'Vigil for Bobbi-Anne was one of the most moving events I’ve attended'

Devon and Cornwall’s Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez has said she will only support a

PCC Alison Hernandez - Credit: Archant

I will start this week’s column by warning you that it might prove a difficult read.

You will all be aware of the tragic events in Plymouth regarding the death of Bobbi-Anne McLeod and the fact that a man has been charged with her murder.

My thoughts and prayers are with the 18-year-old’s family and friends. Nothing I can say or do will be of comfort to them at this heart-breaking time. All of us are asking why this had to happen to Bobbi-Anne.

Devon and Cornwall Police acted extremely swiftly and as a result a man is in custody charged with her murder. This is an active case so I cannot go into details, except to urge people to be respectful online and continue to display the Plymouth community spirit that has been evident throughout this tragedy.

The public vigil in memory of Bobbi-Anne at Plymouth Hoe was one of the most moving events I have ever been part of. Smeaton’s Tower was bathed in purple light as friends, residents and well-wishers gathered quietly and respectfully. We cried at Bobbi-Anne’s loss and thought of the pain her family and friends must be going through.

After a few words from the organisers the crowd joined together to say Bobbi-Anne’s name out loud, ensuring that we would never forget her and that her memory would live on.

We were then treated to a moving acapella rendition of Amazing Grace. After this we were invited to lay candles or flowers in memory of Bobbi-Anne. Seeing the dozens of small flames flicker in the wind was a poignant tribute.

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I’d like to thank the residents of Plymouth for their concern and incredible efforts to both assist the police and mark Bobbi-Anne’s memory. This city has seen too much tragedy of late.

We all, across public services and throughout society, must redouble our efforts to reduce violent crime which leaves so much devastation and trauma in its wake.

There is too much violence in our society and too much directed at women. In the year to November 23 there were 22 homicides (murders and manslaughters) in Devon and Cornwall, with 10 male victims and 12 female.

That is before Bobbi Anne’s death is reflected in official figures.

Police do not view these victims as statistics but take great personal responsibility to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The Chief Constable and I are determined to be the first force area in the country to better profile these killers and share what we know with others to help us better spot the signs of this type of criminal. 

Plymouth, of course, features heavily in this toll because of the appalling mass shooting of August 12. And although women are over-represented for certain crime types, in general it is men who are more likely to be victims of murder or manslaughter.

Those who campaign for greater protection for women, however, rightly point out that more women may have been killed had they not, for decades or perhaps even centuries, taken pre-emptive action to keep themselves safe, avoiding certain areas, not heading out alone or staying at home. They should not have to do this.

Women are actually more likely to be killed in their own homes, begging the question ‘where are we safe?’

A survey by the Office for National Statistics in June showed that 78% of women who had not experienced sexual harassment in the previous year felt unsafe after dark in a park or public open space.

We simply cannot tolerate a situation where nine out of ten victims of sexual harassment do not feel safe in this way. It is incumbent on me, the police, our partners in local authorities and the public at large to work towards a society where violence and sexual harassment is diminished to such an extent that we all – men, women, boys and girls, are able to go about our daily business and leisure activities without fear. Breaking the cycle of violence is a key priority of my police and crime plan. 

I will be working with MPs and police and crime commissioners to ensure that the ambitions set out in the Government’s recently published Violence Against Women and Girls strategy are picked up. 

I want to reassure the people of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly that, as Police and Crime Commissioner, I will do everything I can to support victims, prevent future crimes and hold the Chief Constable to account in ensuring that Devon and Cornwall Police plays its part in keeping women, girls and our communities safe.

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