Former Metropolitan Police Officer PC Wayne Couzens admitted kidnapping, raping and murdering Sarah Everard after being confronted with a mountain of evidence. Initially he had denied any knowledge of her and then tried to blame a people trafficking gang from the Balkans.
Wayne Couzens has become the first police officer to be given a whole life sentence after admitted abducting, raping and murdering Sarah Everard after carrying out a fake arrest on the grounds of breaching Covid-19 laws.
Sarah vanished on 3 March as she walked home from a friend’s house in south London. Her body was later found 80 miles away, burned and dumped in a pond in woods in Kent. Couzens had strangled her with his police belt.
Couzens will join 73 other inmates who are serving whole life sentences in British prisons. They include serial killer Rose West and MP Jo Cox’s assassin, Thomas Mair.
The judge, Mr Justice Fulford, said: “The police are in a unique position, which is essentially different from any other public servants. They have powers of coercion and control that are in an exceptional category.”
The judge added: “In this country it is expected that the police will act in the public interest; indeed, the authority of the police is to a truly significant extent dependent on the public’s consent, and the power of officers to detain, arrest and otherwise control important aspects of our lives is only effective because of the critical trust that we repose in the constabulary, that they will act lawfully and in the best interests of society. If that is undermined, one of the enduring safeguards of law and order in this country is inevitably jeopardised.”
Couzens, who had joined the Metropolitan Police in September 2018, moved to the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command in February 2020.
He had been on night duty outside the US Embassy before the murder and lied to his wife that he was doing overtime before driving a hire car up to London, driving around the city and eventually spotting Sarah as she walked home from her friend’s house.
Couzens, 48, showed her his Metropolitan Police warrant card, pretended he was arresting her for breaching Covid laws, cuffed her hands behind her back and put her in the back of the hire car.
He then drove her down to Dover, transferred her to his own car and then took her to Hoad’s Wood in Kent where he raped and strangled her.
The following day he returned and torched her body in a discarded refrigerator. But, not satisfied, he came back again and carried her charred corpse in a builder’s bag to a pond where it was eventually discovered by police sniffer dogs.
On Thursday, 30 September, Couzens’ lawyer, Jim Sturman QC, said: “Nothing I say today is intended to minimise the horror of what the defendant did that night. He makes no excuses.”
He said Couzens had shown “genuine remorse” and was filled with “self-loathing and shame.”
“This defendant, with his knowledge as a police officer, could have mounted a wicked defence which would have piled humiliation on the Everard family,” said Mr Sturman.
Mr Sturman admitted his client had initially offered “untenable and ridiculous lies” about an East European gang forcing him to abduct Sarah, but he confessed and pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and did not put the family through the torment of a trial.
Sarah’s mother, Susan Everard, told the Old Bailey on Wednesday 29 September: “Sarah died in horrendous circumstances. It is torture to think of it. Sarah was handcuffed, unable to defend herself and there was no-one to rescue her.”
Mrs Everard said: “She died because Wayne Couzens wanted to satisfy his perverted desires….how could he value a human life so cheaply? I cannot comprehend it. I am incandescent with rage at the thought of it…I am haunted by the horror of it.”
In court, Sarah’s father Jeremy Everard told Couzens to look him in the eye but the killer simply buried his head in his hands.
Mr Sturman referred to that on Thursday and said Couzens had not been able to look at Sarah’s father because he was so “ashamed.”
Mr Sturman said Couzens’ family were “staggered” by his “inexplicable” actions and he added: “It is to be hoped that, in the decades to come, therapy in prison might unlock the reasons why he did what he did.”
The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, said: “Sarah’s kidnap, rape and murder was one of the most dreadful events in the 190-year-history of the Metropolitan Police Service…I am absolutely horrified that this man used his position of trust to deceive and coerce Sarah…His actions were a gross betrayal of everything policing stands for.”
The Everard case triggered protests by women against male violence and the Met’s Commissioner, Cressida Dick, was urged to resign after her officers suppressed a vigil in Clapham for breaking COVID-19 rules against public gatherings.
Earlier this week another man was charged with the murder of Sabina Nessa, a 28-year-old teacher who was killed only a few miles from where Sarah died, after talking a shortcut through a park after dark.
On Thursday Koci Selamaj, 36, originally from Albania, appeared at the Old Bailey for a preliminary hearing.
Prosecutor Alison Morgan QC said he was a stranger to Ms Nessa and it was a “premeditated and predatory” attack. Selamaj will go on trial next year.