This is not what Sarah would have wanted

I think my friend would have been unsettled at how her death has been politicised.

Helena Edwards

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Topics Feminism Politics UK

Since we learned of Sarah’s disappearance, this experience has been hard to put into words. It’s not something anyone would ever imagine having to deal with. But now, as brutal as the outcome is, we have some answers. It’s shocking and devastating. But I would rather know than never find out what happened to her, so we can begin the long, painful grieving process.

When I first heard of the vigil for Sarah on Clapham Common I was looking forward to attending – it felt good to be able to ‘do something’ and express my love for Sarah and my sorrow for what has happened to her. Less than a day later, I decided not to attend, as have many of her friends. I can’t speak for all of them, but my reason for not attending is this: my friend’s tragic death has been hijacked. It is not a tribute to her any more, it’s about something else – and I don’t like what it has become.

Sarah was a victim of one of the most horrific crimes imaginable. She was extremely unlucky – that is all there is to it.

Her abduction and murder is not, in my opinion, a symptom of a sexist, dangerous society. When something awful like this happens there is a rush to look for reasons and apportion blame. If the suspect police officer in custody is eventually tried and found guilty of her murder, then I will hold him alone responsible. I will not be blaming ‘men’ or ‘the police’ for the actions of one individual. There will always be the odd psychopath out there – male or female – and there can be no accounting for that fact.

Sarah had many wonderful men in her life. Several of them were absolutely instrumental in the hunt for her, raising awareness online and in the local area, and out physically searching for her at the beginning. They are just as horrified as everyone else by what has happened.

I don’t think Sarah would have wanted them, or men in general, to be smeared with the same brush as her attacker. Most people, and indeed men, are good. They would never wish harm on anyone else, let alone attack or kill someone. Despite what has happened to Sarah allegedly at the hands of this man, I will continue to believe that.

The suggestion by a Green Party peer, that all men should be under curfew after dark to help women feel safer on the streets, is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. I would have laughed at it if it wasn’t such an utterly awful situation. Sarah was a humble, private and sensible person (among many other things!), and I feel certain she would not agree with the circumstances of her disappearance being used to promote these kinds of ideas.

I also wish to publicly praise the police conducting this investigation. They have done their job brilliantly, and although sadly it is too late for Sarah, I am grateful they are finding us some of the answers that we so desperately need. I am sure they are equally stunned and appalled that this awful crime seems to have been perpetrated by one of their own.

As for us, her friends? Let us grieve for our loved one, brutally taken in such an awful way. The public reaction to her death has been overwhelming, and for the most part very touching. But be assured, the misuse of it by those with an ‘agenda’ is not a comfort to us.

As a 33-year-old woman, what will I take from this? I am reminded that life is short, and I will try to live mine to the full. Of course, I will be sensible and maybe take a few more taxis than I used to. But I will not live in fear. As soon as lockdown is over, I am going to go out, celebrate, get drunk with my mates in a pub. I will dance, laugh, cry, hug people and be grateful that I am alive. I will miss my friend deeply. I am so sad she will never see the end of lockdown and, as her friends, we will never get to enjoy these experiences with her again.

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