On a dark autumn evening, first-timers arriving for self-defence classes at Urban Fit and Fearless are asked if they have had any past traumas before they start training. After a series of high-profile murders of women in London in recent months, the number of young female participants joining the class is high. One of them, Laura Thompson, a 29-year-old account manager, told AFP: “I think a lot of women at the moment, especially living in London, are pretty shaken up. “I know a lot of friends that openly talk about how worried they are or how they don’t feel safe. “It’s definitely in the back of my mind and I think something like this is definitely going to help.” The disappearance of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, as she walked home in south London in March sparked renewed anger and concern about women’s safety. A serving Metropolitan Police officer later admitted her kidnap, rape and murder, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Everard’s murder came nearly a year after two sisters, Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, were stabbed to death by a man in a Satanic-inspired attack in a northwest London park. In September, a schoolteacher, Sabina Nessa, was found dead in another park, in the southwest of the British capital. A man has since been charged with her murder. All three high-profile killings have fuelled calls to combat male violence against women, and spurred demands for better safety for women and girls in public spaces. Hannah Feiner, a 31-year-old government lobbyist, said she had decided to take the self-defence classes as a direct reaction to Everard’s murder. “I feel really unsafe in London at the moment. I felt Sarah Everard’s death really strongly this year,” she said. “I’ve grown up in London and it’s the first time I’ve felt unsafe on the streets. I felt like I needed to do something about it — take back control.” Two-thirds of the mixed class of 26 are women. Dressed in lycra and tracksuits, they could be meeting for boxing, yoga or any other exercise class.