media captionDania Al-Obeid, who was arrested at the vigil: “All I wanted was to stand with other women”

The prime minister has “full confidence” in Metropolitan Police chief Dame Cressida Dick, his spokesman says, after criticism of officers at the vigil to remember Sarah Everard.

Boris Johnson said footage of Met officers forcibly removing a number of women from the event was “distressing”.

But asked if he still had confidence in the force’s commissioner, his spokesman said: “Yes, he does.”

The PM added it was “fundamental” that women feel their complaints are heard.

“The reality is that the country is united still in shock and grief about what happened to Sarah Everard and we must do everything we can to find the answers,” Mr Johnson said in a separate statement.

“I think the fundamental issue that we have to address as a country, and as a society and as a government is that … women in particular must feel that when they make serious complaints about violence, about assault, that they are properly heard.

“We are going to make sure that that happens.”

Ms Everard went missing while walking home from a friend’s house on 3 March.

Her body was later found in woodland in Kent and Met Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, has been charged with the 33-year-old’s kidnap and murder.

Hundreds gathered on London’s Clapham Common on Saturday to lay flowers and pay their respects to Ms Everard.

But officers later handcuffed and removed a number of women from the gathering, arresting four people for public order and Covid offences.

The Met has faced widespread criticism for its handling of the event – but Dame Cressida has rejected calls to step down.

image captionDame Cressida Dick has faced calls to step down as Met commissioner

She said she agreed on the need for a “sober review” but defended how officers responded to the “really big crowd”.

“They have to make these really difficult calls and I don’t think anybody should be sitting back in an armchair and saying ‘well that was done badly’ or ‘I would have done it differently’ without actually understanding what was going through their minds,” she said.

Home Secretary Priti Patel, meanwhile, has instructed the police watchdog, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, to conduct a review in to the policing of the event.

image captionSarah Everard had been walking to her home in Brixton when she disappeared

Louise McLoughlin was one of those at the vigil on Saturday. She told BBC Breakfast it was “a really lovely scene” when she arrived at around 18:00 GMT, but “it started to get a bit more riled” around half an hour later.

“The decision was obviously made for [the police] to move in and take over the area,” she said.

“At that point, it became a bit of a push and pull and there were a few scuffles and all of the candles and glass and the signs and the flowers that would have been put down for Sarah, you could just hear the breaking of glass now and again as these things were trampled on.”

One of the women arrested, Dania Al’Obeid, said she knew the vigil had been cancelled but she “needed to go and pay my respects”.

She told Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think that is where the frustration was, the bigger picture here was lost – we felt like we were silenced.”

Sir Peter Fahy, former chief constable for Greater Manchester Police, said HMIC had previously criticised the police for not intervening enough in Black Lives Matter protests and that many officers felt they were “damned if they do and damned if they don’t”.

He added that current techniques for removing people from events safely “means that they normally have about five officers – one on each limb and one holding the head”.

“The trouble is, when you photograph that, it then looks very heavy-handed,” he said.

Ahead of the event, organisers Reclaim These Streets had called off the vigil, saying the police had failed to “constructively engage” on how it could be held in a Covid-secure way. When people gathered anyway, the group pointed out that they did so without the marshalling and other safety measures that had been originally proposed.

  • Under the current lockdown rules two people can meet for recreation outside, which can include “coffee on a bench”
  • From 29 March people will be allowed to meet outdoors, either with one other household or within the “rule of six”
  • Police can break up illegal gatherings and issue fines of £10,000 to someone holding a gathering of more than 30 people
  • During last year’s restrictions, when Black Lives Matter and anti-lockdown demonstrations took place, police took a hands-off approach to protests