by Helen Kreeger
Many years ago a friend told me of an incident that I’d convinced myself was most likely a misunderstanding, although I didn’t say so to her as she had obviously been spooked by it. At worst, it was likely some immature bloke showing off, I reasoned to myself. The story did stick in my head though, and if I were a bit more in touch with my subconscious I might have also reasoned that there might have been something rather darker to my friend’s experience than I gave it credit for.
It was the mid 1980s and my friend was driving herself home. It was late at night and she was on a quiet road in rural Yorkshire. A police car came up behind her and got her to pull over. The policeman would not say what she had done wrong even though she asked him several times, but asked her to get out of her car. Until very recently few of us would have had the nerve, or any reason, to say no to a policeman apparently going about his business.
As soon as my friend got her own car her father would repeat over and over that she should always drive with the doors locked and never, ever, get out of the car at night, especially if she was on her own.
She told the policeman she wasn’t getting out.
Of course I can not say verbatim how the backwards and forwards of the conversation went, but my friend insisted that he follow her home to her parents and they could sort everything out there. He got into his car and drove away.
I had a similar thing happen to me in pre-mobile phone days when I was waiting for the AA on a hard shoulder of a motorway having broken down. A car pulled in front of me and a man got out and lifted the bonnet of his car. After a minute he came to my window and asked me to get out and lend him a hand. I remained in my locked car, really not feeling at all safe. He looked a bit pissed off but got back into his car and drove away. I passed his car number on to the police once safe at home.
I was alert to the danger, even if it was not real, and I did the right thing. I was sensible. I was safe.
But this man was not wearing a police uniform. If he had been, I certainly would not have had my friend’s father’s voice instructing me to sit tight. Rather, I would have seen a police officer stopping on that hard shoulder as a guardian angel, which of course he probably would have been, and left the safety of my car.
Both these stories will not stop playing around my head since the Sarah Everard case. I’m no longer in touch with my old friend, but I bet she’s had a few nightmares recently.