Sarah Everard's cousin recounts harrowing months that haunt her family

Sarah Everard's cousin recounts harrowing months that haunt her family

July 9, 2021

‘We just couldn’t believe this was happening to us’: Clearing out her flat, laying her to rest… Sarah Everard’s cousin recounts the harrowing months that still haunt her family and paints a touching picture of the woman who was an inspiration to all

  • Sarah Everard’s cousin Marlene Smith speaks for the first time about her death
  • Details the gaping hole Sarah’s death has left in her closely-knit loving family 
  • Marlene is Sarah’s second cousin and first cousin to her father Jeremy

In the weeks that followed her murder, Sarah Everard became the nation’s ‘Everywoman’, a poster girl for a generation fired up to tell their own stories of sexual violence and harassment at male hands.

People who didn’t know her, had never met her, spoke her name or wrote it on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram; her photograph appeared in online posts that were shared millions of times.

This political hijacking of her death, said Sarah’s closest friends, was not something she would have wanted. Sarah’s family, breaking their silence today, could not agree more.

Now that the marketing executive’s killer has finally been brought to justice, it is time to restore her memory to her family; to pay tribute to the bright, kind, joyous woman – taken in the prime of her life – so loved by those who knew her.

Talking exclusively to the Daily Mail this week, one of Sarah’s cousins has spoken for the first time about how her death has left a gaping hole in her closely-knit loving family. A hole nothing can ever fill.

One of Sarah’s cousins has spoken for the first time about how her death has left a gaping hole in her closely-knit loving family. Pictured: Sarah Everard

Having cleared out the flat where the 33-year-old lived in south London and quietly laid her to rest in a private family funeral, her parents, Jeremy and Sue, are still struggling to come to terms with their unfathomable loss.

‘It’s just so heart-wrenching. The family is so broken over it,’ says Marlene Smith. ‘Sarah will be forever in our hearts. She was just such a lovely person, very effervescent and outgoing. Such a kind, loving person.

‘She was so young and innocent and it’s still hard to believe this has happened to our family. Last month would have been her 34th birthday. The grief is still overwhelming.’

Marlene, a former pilot with Jamaican Airlines, is Sarah’s second cousin and first cousin to her father, Jeremy who was born in Jamaica into a family with roots in Britain and on the island.

Sarah’s grandmother was Jamaican nurse Pamela Smith who travelled to London in the 1950s. There she met Sarah’s paternal grandfather, civil engineer Ken Everard, who worked for the United Nations after the Second World War and moved with his wife back to Jamaica where he designed and built bridges.

Sarah’s father Jeremy, 67, and her two uncles, Nick and Douglas, were all born on the Caribbean island and spent their early years there.

‘We are a very close family,’ says 56-year-old Marlene. ‘This has hit us hard. Sarah was very loved by all of us. Being the youngest of Jeremy’s kids, it’s a huge loss and terrible to know what she might have endured.’

Although she keeps in close contact with Sarah’s parents, the last time Marlene saw Sarah was around 20 years ago when she travelled to the UK for Sarah’s grandfather’s funeral and stayed with the Everards at their home in York. ‘Sarah was a young teenager at the time. Very fun and friendly and loving and kind,’ says Marlene.

Having cleared out the flat where the 33-year-old (pictured) lived in south London and quietly laid her to rest in a private family funeral, her parents, Jeremy and Sue, are still struggling to come to terms with their unfathomable loss

Sarah’s parents have since been to visit Marlene in Florida where she now lives.

‘When I saw Jeremy’s Facebook message saying that Sarah was missing, we were in such shock,’ she adds. ‘It’s the kind of thing you think only happens to other families. We couldn’t believe it was happening to our own.

‘We’ve had such an overwhelming outpouring of love and support from everyone.’

The past three months, she says, have been unbelievably hard for the Everards. In the aftermath of Sarah’s death, she says, even the Jamaican High Commissioner in London contacted Sarah’s parents to offer his condolences.

‘Jeremy and Sue had to clear out her apartment. That was very hard although they were able to see some of Sarah’s friends and that was lovely. I check in with them all the time to see how they are coping and to give love and moral support. It is so terrible that this has happened to them. They are such lovely people.’

Sarah Rosemary Everard was born on June 14, 1987, at Redhill Hospital in Surrey not far from the 1930s three-bedroom semi-detached home in Horley, Surrey where her parents lived with her older siblings, James and Katie. Her mother Sue, now 64, trained as a physiotherapist. Her father Jeremy is one of the nation’s most brilliant engineers and a leading expert on microwaves and low-noise oscillators.

After gaining a PhD from Cambridge in 1983, he worked for GEC Marconi and Philips Research Laboratories on radio and microwave circuit design before teaching for nine years at King’s College London. When Sarah was six years old, he was made professor of electronics at the University of York and the family moved north to a new home in the city.

At Fulford School, the high-achieving state school where Sarah studied for GCSEs and A-levels, staff still remember how ‘her kindness, care and humanity benefited all who knew her.’ 

Sarah’s cousin Marlene said the past three months, she says, have been unbelievably hard for the Everards. Pictured: Sarah Everard at the Taj Mahal

After finishing school in 2005, Sarah went on to study geography at Durham, where she was a member of St Cuthbert’s Society, one of the colleges which make up the university. 

The college motto, ‘kindness begets kindness’, might have been written with her in mind.

Rosie Woollard, a teacher who studied with Sarah at university, described her as ‘beautiful, thoughtful, incredibly kind’.

She added that she was an ‘exceptional friend, dropping everything to be there to support her friends, whenever they need her.’ She was hugely popular and during her fun-loving student days she took part in university ski trips and black-tie parties on the Thames.

She travelled to South Africa in 2007 and to Paris and New York in 2008. Her warm, sociable personality also made her a perfect fit for a career in marketing and PR when she finished her studies.

After graduating in 2008 with a 2:1 degree, she immediately moved to London to embark on a career in marketing.

During her first job at award-winning ‘customer experience’ agency Proximity London, she worked alongside Save The Children and the RNLI.

In spring of 2009, she took time out to travel around Asia, visiting Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and India with her university friends. Later that year, she returned to London to start work with Rapier, a communications agency. Writing on Twitter, former colleague Georgina Burrows remembers Sarah as ‘always there with her big smile, being hilarious’.

Another ex-colleague, Victoria Murray wrote: ‘We were all so young and working things out together. I don’t think I realised how much fun we were having too. I’m so thankful to have those wonderful memories and share them with others.’

Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens (pictured) told the Old Bailey on Friday morning he murdered Sarah after the abduction and sex attack

And yet another friend, Holly Morgan, who met her through work in London, said she was ‘sunshine and light’. ‘There are those moments where it’s like love at first sight, but with a friend,’ she added. ‘You meet a woman and go, “I love you, and I don’t know you yet properly, but I know that I’m going to love you”.’

In 2013, wanderlust led Sarah to quit her job and travel around South America for seven months. Back in London in the summer of that year, she settled back into working life, taking up a position as an account director at McCormack & Morrison.

Over the next eight years, she progressed through her profession, working for a new generation of digital marketing agencies, including Unlimited, Start Design and, a month before her death, Flipside Group, where she had been appointed freelance client lead. A recent photograph, taken at work, showed a confident young woman, full of poise, standing in front of a window with the city stretched out behind her.

Another former colleague, Peter McCormack, who said he had been left ‘heartbroken’ by her death, posted a photograph of Sarah on Facebook taken during a 1980s-themed work night out.

‘You couldn’t have met a nicer, sweeter, funnier, more beautiful person,’ he wrote.

‘Crap at karaoke. Brilliant at everything else.’

Right up until the moment that her life was so cruelly snatched away, Sarah was living the kind of life in London enjoyed by thousands of bright young graduates who head for the capital, post-university, wielding good degrees and aspirational dreams.

With a flat in Brixton, an area in south London to which many of her friends flocked after university, her social life was as lively as her working days.

Sarah’s parents (left, Jeremy Everard) have since been to visit Marlene in Florida where she now lives

She was a regular attendee at Glastonbury festival.

She shared a love of music with her boyfriend, 33-year-old Nottingham University chemistry graduate Josh Lowth, who also works in marketing but, before the Covid-19 pandemic, helped to organise a small music festival in an apple orchard in Kent.

The couple were looking forward to the relaxation of lockdown restrictions and, with a group of music-loving friends, had already booked a holiday to Ibiza later this summer to celebrate the end of lockdown. On the night she disappeared, she and Josh shared a 15-minute phone call, making plans to meet each other the next day as she walked home to Brixton from a friend’s house in Clapham Junction at around 9pm, a journey which should have taken around 50 minutes.

It was her worried boyfriend who first raised the alarm to police after Sarah failed to meet him as agreed. And it was Josh, along with Sarah’s siblings and friends who, in the early days of her disappearance, put up missing posters along the route she was walking that night and embarked on an extraordinary social media campaign, asking for information from the public that might lead them to Sarah.

Those torturous days of searching ended with the worst outcome imaginable. News that a serving police officer had been arrested on suspicion of her murder sent shockwaves through society, setting off a public movement that, in reality, had little to do with the profound grief felt by those who knew and loved her.

Marlene Smith (pictured) is a former pilot with Jamaican Airlines Sarah’s second cousin and first cousin to her father

A vigil held in her name on Clapham Common on March 13 was attended by thousands despite being declared illegal under coronavirus regulations.

Even the Duchess of Cambridge made a quiet visit to lay flowers at the spot, close to where Sarah had last been seen alive. But what was meant to be a peaceful event ended in chaos amid clashes between protestors and police, ending in several arrests.

Given the circumstances of Sarah’s death, the spectacle of women being handcuffed and dragged away by male officers was a particular ugly one.

For a while, it seemed as if Sarah’s death had become public property and given a meaning that, as her friends pointed out, she would never have wanted it to have.

‘Sarah was a victim of one of the most horrific crimes imaginable. She was extremely unlucky – that is all there is to it,’ said Helena Edwards, one of Sarah’s closest friends at Durham University who wrote an article in March on the online media site, Spiked.

‘My friend’s tragic death has been hijacked. It is not a tribute to her any more, it’s about something else – and I don’t like what it has become.’

Now that her killer has finally faced justice, Sarah’s family, says Marlene, want to grieve in peace.

In the only public statement they have made about their daughter, Jeremy and Susan Everard, described the youngest of their children as ‘bright and beautiful – a wonderful daughter and sister’ as well as ‘strong and principled and a shining example to us all.’

They added: ‘We are very proud of her and she brought so much joy to our lives.’

Marlene says that all they can do is to remember her with love.

‘Sarah will forever be in our hearts. She will never fade away.’ 

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