Bobbi-Anne McLeod’s murder a reminder that ‘dangerous men’ are being left ‘free to abuse’, Jess Phillips says

‘How many more Bobbi-Annes will there be?’, asks Charlotte Proudman, a leading human rights barrister

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s Correspondent
Wednesday 06 April 2022 18:04
<p>Bobbi-Anne McLeod was taken off a Plymouth street and killed by a stranger </p>

Bobbi-Anne McLeod was taken off a Plymouth street and killed by a stranger

The murder of Bobbi-Anne McLeod exposes systemic issues around “dangerous men” being left “free to abuse” due to the ongoing failure to tackle violence against women, Jess Phillips has warned.

Ms Phillips, the shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, urged the government to “take stock” of cases like McLeod’s - an 18-year-old who was murdered after she disappeared from a bus stop in Leigham in Devon in November last year.

The warning comes after Cody Ackland, a 24-year-old guitarist from Southway in Plymouth, confessed to killing McLeod in a hearing in the Devonshire city’s crown court on Tuesday.

“I'm glad that Bobbi-Anne's family will be spared a long and painful trial,” Ms Phillips, who is the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, told The Independent.

“For the community in Plymouth, who have once again seen misogynistic violence end in tragedy on their streets, questions must be asked about what more needs to be done to prevent and monitor dangerous men who pose a threat.

“The government must take stock of these cases because too often dangerous men are free to abuse thanks to continued failings to tackle this behaviour.”

McLeod, who was only 5ft tall and looked young for her age, was last seen at a Plymouth bus stop on 20 November.

She was grabbed off a street near to where she lived by Cody Ackland, who used violence to force her into his car. He drove her away before carrying out a protracted attack on her with a blunt item.

After the brutal assault, Ackland hid McLeod’s body in some woods on the outskirts of Plymouth and the body was only discovered when, three days later, Ackland went to a police station to confess his crimes.

Musician Cody Ackland, 24, has pleaded guilty to the murder of 18-year-old Bobbi-Anne McLeod who disappeared while waiting for a bus near her home in Plymouth in November 2021

Charlotte Proudman, an award-winning human rights lawyer, also voiced relief McLeod’s family will not have to endure the “grueling” and at times “traumatic” plight of a public trial due to Ackland admitting to murdering the young woman.

“I'm devastated for Bobbi-Anne McLeod and her loved ones. At least, her family do not have to be put through the grueling and sometimes traumatic nature of a public trial now that he has pleaded guilty to murdering Bobbi-Anne,” the family law barrister told The Independent.

“The case shows that femicide continues to blight our society with women being killed each week by men; women and girls don't feel safe in public with 97 per cent being sexually harassed; and rape reports are at an all time high yet conviction rapes at an all time low.

“The government needs to prioritise ending men's violence against women and girls. Or how many more Bobbi-Annes will there be?”

The police has said there is no known connection between McLeod and Ackland. Her disappearance sparked a massive search and, after she was found dead, the local community held candlelit vigils to remember her.

Family, friends and members of the public gathered by Sheepstor Road bus stop in Plymouth for a candlelit vigil in tribute of Bobbi-Anne McLeod

McLeod’s killing took place only three months after Jake Davison, a self-proclaimed Incel, carried out a massacre in Plymouth in August last year, shooting dead six people before aiming the gun at his own head. Davison’s mother and a three-year-old girl were among his victims.

An incel, which stands for a combination of the words “involuntary” and “celibate”, is a heterosexual man who wants to have sex with women but fails to do so, consequently heaping blame on women for their own inability to form sexual relationships.

After the tragedy, it emerged Davison had previously uploaded videos referring to himself as an “incel” and lamenting the fact he had not lost his virginity as a teenager. Davison’s murder spree was the deadliest mass shooting to take place in the UK in over a decade.

Isabelle Younane, of Women’s Aid, a leading domestic abuse charity, said: "We are devastated by the murder of Bobbi-Anne McLeod and know that tragically, she is one of many women and girls whose lives have been taken by male violence in the past year. Women continue to feel unsafe on the streets. Women continue to feel unsafe in their homes. This must change.

“We need to see action taken on commitments made by the police and criminal justice system to ensure that violence against women and girls is treated with the gravity and importance it deserves.”

Ms Younane warned “perpetrators of abuse and violence” must be “taken seriously as a danger to women” as she argued it is imperative to “end the misogyny and sexism inherent in society that we know is the root of all violence against women.”

Bobbi-Anne McLeod went missing after leaving her home in Leigham in Plymouth at around 6pm on 20 November

Between two and three women are murdered each week by their partners or ex-partners in England and Wales. One in four women will suffer domestic abuse at some point during their lives - with domestic abuse having a higher rate of repeat victimisation than any other crime.

The judge in the McLeod case has said he will implement a life sentence on Ackland who is due to be sentenced on 19 May.

Deniz Ugur, deputy director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: “Can there ever be justice for women whose lives are taken from them by men? We remain clear that true justice means no more women and girls becoming victims of male violence. Women and girls have the right to exist free from male violence in public spaces, at home, at work and online.

“We need to ramp up work that is focused on preventing violence against women and girls from ever happening in the first place – like public education campaigns. Men and boys should know they are no longer in a society that tolerates and makes excuses for women’s inequality, and the violence and abuse we face; where victims are no longer blamed, and abuse is no longer seen as a ‘normal’ part of life.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in