As Sarah Everard's Murder Sparks Outrage, Conspiracy Theorists Try to Hijack Focus

The tragic death of Sarah Everard—which has resonated with thousands of women over all-too-familiar safety fears—was hijacked by conspiracy theorists falsely claiming she never existed.

Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, disappeared on her walk home from a friend's South London residence on the evening of March 3. The search for the young woman garnered global attention, spurring countless testimonies by women on fears and experiences of harassment and assault while engaging in activities as simple as venturing outdoors.

Across social media networks, women described bare-bones safety precautions they take while walking alone at nighttime. Many have faked phone calls to thwart potential attackers, avoided the use of earphones so as to be fully aware of their surroundings, and held keys so they stick out between their knuckles in case self-defense is necessary.

"Text me when you get home," a common check-up message between women, has similarly struck a chord beyond the United Kingdom.

London's Metropolitan Police found Everard's remains on Wednesday. A Met police officer was arrested in connection with her murder.

Hundreds of people in London grieving Everard held a vigil in Clapham Common on Saturday. Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, made an appearance to pay her respects.

The event ended in turmoil as the Met Police decided to disperse the crowd and carry out arrests over COVID-19 regulations. The police crackdown on mourners was widely criticized, prompting London Mayor Sadiq Khan to condemn authorities' actions and request an independent investigation into the incident.

Social media conspiracy theorists—many adhering to the far-right QAnon ideology—soon began propagating doubts over Everard's very existence, claiming her disappearance and death were fabricated for nefarious purposes.

After Green Party politician Jenny Jones suggested a 6 p.m. curfew for men in order to make women feel safer, some social media users claimed Everard's death was contrived in order to subjugate men and further enforce pandemic-related restrictions.

During the chaos at Everard's vigil, a photo of a woman pinned to the ground and handcuffed by police went viral. Conspiracy theorists were quick to circulate screenshots of a casting website profile allegedly belonging to the woman, Patsy Stevenson. This sparked baseless rumors claiming Stevenson was a crisis actor.

'What is your message to Dame Cressida Dick?' - @susannareid100

Patsy says the message needs to be moved away from 'we're against the police' and focus on the main message which is that 'we need to open a dialogue for change and support women's safety.' pic.twitter.com/I4nqea9G0i

— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) March 15, 2021

In a Monday interview with breakfast television show Good Morning Britain, Stevenson denied being a professional actress.

"That was an old profile from years and years back," she said. "I'm not hired by anyone, I just wanted to put a candle down."

Stevenson said she's a university student and an "ambassador for women in STEM."

"That's why this was so important, and it still is," she added. "The message is very important and it needs to be ongoing."

As Everard's death revived debates surrounding misogyny, gender-based violence and victim-blaming, her family remembered her as "bright and beautiful—a wonderful daughter and sister."

"She was kind and thoughtful, caring and dependable," they said in a statement. "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."

Sarah Everard's photo seen at London vigil
A photograph of Sarah Everard is left with tributes to her at the bandstand on Clapham Common on March 13, 2021 in London, United Kingdom. Leon Neal/Getty Images