A Met police officer who kidnapped Sarah Everard using a fake arrest and then raped and murdered her before burning her body will die in jail after being handed a whole life sentence.
Wayne Couzens, 48, accused Ms Everard of breaking Covid-19 lockdown rules, and used his Metropolitan Police-issue warrant card and handcuffs to snatch the 33-year-old marketing executive as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, on the evening of 3 March.
The firearms officer, who had clocked off from a 12-hour shift at the American embassy that morning, drove to a secluded rural area near Dover in Kent, where he parked up and raped Ms Everard.
Ms Everard, who lived in Brixton, south London, had been strangled with Couzens’ police belt by 2.30am the following morning.
Married Couzens burned Ms Everard’s body in a refrigerator in an area of woodland he owned in Hoads Wood, near Ashford, before dumping her remains in a nearby pond.
Ms Everard’s family had asked Couzens to look at them as victim impact statements were read out - but the court was told he could not as he is “ashamed”
Ms Everard’s murder prompted national outrage and sparked protests at the rate of violence against women.
Scotland Yard launched an urgent inquiry after Ms Everard was reported missing by her boyfriend, Josh Lowth, on 4 March.
At about 9pm on 3 March, Ms Everard had set off on foot for the two-and-a-half mile journey home, from a friend’s house chatting with her boyfriend by mobile phone on the way.
A camera attached to a passing marked police car captured her walking alone at 9.32pm.
Just three minutes later, a bus camera appeared to capture the moment she was intercepted by Couzens in Balham, south London.
Couzens had worked on Covid patrols in late January this year, enforcing coronavirus regulations, so would have known what language to use to those who may have breached them.
When was Wayne Couzens arrested?
The court heard how a couple travelling home in a car witnessed the kidnapping.
A woman on the pavement appeared to have her left arm behind her back and was in the process of “giving her other arm behind her back” as a man in dark clothing handcuffed her, according to the witness
Couzens was arrested at his home in Deal, Kent, on 9 March after police connected him to a hire car he used to abduct Ms Everard, whose remains were found by police dogs on 10 March.
Prior to his arrest he wiped his phone. In an interview with police Couzens falsely claimed he had been forced to pick up a woman and hand her over to a gang after getting into financial problems.
He was sacked from the force after he pleaded guilty in July to Ms Everard’s kidnap, rape and murder.
What did his barrister say in court?
On Wednesday, Ms Everard’s parents and sister asked Couzens to look at them as they read their victim impact statements.
But Couzens’s barrister, Jim Sturman QC, on Thursday urged the judge to impose a determinate sentence, which would mean he would be eligible for release in his 80s.
He said: “He was invited to look at the Everards. He could not I am told. He is ashamed.
“What he has done is terrible. He deserves a very lengthy finite term but he did all he could after he was arrested to minimise the wicked harm that he did.”
Mr Sturman said Couzens’ guilty pleas had saved the Everards “the terror” of what the verdicts would be.
He said his family struggled to reconcile how “the man they loved” who had given “no indication of violence towards the person” could have “behaved in this way”.
Mr Sturman added: “He appeared to be living a life as a law-abiding man with a loving family and his colleagues described him as calm and friendly.
“Nothing I say today is at all intended to minimise the horror of what the defendant did that night and after.
“He makes no excuses for his actions, he accepts he will receive, and he deserves, a severe punishment.
“No right-minded person… can feel anything other than revulsion for what he did.
“He does not seek to make excuses for anything that he did and he is filled with self-loathing and abject shame. And he should be.”
What did the judge say?
Sentencing Wayne Couzens for the murder of Sarah Everard, Lord Justice Fulford imposed a whole life order on Couzens and said the circumstances of the case are “devastating, tragic and wholly brutal”.
The judge said Ms Everard was “a wholly blameless victim” of a “grotesque” series of offences which culminated in her death and disposal of her body.
The evidence gathered against Couzens was “unanswerable” and there was “no credible innocent explanation” for it, he said.
Couzens went “hunting a lone female to kidnap and rape” having planned in “unspeakably” grim detail, the judge said.
The defendant’s preparations included taking some of his police kit with him and lying to his family about working on the night of the murder, the Old Bailey heard.
The judge paid tribute to the dignity of Ms Everard’s family, whose statements in court revealed the human impact of the “warped, selfish and brutal offending which was both sexual and homicidal.”
Lord Justice Fulford said Couzens tried to “minimise his true responsibility” for what had occurred from the moment he spoke to police.
He said the defendant must have realised he “may well need to kill the woman he intended to abduct and rape” but that did not become a “definite outcome” before events began to unfold.
What have people said about Couzens and what he did?
Ms Everard’s parents and sister condemned her killer as a “monster” as he sat in the dock of the Old Bailey with his head bowed for the start of his sentencing.
After the sentencing Ms Everard’s family said they are “very pleased” Couzens will spend the rest of his life in jail, adding that they are “outraged and sickened” that he abused his position of trust as a police officer “in order to lure Sarah to her death”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “sickened” by the kidnap, rape and murder of Ms Everard, adding: “No woman should have to fear harassment or violence.”
Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick also attended court to hear how one of her own officers had abused his position to carry out his crimes, which shocked the nation. A statement from the force on Wednesday said it was “sickened” by Couzens crimes.
The Police Federation said “predator” Couzens was “an absolute disgrace to the police service”.
John Apter, National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “This predator is an absolute disgrace to the police service, and I am totally ashamed that he was ever a police officer.
“I am proud to carry a warrant card, but this vile individual’s abuse of that authority has cast a shadow on all those who work within policing. He has brought disgrace to our uniform.
“The way he took advantage of Sarah’s trust makes me feel sick to the stomach.
“No sentence will ever ease the pain for the family and friends of Sarah or undo the terrible damage this disgusting man has done. He doesn’t deserve to have another single day of freedom and I hope every day he spends in prison is a long one.”
Treasury minister Simon Clarke said the story of the murder of Sarah Everard was one that “will remain with us for a generation”.
“It’s an appalling story and something that has genuinely shocked all of us, I’m roughly Sarah’s age,” he told Sky News.
“It is one of those ones that will remain with us for a generation.
“It is so important to emphasise that Wayne Couzens, who is a monster, does not represent the work of all those tens of thousands of police men and women who go about every day to keep us safe.”
In a statement Nick Price of the Crown Prosecution Service said: “Today our thoughts are with the family of Sarah Everard. We can only begin to imagine their suffering which will, of course, not end with this sentence.
“All of us in the CPS have been deeply affected by what happened to Sarah. Wayne Couzens treated her with vile depravity. It was a truly evil thing to do.
“The investigation in this case by the Metropolitan Police was meticulous, and our joint prosecution team worked hard to bring the strongest possible case to court.
“The court has now heard the evidence that showed his deliberate planning, and continued efforts to cover up his crimes.
“We all feel betrayed that Couzens abused his position as a police officer to commit such abhorrent crimes.
“All of us should be free to walk our streets safely.”
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