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Tory councillor suspended for comments made after killing of Bobbi-Anne McLeod

A Tory council leader has been suspended after telling women 'not to put themselves in a compromising position' following the death of a teenage girl.

He told an ITV news reporter: 'Everybody has a responsibility not to try to put themselves in a compromising position.'

Bobbi-Anne was last seen waiting for a bus to go and meet friends near her home in Plymouth, Devon.

A large police search was carried out and her body was later found ten miles away near the beach of Bovisand.

Cody Ackland, 24, has been charged with her murder and is on remand after appearing at crown court on Monday. 

Plymouth Sutton and Devonport Conservative Association today confirmed that Cllr Kelly was temporarily suspended from his role.

He remains leader of the council but is now serving as an independent.

Nick Kelly spoke out following the disappearance from a bus stop of Bobbi-Anne McLeod, 18. He has been temporarily suspended from his role as council leader 

Missing Bobbi-Anne's body was discovered on Tuesday afternoon close to a Plymouth beach

The Plymouth Sutton and Devonport Conservative Association statement read: 'Cllr Nick Kelly's membership of the Conservative Party has been temporarily suspended pending an investigation following comments he was reported to have made in an ITV interview on the 25th November 2021.'

Cllr Tudor Evans, leader of the opposition on Plymouth City Council, said: 'It's difficult to conceive of a more insensitive and arrogant thing to say at this time, or, in fact, at any time.'

Cllr Kelly initially refused to apologise, saying that 'In no way was [he] implying Bobbi-Anne did anything wrong in any way'.

He then apologised 'unreservedly' the next day in an open letter posted on Plymouth City Council website.

It read: 'I want to emphasise that in no way shape or form was I ever suggesting that Bobbi-Anne McLeod did anything wrong. She didn't.

'I am aware that a snippet from one interview I carried out, relating to general community safety issues in the city, and comments made in an informal conversation, have been used to imply the opposite. It could not be further from the truth.

'The fact is the streets of Plymouth must be made safer. It is crucially important that no one feels unsafe whilst out and about in the city, but sadly for many women and girls, this is an all too common feeling.'

He added: 'Making Plymouth's streets safer for everyone is a top priority for my office and Plymouth City Council.

'I stand together with women to say that violence against women and girls is unacceptable.

'I again apologise unreservedly that my words have taken away this focus, at a time when we should all be working together to grieve for Bobbi-Anne.' 

A member of the public leaves flowers near the bus stop where Bobbi-Anne was last seen  alive

Cody James Ackland, 24, who lives in central Plymouth with his mother and plays in popular local band Rakuda, is accused of abducting the 18-year-old as she waited at a bus stop

A group of 16 Labour Party women councillors and candidates for office in Plymouth labelled his statement as 'victim-blaming rhetoric' in an open letter sent to the councillor.

The letter read: 'You can be in no doubt that those words have caused a great deal of anger, hurt and upset here in Plymouth.

'Your victim-blaming rhetoric was in response to the appalling case of a young woman simply waiting to catch her local bus at tea time - it is never a victim's fault that a perpetrator chooses to harm them.

'Do you not see how this refusal to withdraw those words, for a second time, undermines any attempt you might make to assert that you are serious about understanding and tackling the issue of violence against women and girls?

'As the leader of our city you should be unequivocal on the matter of victim-blaming and cognisant of the power of your words.

'We are asking you, once again, to reflect on what you said and the real distress it has caused.'

Responding to news of his suspension, leader of the opposition, Cllr Tudor Evans said the comments were a 'gross misunderstanding of the situation and the feelings of thousands of women across the city and beyond'.

Cllr Kelly has not yet commented on his suspension.