Father Of Murdered Hollie Gazzard Hits Out After Emergency Hotline Ditched

Nick Gazzard has helped create an app that is already saving women's lives.
Nick Gazzard and the Hollie Guard App
Nick Gazzard and the Hollie Guard App
Nick Gazzard / Hollie Guard App

The father of murdered Hollie Gazzard has hit out at BT and ministers after an emergency hotline for women was scrapped.

Nick Gazzard accused the telecoms giant and government of “flexing their muscles” but failing to follow through on their promises.

Last week HuffPost UK revealed that an emergency phone line to protect lone women in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder had been binned.

The scheme was backed at the time by former home secretary Priti Patel who ordered her team to liaise with BT.

But a year-and-a-half since the announcement, BT finally confirmed the plan had been junked.

Gazzard, whose daughter was stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend, described the decision as “disappointing”.

He already has a safety app called “Hollie Guard” which has 500,000 users and had been discussed with BT as part of their work.

Gazzard told HuffPost UK: “I got quite annoyed because they started to flex their muscles as a big company right at the outset saying that we’re going to do this.

“So it was it was a bit disappointing that they suddenly gave this project up because, presumably, it’s not going to make them money.”

BT had worked with PanicGuard on their proposal - the company which also provides the tech for Hollie Guard.

Mikkel Dissing, CEO of PanicGuard, said: “We had built a complete ready-to-go platform that could be live tomorrow.”

However, he said BT told him the operation had been “paused”.

It was originally estimated that the BT phoneline would cost around £50million but Gazzard said a mere £8million from the government would help Hollie Guard safeguard an extra 100,000 people.

The charity already works with nine police forces and worked with the Crown Prosecution Service to ensure the data they collect can be used in a court of law.

“We’re already helping police on serious sexual assaults, one murder case as well,” Gazzard said.

He added: “We don’t want more Hollies happening in the future and we don’t want parents, sisters going through what we go through.

“So the more people that we can save, the more people that we can prevent going through this, the better really. Hollie’s legacy will live on in that.”

He said their app helped save the life of a runner who tripped and hit her head. The app sent an alert to her partner who was able to call an ambulance.

Gazzard added: “We get lots of people that come to us and say it saved my life for XYZ reasons. We never publicise it because it’s very private and it’s safeguarding issues, but hand on heart, I can say we’ve saved so many lives with Hollie Guard which we are really proud of.”

What Is The Hollie Guard App?

The Hollie Guard app can be downloaded to any smartphone. The basic version is free and contains features including a journey function which allows users to set a start and end point, monitors your journey and alerts nominated contacts once you safely arrive or triggers an alert.

Users can also hold down the hexagon button for 3-6 seconds to sets off an alert and activate the phone’s camera, sending a message and recording to the your pre-defined emergency contacts. This evidence, Gazzard said, can be used for evidence gathering.

It also has a meeting timer in which users can set timer to countdown until deactivated meaning the user has to mark themselves as safe, otherwise raising an alert.

The paid for “extra” version provides a police-approved response team so that when your emergency contacts are unable to respond, a professional team can.

BT proposed their emergency phone line after Wayne Couzens was sentenced to life in prison, in Autumn 2021.

Former home secretary Priti Patel approved the “innovative scheme” and said her team was “liaising with BT”.

The “walk me home service” would allow vulnerable women to have their journeys tracked, triggering an alert if they failed to reach home in time.

Women would be able to use a mobile app, potentially with the number 888, to summon police if they felt threatened.

However, BT admitted last week: “It became clear over the course of our work that it does not make sense, as we thought initially, to launch a new BT service, but rather to share our learnings for the wider benefit of others already working on this.”

A petition has been set up calling on BT to rethink their decision.

A BT Group spokesperson said they developed a body of new technology and research and felt they would have a greater impact by sharing this with others already working in this area “rather than adding another app into the ecosystem”.

BT Group is working with WalkSafe as part of their new safety alliance to help people feel safe.

Emma Kay, founder at WalkSafe said: “We are excited to be bringing together exceptional women across security, personal safety and big business which has been in the works for many months and will be backed by BT Group as a founding partner.

“Our safety alliance will enable many fantastic projects, businesses and other stakeholders to come together under one roof and tackle the root cause of violence against women and girls as well as supporting our mission to make the world a safer place.

“We are grateful to BT Group for their support and help so far and look forward to sharing more details as soon as we can.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The 888 phone line for women was a BT project, not a government scheme. We are committed to tackling all forms of violence against women and girls.”


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