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The Duchess of Cambridge on Saturday paid her respects to Sarah Everard, as sources said she remembered “what it felt like to walk around London at night”.
The Duchess paid a private visit to Clapham Common in south London, to lay flowers near the spot where the 33-year-old marketing executive was last seen alive on March 3.
Sources said the Duchess felt Miss Everard’s story had touched a lot of people, and she wanted to show unity with them. A palace source said: “The Duchess wanted to pay her respects to Sarah and her family. She remembers what it felt like to walk around London at night before she got married.”
The daffodils the Duchess laid were from the garden at Kensington Palace.
A bystander said the Duchess “looked a bit upset and quite emotional” after leaving the makeshift shrine set up at the bandstand on the Common.
The gesture is likely to be compared to the public intervention by the Queen in 2014, when she told a bystander at church that Scots should think “very carefully about the future”, just four days before they cast their votes in the independence referendum.
It could also be seen as a challenge to Boris Johnson to do more to keep women safe amid a national outpouring of concern following the alleged murder of Miss Everard.
The Prime Minister and Carrie Symonds, his fiancée, were expected to light a candle together in their garden at 9.30pm on Saturday night. A second candle was due to be placed on the steps of Number 10.
Police forcibly removed protesters from the bandstand as scuffles broke out where thousands of people had gathered.
Separately, The Telegraph can reveal ministers are working on a policy response to the murder, which has led to thousands of women sharing their own anxiety about being followed and attacked while out at night.
Ministers are now working on a compulsory national register for stalkers as part of a three-point plan to restore confidence among women when out and about. The new register will be modelled on the sex offenders’ register, which forces criminals to pass their home details to police forces wherever they live.
Other ideas include a law covering sexual threats that leave a victim frightened, such as following closely and making offensive remarks. This “street harassment” law – being championed by Nimco Ali, a Home Office adviser and friend of Ms Symonds – could also include a ban on kerb crawling, a move set to also be backed by Labour MPs.
A third idea is to expand Clare’s Law, named after Clare Wood, who was murdered in 2009 by an ex-boyfriend with a history of violence against women. The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme only allows police to share conviction details relating to domestic abuse, but would be expanded to include convictions for stalking and harassment.
Writing for The Telegraph, Robert Buckland, the Justice Secretary, said: “There come times in our lives when a case so horrific comes to light that it has a profound impact on our national psyche, prompting broad and challenging questions for society.”
Mr Buckland pledged: “This Government will continue to spearhead reforms that, with hard work by police and prosecutors on the ground, will deliver ever greater protections to women, girls and all victims of crimes of fear, control, abuse and violence.”
A Cabinet minister said: “It is about risk assessment and sharing information between the agencies and treating that threatening, stalking, harassing behaviour as seriously as you would a sexual offence or violence.”
Mr Johnson said on Saturday night: “Tonight Carrie and I will be lighting a candle for Sarah Everard and thinking of her family and friends. I cannot imagine how unbearable their pain and grief is. We must work fast to find all the answers to this horrifying crime. I will do everything I can to make sure the streets are safe and ensure women and girls do not face harassment or abuse.”
Separately, Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, reopened a nationwide appeal for evidence from the public to inform a new strategy to tackle violence against women and girls. By Saturday night, 20,000 people had responded.
Ms Patel said: “The outpouring of grief and anger in response to the tragic developments in the Sarah Everard investigation shows just how crucial it is that we seek the views of individuals whose experience can help prevent violence against women and girls. As Home Secretary, I am determined to do all I can to prevent crimes that disproportionately affect women and girls.”
Labour called for urgent cross-party action, outlining measures that should be included in the “once-in-a-generation” chance for sweeping reforms to sentencing and protections for women and girls. The measures proposed included increasing the minimum sentences for rapists and stalkers, introducing a whole-life tariff for anyone found guilty of abduction, sexual assault and murder of a stranger, announcing a review to toughen up sentences for domestic murderers, and making misogyny a hate crime.
The Duchess’s unannounced visit was timed to take place before a vigil by Reclaim These Streets campaigners, which had been banned by police. The campaign had, as of Saturday night, raised more than £320,000 for women’s groups.
Her appearance had echoes of those made by Diana, Princess of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge’s mother, whose surprise visits, including to Aids patients, were credited with changing public perception of difficult subjects.