Top marathon runner Charlotte Purdue has revealed she now chooses to run on a treadmill when it gets dark rather than do so outdoors, due to concerns for her safety.
Speaking in the wake of the Sarah Everard murder, the 30-year-old – who still holds the UK junior record for the 10,000 metres – also said the same fears had previously prompted her father to follow her in a car when she was training at night.
Her comments come as calls intensify for more action to improve women’s safety on the streets following the kidnapping, rape and murder of South London marketing executive Ms Everard in March.
Ms Purdue, who takes part in tomorrow’s London Marathon, told Sky News: “It’s something that I’ve always thought about.
“When I was younger, my dad used to drive in a car behind me when I ran at night… for safety… and now I do run on the treadmill in the evenings when it’s dark.
“I think it’s a bit safer and I feel safer and not as anxious about going out running at night by myself. It’s definitely something to think about, for sure.”
Ms Purdue said by running on the treadmill at home it meant she could run later in the afternoon or early evening than having to fit a second run of the day in before 4pm.
On Thursday, Ms Everard’s murderer, former Met Police officer Wayne Couzens, was handed a whole life sentence, prompting further debate, not just as to whether more could be done to ensure women’s safety, but also about whether police were doing enough.
The father of another murder victim, Nick Gazzard, said there needed to be a “cultural shift” to ensure women could be protected.
His daughter, Hollie Gazzard, was killed by an ex-boyfriend in 2014 when he repeatedly knifed the 20-year-old at the hairdressers in Gloucester where she worked.
He told Sky News: “We do need that cultural shift to make sure these things don’t happen again… A lot of women are afraid to go out at night because they don’t know what is going to happen.
“Violence against women and girls should be top of the government’s agenda. Hopefully, that will be the topic of conversation at the party conference.
“We need to take steps to prevent these things from happening again and we need to make the streets safer for women and girls.
“It’s not ok to say to women ‘you need to change the way that you act – you need to change what you do to keep yourself safe’. We need to change the other parts of society and we all have a responsibility there.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was “infuriating” that police forces don’t take violence against women seriously enough and are “not doing enough help victims”.
In an interview with The Times, he blamed the failure on the slow progress of cases involving violence against women in the criminal justice system – adding “we need to fix that”.
Mr Johnson said: “Are the police taking this issue seriously enough? It’s infuriating. I think the public feel that they aren’t and they’re not wrong.”
But he said officers seem to be losing hope in the justice system, adding: “The police are realising when they arrest someone they’re not getting through the system fast enough.”
His words followed broadcast interviews in which he backed Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, who has faced calls to resign.
Home Secretary Priti Patel told The Telegraph that she wants women to feel confident to call out physical and verbal harassment and abuse on the street.
She said: “This is a very clear message to police to raise the bar. Treat everybody in the right way. Make sure that when these crimes or concerns are reported, people are treated with respect, dignity and seriously.”
Earlier, one of the country’s top human rights lawyers, Baroness Helena Kennedy, said she was tired of hearing police forces say they would “learn lessons” in the wake of tragedies, claiming institutions often put their own reputations first.
The QC, who chairs the Working Group on Misogyny and Criminal Justice in Scotland, said women experienced harassment, stalking and flashing on a daily basis.
She told the BBC Breakfast programme: “Why should mothers have to tell their daughters when they reach puberty that they have to be careful going out and about, that it’s passed on like some ritual, telling people the facts of life – that they’re going to be exposed to this kind of abusive behaviour?
“It really has to stop.”