Women are “furious, devastated, scared and frustrated”, says Laura Bates in the Evening Standard. We learnt this week how Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens used his badge to “arrest” Sarah Everard, handcuff her, trap her in his car, then drive out of London to rape and murder her. And, as ever, it’s women who are being told to change their behaviour, not men. When Everard disappeared, police told women not to go out alone. After teacher Sabina Nessa was killed in southeast London a fortnight ago, Greenwich council handed out “attack alarms” to local women. When will we learn that “policing women’s behaviour isn’t the solution”?
“The haunting thing is that it happened in such plain sight,” says Gaby Hinsliff in The Guardian. When Couzens drove up beside Everard, brandishing his badge, she “did what the policeman said”, just as millions of women would have done. Met chief Cressida Dick has tried to claim that Couzens was just a “bad ’un” – but that’s nonsense. Since 2009 at least 15 serving or former police officers have been convicted of murder, usually of their wives or girlfriends. And 125 women have reported police-officer partners for domestic abuse in the past two years, which is probably just the tip of the iceberg. Imagine the courage needed to call 999, “knowing it might be one of his mates who is sent to respond”.
Condemning Couzens to die in jail with a rare whole-life sentence reflects not just the appalling suffering he caused, says The Times, but “the damage done to society”. Abusing police powers to deceive, kidnap, rape and murder Everard was, the judge said, an attack on “the fundamental underpinnings of our democratic life”. Any hope of restoring women’s confidence in the police will require a thorough investigation of the “many disturbing questions” raised by the case. How was Couzens hired by the Met three years after being accused of indecent exposure? Why did he still have his badge and handcuffs three days after two further accusations of indecent exposure? And why on earth was a man so well known among colleagues for enjoying violent pornography that they nicknamed him “the rapist” allowed to continue his policing career?
What all women know deep down, says Suzanne Moore in The Daily Telegraph, is “that it could be any of us”. All the “sensible” things we do to protect ourselves may, in the end, not be enough. That’s why we’re sick of being told to be more “careful”. Men are the problem, so they need to be “part of the solution”. They should do more to spot the warning signs that friends or colleagues may be dangerous to women. And they should try to understand why it is that we spend so much of our lives living in fear. It is too late for Sarah. “It is not too late to start listening to the rest of us.”