Suspect Held in Teacher’s Killing as U.K. Women Demand Safer Streets

LONDON — A suspect has been arrested in the killing of Sabina Nessa, a 28-year-old teacher whose body was discovered in a London park last week, reigniting outrage over violence against women in Britain.

A vigil is planned Friday night in London to remember Ms. Nessa and demand better protections for women and girls, organizers said. Similar ceremonies are planned in cities across the country.

London’s Metropolitan Police said on Thursday that a 38-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of murder, and released closed-circuit television images of another man and a vehicle connected to the case, issuing an appeal to the public for information. Another man, in his 40s, was previously arrested and released pending further investigation.

“Our team have been working tirelessly to find the person responsible for Sabina’s murder and this has included an extensive trawl of CCTV, work which remains ongoing,” Neil John, a detective chief inspector from the Met’s specialist crime command, said in a statement.

Ms. Nessa’s killing comes six months after the abduction and murder in London of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, which set off widespread calls for action, spurred national protests and drew an outpouring from women who shared experiences of sexual violence.

Those demonstrations, in the depth of a national pandemic lockdown, spilled over into broader protests denouncing the heavy-handed policing of an early vigil for Ms. Everard, and calling for a new approach to investigating crimes against women.

But many say that little has changed in the months between the two killings, both of which took place during the evening in relatively public parts of London. Women’s rights advocates say the streets are no safer despite promises from law enforcement officials.

“The increase of violence against woman, particularly woman of color, has not gone unnoticed,” wrote Sister Uncut, a feminist organization that emerged earlier this year as a leader in Britain’s national movement around women’s safety. “We will join our sisters in mourning this Friday. We will not live in fear.”

Ms. Nessa, in an undated picture released on Thursday by London’s Metropolitan Police.Credit…Metropolitan Police, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Ms. Nessa left her home in the Kidbrooke district of Southeast London at 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 17 to meet a friend at a pub nearby, a route that took her through a public park. Her journey should have taken just five minutes.

But she never arrived. A passer-by found her body in the park the following afternoon.

In the days since, national attention has turned once again to gender-based violence and the safety of women in public spaces — and to the failure of the government to address the broader crisis of violence against women, which worsened during the pandemic.

Incidents of deadly domestic abuse surged during a series of national lockdowns. And a national survey this summer showed two out of three women ages 16 to 34 experienced some form of harassment in the previous 12 months.

Speaking in Parliament earlier this week, Janet Daby, an opposition Labour lawmaker who represents an area neighboring the one where Ms. Nessa was killed, demanded new measures from the government to counter this kind of violence.

“Her life was brutally taken, like so many before her, through misogynistic violence,” Ms. Daby said. “How many women’s lives must be stolen before this government takes serious action?”

So far this year, at least 108 women in Britain have been killed in cases where a man is considered the principal suspect, according to Counting Dead Women, a project that monitors a grim trend that has come to be termed “femicide.”

“We do have an epidemic when it comes to violence against women and girls,” Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said during an interview with the British broadcaster ITV on Thursday. “I think we need a whole-system approach.”

This summer, the government announced a new strategy for tackling violence against women and girls, which included harsher penalties for offenders and increased policing of public spaces. But a report from an independent watchdog group, commissioned this year by Priti Patel, the home secretary, called for a “radical change of approach across the whole system involving the police, criminal justice system, local authorities, health and education.”

“We can’t just police our way out of this,” a member of the watchdog group, Zoë Billingham, said when the report was released. “These offenses are deep-rooted, pervasive and prevalent across our society, and if that is to change a whole-system approach is needed.”

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