Everyone should be talking about Owami Davies - Madaar News
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Everyone should be talking about Owami Davies

Owami Davies has been missing since July 7

Police have combed 50,000 hours of CCTV to try to find her (Image: PA)

Owami Davies disappeared from the streets of south London in early July.

The 24-year-old student nurse disappeared without a trace – so why aren’t we hearing more about this tragic and terrifying case?

Here’s what we know so far: Owami’s last confirmed sighting was in West Croydon on July 7 shortly after midnight, three days after she left her home in Grays, Essex. An unconfirmed sighting placed her on nearby Clarendon Road later that morning at around 7am.

Police have combed through 50,000 hours of CCTV to try to find her and this week British Transport Police issued their own appeal on Twitter saying Owami may be taking trains and may appear “dazed or confused”.

They said she might try to talk to other single women while traveling.

This is exactly the kind of information that the public needs to know, that should be shared in WhatsApp groups and community networks.

Everyone should be talking about Owami Davies.

Yes, if you search her name you will find articles on news websites explaining the basic details of her case – that five people were arrested, two on suspicion of murder and three on suspicion of kidnapping, who have since been released on bail. – but the coverage in general in the media and on social media has not been as swift or extensive as might have been expected or to the level we have seen in the past for similar cases of missing young women.

Nicol Davies, the mother of missing student nurse Owami Davies

Owami’s mother Nicol Davies (pictured) pleaded with the public to help find her (Image: Aaron Chown/PA Wire Photographer)

The unsettling silence in the face of the unexplained disappearance of a young black woman makes me think of my little sister and my black and brown friends. What if one of them disappeared?

I fear that instead of instant media reaction and public outcry, their names would be hidden in the inside pages of newspapers or tweeted sparingly.

Owami Davies was in the news and in the papers, but why did it take six weeks for the coverage to really build? To make her name trend? Where are the daily live streams from her last sighting? Where are the map graphics of her known movements or the regular updates and press conferences from the police?

Where are the think tanks, viral Twitter threads, marches and public vigils – as we saw in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder?

The purpose of this comparison is not to single out horrific acts of gender-based violence against each other or to suggest that either case is more worthy of coverage or public participation. It is not helpful to reduce the complexity of separate crimes against women to a weighting of who has more privilege.

However, in the context of systemic racism in the UK, it is important to know how differently black women are treated when they disappear.

Black people in the UK are disproportionately ignored by white people. According to research in 2021, black people accounted for 14% of missing persons cases in England and Wales between 2019 and 2020, despite only representing 3% of the population.

There are real life and death consequences that arise from these kinds of inequalities and it is devastating to think that opportunities to save her may have been lost

These statistics make these disparities in reporting and coverage particularly troubling. Owami Davies is far from the first example of this happening.

The families of Joy Morgan, Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman – who were later found murdered – called out the media for the lack of interest. There was similar criticism when Sabina Nessa was killed last year, with her sister explicitly saying she would have been treated better and made more headlines if her family had been white.

In part, it depends on the perceived “worth” of the victim. Historically, certain types of people – those who are white, wealthy, and often conventionally attractive – have been seen as more worthy victims than others.

It’s a phenomenon that has been coined the “missing white woman syndrome.”

In a 2007 essay on the subject, academic Sarah Stillman stated that the media “plays a vital role in constructing some threatened young women as valuable ‘front-page victims’ while dismissing others as expendable.” Stillman adds that this hyper-focus on a very narrow demographic of victims makes the “marginalization and victimization of other groups of women, such as low-income women of color, seem natural.”

In Owami’s case, the delayed and lackluster response to her disappearance could prove fatal. Just this week, police confirmed that someone matching Owami’s description had been spotted in the area from which she disappeared days after her last CCTV images were taken.

DCI Nigel Penney, who is leading the investigation, said: “He is likely to be in the area and in need of assistance.”

Her distraught family also pleaded with the public to help find her: “Please, I’m asking for the public’s help, from the world, to say if you know, if you’ve heard or seen her, or she’s passed you by, please speak up,” said Owami’s mother, Nicol Davies, in PA.

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Nicol said her family was not “complete” without her daughter, adding that Owami was “really happy” and had recently secured a job at a London hospital when she finished her studies in a few months.

She was last seen wearing a dark jacket, red t-shirt, light gray joggers, slider shoes and carrying a white bag over her shoulder. Keep looking at her photos, memorize her face and get in touch if you’ve seen someone who fits her description.

I’m concerned because of the silence surrounding her case on social media and in print, it also means that people who have information to find Owami may have missed an opportunity to help.

There are real life and death consequences that arise from these kinds of inequalities, and it is devastating to think that opportunities to save it may have been lost.

I am so angry that yet another missing black woman seems to have been pushed off the agenda, that the unimaginable tragedy of Owami’s disappearance is not being addressed as such, that violence against black women is so often minimized and overlooked.

I am disappointed that Owami’s family has to plead with the public to care about their pain and that online activists have to create hashtags to campaign for her life to be valued.

Diversifying power structures in newsrooms to give voice to marginalized communities would be a critical first step.

When the people who decide which stories deserve the title are overwhelmingly white, it’s not surprising that the decision makers will be biased against people who look like themselves, or their sister or daughter, over people which do not.

But more immediately, the focus must remain on Owami, on finding her and bringing her home safely to her family.

Someone, somewhere knows something. Please spread the word about Owami with your friends, family and local networks. If you know anything or see anything, please get in touch.

Anyone with information can call police on 020 8721 4622 or to remain anonymous contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 or online.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing jess.austin@metro.co.uk.

Share your views in the comments below.

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