is.’
She said she would mark the event at her front door, ‘reclaiming an albeit very small piece of pavement’.
Commander Roper said: ‘I would like to thank the organisers of tonight’s vigil in Clapham Common for cancelling the gathering. Since Sarah’s disappearance, we have shared Londoners anguish, shock and sadness at the truly awful circumstances of her disappearance and death.
‘I know that yesterday’s ruling would have been unwelcome news for the organisers and to those who were hoping to join others in tribute to Sarah and to make a stand on violence against women.
‘While it is clear we cannot do this together on Clapham Common, I know there are various others ways to mourn Sarah in a safe way.
Appearing in court today wearing a grey tracksuit and bearing a red mark on his head, Couzens stood as the charges were put to him before being remanded in custody before his case is sent to the Old Bailey on March 16.
Chief Magistrate Paul Goldspring said: ‘Mr Couzens, I am sending your case to the crown court sitting at the Central Criminal Court, what you might know as the Old Bailey. You will appear there for your first appearance on the 16th of March.
‘I don’t have the power to consider the question of bail. That will be considered should you wish to make an application to the court on the 16th of March.
‘You are therefore remanded in custody until that date, both charges having been sent to the crown court.’
The father-of-two was yesterday rushed to St George’s Hospital for the second time with fresh head injuries.
He was treated for the second injury he sustained while in custody in 48 hours before being discharged and returned to a police station, the Metropolitan Police said.
Scotland Yard added: ‘The suspect was taken to a hospital for treatment to a head injury sustained while in custody in a cell on Friday, March 12. He was being monitored by officers and received immediate first aid.’
In a statement last night, Rosemary Ainslie, head of special crime at the Crown Prosecution Service, added: ‘Following a referral of evidence by the Metropolitan Police related to the death of Sarah Everard, the CPS has authorised the police to charge Wayne Couzens with murder and kidnapping.’
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick visited search sites in Kent today to thank teams involved in continued searches in relation to the investigation.
A High Court judge last night refused to intervene on behalf of the group in a legal challenge over the right to gather for a protest during coronavirus restrictions
Passersby leave tributes and flowers around the Clapham Common bandstand, where the vigil was planned to take place
Flowers were laid at the bandstand this morning, with some women saying they would still be attending this evening
Police marine unit divers continued their search of ponds in Hoad Wood behind the grounds of the derelict activity centre in Great Chart on Saturday afternoon.
A lone police officer also stood guard outside the home of Couzens in the seaside town of Deal, Kent as forensics teams continued their search there.
Marketing executive Sarah was last seen on a doorbell camera at the junction of Poynders Road and Cavendish Road at 9.30pm on March 3 after crossing through Clapham Common.
On her way home, Miss Everard had spoken to her boyfriend Josh Lowth, 33, on the telephone and arranged to meet the next day. She was reported missing after friends and family were unable to reach her.
Earlier on Friday, Scotland Yard confirmed that human remains found in an area of woodland in Ashford, Kent, two days earlier had been identified as Miss Everard.
The heartbroken family of Miss Everard yesterday paid tribute to the marketing executive, describing her as a ‘shining example to us all’.
Speaking outside Scotland Yard, Mr Ephgrave said Miss Everard’s family had been told this ‘most distressing news’.
He said: ‘As you know, on Wednesday evening detectives investigating the disappearance of Sarah Everard discovered a body secreted in woodland in Kent.
‘The body has now been recovered and formal identification procedure has now been undertaken. I can now confirm that it is the body of Sarah.’
He said his ‘thoughts and prayers, and those of the entire organisation’ remain with Miss Everard’s family ‘at this awful time’.
He added: ‘Specialist officers remain in constant contact with Sarah’s family, and will continue to support them throughout the investigation and beyond.
‘That investigation continues at a pace and we have hundreds of officers working round the clock to establish the full circumstances of Sarah’s disappearance, and her murder.’