Scotland Yard is facing an investigation by the police watchdog into its handling of an allegation of indecent exposure involving the suspect in the Sarah Everard case.
The Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) is to probe whether officers “responded appropriately” after receiving a report that a man had exposed himself at a fast food restaurant in south London on February 28 – three days before the 33-year-old went missing.
A serving police officer remains in custody after being detained on suspicion of Ms Everard’s murder and kidnap, and a separate allegation of indecent exposure. Police have been granted more time to question him.
The IOPC said in a statement: “The Independent Office for Police Conduct has started an independent investigation into whether Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officers responded appropriately to a report of indecent exposure.
“The IOPC’s investigation follows a conduct referral from the MPS in relation to two officers, received last night (Wednesday), which is linked to four other referrals.
“They are all connected to the arrest of a serving MPS officer on suspicion of kidnap, murder and a separate allegation of indecent exposure.”
The IOPC is also assessing a referral relating to police actions after Ms Everard was reported missing, as well as another in relation to the suspect being taken to hospital.
The arrested officer, who is in the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command, was treated for a head injury sustained while in custody on Thursday. He was later discharged and returned to the police station where he is being held.
The Met later said he had sustained the injury while alone in his cell and received immediate first aid.
Ms Everard vanished while walking home from a friend’s flat in south London on March 3, with her suspected kidnap and murder prompting anger over the safety of women on the UK’s streets.
Human remains – which have not yet been identified – were found in an area of woodland in Ashford, in Kent, on Wednesday.
On Thursday night, Ms Everard’s family released a statement describing her as a “shining example to us all”, and said she had “brought so much joy to our lives”.
They said: “Our beautiful daughter Sarah was taken from us and we are appealing for any information that will help to solve this terrible crime.
“Sarah was bright and beautiful – a wonderful daughter and sister. She was kind and thoughtful, caring and dependable. She always put others first and had the most amazing sense of humour.
“She was strong and principled and a shining example to us all. We are very proud of her and she brought so much joy to our lives.
“We would like to thank our friends and family for all their support during this awful time and we would especially like to thank Sarah’s friends who are working tirelessly to help.”
Ms Everard’s family also thanked the police and pleaded for people with further information to come forward.
“No piece of information is too insignificant,” they said.
A woman in her 30s, who was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of assisting an offender, has been released on bail to return to a police station on a date in mid-April, police said.
The events since Ms Everard’s disappearance have prompted an outpouring of shock and anger as women across the country shared their own experiences of feeling unsafe.
A vigil was due to take place at Clapham Common bandstand in south London on Saturday – but organisers are now seeking legal action after claiming the Metropolitan Police reversed their position on allowing the event to go ahead.
A spokeswoman for the Reclaim These Streets group said it plans to bring an appeal to the High Court on Friday challenging the Met’s interpretation of coronavirus restrictions with regard to human rights law.
The group said it needed to raise £30,000 by 9am on Friday to cover any legal costs, and set up a crowdfunding site asking the public to make donations.
It reached the target shortly before 10.30pm on Thursday, with donations continuing to pour in.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan admitted the capital’s streets are not safe for women or girls when speaking to LBC on Thursday, while Home Secretary Priti Patel said “every woman should feel safe to walk our streets without fear of harassment or violence”.
Ms Everard is thought to have walked through Clapham Common towards her house in Brixton – a journey which should have taken around 50 minutes.
She was last captured on a doorbell camera walking along the A205 Poynders Road towards Tulse Hill at around 9.30pm.