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The film "Sarah Everard: The Search for Justice" will evoke anger in viewers, but it is important to not turn a blind eye.
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The film “Sarah Everard: The Search for Justice” will evoke anger in viewers, but it is important to not turn a blind eye.

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The story starts with the final moments of Sarah Everard’s life in London. We have access to CCTV footage of her entering a shop on her way to a friend’s house for dinner, as well as footage from a doorbell camera capturing her walking home through a residential street. There is also a grainy video from a bus which shows her talking with Wayne Couzens, the man who later kidnapped, raped, and murdered her.

Some unique circumstances surrounded Everard’s murder: it is believed that Couzens, who was a police officer at the time, tricked the 33-year-old woman into entering his car by falsely claiming she was being arrested for violating lockdown restrictions. However, as shown in the video, many of these circumstances are also sadly common. It is not uncommon for women to walk alone at night, often fearing for their safety from potential harm by men. Everard’s case struck a chord with many women because her death could have easily been anyone’s.

“The Search for Justice: Sarah Everard’s Case” was created with the approval of her parents in order to depict the intense fear surrounding the incident. Its main objective is to compile all the different aspects of this complicated and widespread crime, including the investigation, public reaction, and the consequences for both law enforcement and the concerning issue of misogynistic violence in the UK. While it may be difficult to watch at times, especially with the police interviews of Couzens, the documentary effectively condenses months of disturbing news into a one-hour viewing. Its purpose is to remind people of this tragic case and the need for discussions about improving women’s safety, which unfortunately did not have a long-lasting impact after Everard’s murder.

In March 3, 2021, Everard went missing in Clapham, London. The documentary features senior investigator Katherine Goodwin and BBC news reporter Frankie McCamley discussing how the case garnered national attention. Goodwin explains how her team linked Couzens to the case through bus footage and eventually uncovered Everard’s body in a forest in Kent. She also shares her surprise upon learning that their main suspect was a police officer. In 2024, this may not come as a surprise to viewers.

It is infuriating and heartbreaking to learn that Couzens was previously accused of indecent exposure and has faced similar accusations multiple times since 2015, yet faced no consequences for his career. The initial report from the Angiolini investigation into Couzens’ employment, released last week, is even more unsettling as it reveals allegations of a serious sexual assault involving a child prior to his joining the police force.

The Clapham Common vigil honoring Sarah Everard was marred by the shocking display of male police officers forcefully handling women who were allegedly breaking Covid regulations. This irony is emphasized in the documentary, exposing the Met’s guidance to citizens to simply flee from a police officer if they feel scared. The police, fire, and crime commissioner for North Yorkshire further perpetuates victim-blaming by stating that women should be more cautious about when they can be arrested. Meanwhile, MP George Eustice minimizes the situation by referring to Wayne Couzens as “one bad apple.”

There is more than just one bad apple here. After Couzens’ trial, several other police officers were also found guilty of crimes such as rape, grooming, and sharing explicit images of female murder victims. Screenshots of Couzens’ WhatsApp conversations with fellow officers revealed disturbing jokes about assaulting women. While the documentary does not directly address the possibility of men with a desire for violence against women being drawn to law enforcement careers, it does highlight the ongoing and widespread issue of male violence against women in our society.

The movie will elicit intense anger from viewers. Despite this, feelings of outrage are more tolerable compared to horror and hopelessness, both of which are not avoided in this fearless documentary. We witness Couzens entering a cafe shortly after the murder and listen to him making a veterinary appointment on the phone. He sounds completely calm and collected, but according to Goodwin, he was actually burning Sarah’s body at the time. In those instances, he is a monstrous figure without any discernible differences from any other regular man.

Unfortunately, there is no sign of hope to conclude on. We can acknowledge Goodwin: Couzens has been given a whole life order, ensuring he will never be released from prison. However, there is only a small amount of comfort to be found in this. The Angiolini report has resulted in apologies and promises of change, but at this moment, there is no evidence that things are actually improving. “I don’t believe that the instances of violence against women and girls are decreasing in any way,” states prosecuting barrister Tom Little, providing what could be considered the emotionally draining documentary’s grim takeaway message. “In fact, it seems to me that it is only getting worse.”

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Source: theguardian.com