Sarah Everard, 33, was a marketing executive who lived in Brixton, south London (Image: PA)

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The kidnapping and murder of Sarah Everard has cast a fresh spotlight on violence against women and girls and failures to protect them.

Campaigners questioned how she came to be kidnapped and killed as she walked home along a busy city road at around 9.30pm, having been on the phone to her boyfriend just minutes before.

Amid shock and outrage, her death prompted thousands of women to share stories on social media about how they had been harassed while out in the street or on public transport.

The outpouring prompted the Home Office to reopen a public consultation on tackling violence against women and girls, which then received more than 160,000 responses.

Hundreds of people turned on their phone torches as they attended a vigil for Ms Everard
(Image: PA)

Met Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, pleaded guilty on Friday to murder. Last month, he pleaded guilty to Ms Everard’s kidnap and rape.

Since Ms Everard was abducted and murdered, 52 women have been killed in circumstances where a man is the principal suspect, said the group Counting Dead Women, which tracks femicide in the UK.

Karen Ingala Smith, who runs the project, told the Guardian that at least 83 women are suspected to have been killed by males since the start of 2021.

A mourner holds a sign during a vigil for Sarah following the kidnapping and murder
(Image: Ian Vogler / Daily Mirror)

Ms Smith added: “Of the women killed by men since Sarah’s death, there have been very few that got significant attention.

“People are quite interested when women are killed by strangers, but most women are killed by partners and ex-partners, and nobody really seems to give a monkey’s about that.”

In the days after Ms Everard's disappearance on March 3 and the discovery of her body, plans were mooted for improving women's safety, including posting undercover police officers in nightclubs.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at the time: "The horrific case of Sarah Everard has unleashed a wave of feeling about women not feeling safe at night. We must do everything we can to ensure our streets are safe.

"Ultimately, we must drive out violence against women and girls and make every part of the criminal justice system work to better protect and defend them."

Jamie Klingler, one of the founders of campaign group Reclaim These Streets that was formed in the wake of the marketing executive's death, said it was the start of a movement.

A sign left among flowers at a memorial for Sarah at the Clapham Common bandstand in March
(Image: REUTERS)

She said: "It feels like a tidal wave of half of the population saying: 'This is your problem, you need to fix it and you need to fix it now – we're not taking it any more'."

Following Friday's guilty plea, Reclaim These Streets tweeted: "Whilst we are relieved that Sarah's friends and family have been spared the ordeal of a trial, nothing will ever bring her back.

"It is maddening that if women get any justice at all it is only when they have already been taken away from us.

"We will never stop campaigning until we live in a society where women's safety is more of a priority than protecting statues and limiting our right to protest."

A woman holds a sign while attending the vigil in Clapham on March 13
(Image: REUTERS)

A series of vigils were held across the country in memory of the 33-year-old as the public reacted with shock at her death.

The event due to be held in London on Clapham Common, near where Ms Everard disappeared, was mired in controversy after the Metropolitan Police arrested a number of protesters.

The original organisers Reclaim These Streets had cancelled their planned event after the force told them they could face £10,000 fines under coronavirus restrictions.

But up to 1,500 people including the Duchess of Cambridge attended the March 13 vigil anyway, remaining peaceful for several hours during the afternoon before clashes with police in the evening.

The Met's handling of the event drew unfavourable comparisons with Nottingham, where a smaller vigil attended by around 150 people was held peacefully.

Watchdog Her Majesty's Inspectorate of the Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) later cleared the force of accusations of heavy-handedness and breaching the right to protest.