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London policeman in court after woman’s murder provokes outrage

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London (Reuters) – A London police officer appeared in court on Saturday for the first time after being charged with murder in a case that has caused widespread concern in Britain about women’s safety.

Wayne Couzens, 48, is charged with the kidnap and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, who disappeared on the night of March 3 while walking home in south London after visiting a friend.

Everard’s remains were found on Wednesday in woodland around 50 miles away in southeast England.

Her killing has brought an outpouring of personal accounts from women of their own experiences and fears of walking streets alone at night, and calls for action to tackle this.

Couzens, wearing a grey tracksuit, spoke only to confirm his identity at London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court and remains in custody.

His lawyer did not enter a plea to the charges before a fuller court hearing scheduled for Tuesday. Couzens joined London’s Metropolitan Police in 2018 and guarded foreign embassies before his arrest.

Campaigners had planned a vigil to commemorate Everard to take place on Saturday evening near where she disappeared.

However, organisers cancelled the vigil on Saturday morning after police warned them that they could risk arrest for breaching COVID restrictions on outdoor social gatherings.

“In light of the lack of constructive engagement from the Metropolitan Police, we do not feel that we can in good faith allow tonight’s event to go ahead,” organisers from the group Reclaim These Streets said in a statement.

Members of the public laid flowers on Saturday morning at the bandstand in Clapham Common in southwest London, near where the vigil had been planned to take place.

“We take no joy in this event being cancelled, but it is the right thing to do given the real and present threat of COVID-19,” Metropolitan Police Commander Catherine Roper said.

Under current COVID rules, people in England are usually only allowed to meet outdoors with one person outside their household.

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