Met Police officer who kidnapped, raped and murdered Sarah Everard will today face justice

Killer policeman Wayne Couzens used Covid laws to stop, handcuff and arrest Sarah Everard before raping and strangling her and then burning her body, the Old Bailey heard today. 

The Met protection officer may have used COVID-19 lockdown rules as an excuse to stop her as she walked home, lock her in the back of his hire car, and then drive her 80 miles to her death

Couzens, 48, a firearms specialist, had finished his shift with an elite diplomatic protection unit hours before he pounced on the marketing executive, 33, as she walked home from a friend’s flat in Clapham, south London.

Prosecutor Tom Little QC said: ‘These were uniform Covid patrols in which the Covid regulations were enforced. The defendant undertook a couple of such shifts,’ he said.

‘He was therefore aware of the regulations and what language to use to those who may or may not have breached them, if speaking to them. He was to use that knowledge to kidnap Sarah Everard.’ 

Ms Everard’s body was found a week later, more than 50 miles away, hidden inside a green builder’s bag in a stretch of woodland in Ashford, Kent on March 10.

Father-of-two Couzens was a firearms officer in the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command and was over £29,000 in debt at the time of the murder, the Old Bailey heard. He has admitted kidnap, rape and murder. 

Police officer Wayne Couzens kidnapped, raped and murdered Sarah Everard in depraved crime after he had finished his shift

Ms Everard, 33, was snatched off the street as she walked home in Clapham, south London, on the evening of March 3

Ms Everard, 33, was snatched off the street as she walked home in Clapham, south London, on the evening of March 3

During a traumatic hearing at the Old Bailey today, the court heard – 

‘Deception, rape, strangulation and fire’ 

Sarah Everard was the victim of ‘deception, kidnap, rape, strangulation, fire’, a court has heard at the start of her murderer’s sentencing.

Wayne Couzens, 48, was a serving Pc with the Metropolitan Police when he snatched Ms Everard as she walked home in Clapham, south London, on the evening of March 3.

The sexual predator, who had clocked off from a 12-hour shift that morning, went on to rape and strangle the 33-year-old marketing executive.

A week after she disappeared, Ms Everard’s body was found in a woodland stream in Ashford, Kent, just metres from land owned by Couzens.

Prosecutor Tom Little QC said: ‘The defendant’s plot of land is very close to, and in the same woods, that he was to burn Sarah Everard’s body after he had murdered her.

‘He then moved her body in green bags that he had purchased specifically for that task to a pond deeper into the woods but which was only about 130 metres from his plot.’

The firearms-trained parliamentary and diplomatic protection officer wiped his phone just minutes before he was arrested at his home in Deal, Kent, on March 9.

The killing prompted national outrage and sparked protests over the rate of violence against women.

In July, Couzens pleaded guilty to Ms Everard’s murder, kidnap and rape by video link from jail.

On Wednesday, he came face to face with his victim’s family when he was brought into the dock of the Old Bailey for the start of his sentencing.

Opening the facts, Mr Little said the disappearance of Ms Everard was one of the most widely publicised missing person investigations the country has ever seen.

After her body was discovered in woodland, it became summarised by the hashtag ‘she was just walking home’, he said.

But that did not completely describe what happened to Ms Everard, the court heard.

Mr Little said: ‘Whilst it is impossible to summarise what the defendant did to Sarah Everard in just five words, if it had to be done then it would be more appropriate to do so as deception, kidnap, rape, strangulation, fire.’

Sarah Everard: ‘Extremely intelligent, savvy and streetwise’

Ms Everard was described by a former long-term boyfriend as ‘extremely intelligent, savvy and streetwise’ and ‘not a gullible person’, the court heard.

He said he could not envisage her getting into a car with someone she did not know ‘unless by force or manipulation’, said the prosecutor.

Mr Little said Couzens 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.

Couzens was said to be wearing his police belt with handcuffs and a rectangular black pouch, similar to a pepper spray holder, when he kidnapped Ms Everard.

Mr Little said he snatched Ms Everard in a ‘false arrest’, by ‘handcuffing her and showing his warrant card’.

The prosecutor said he must have taken her mobile phone from her and removed the sim card, which he tried to destroy.

Ahead of the start of the two-day sentencing, Scotland Yard released a statement which read: ‘We are sickened, angered and devastated by this man’s crimes which betray everything we stand for.

‘Our thoughts are with Sarah’s family and her many friends. It is not possible for us to imagine what they are going through.

‘We recognise his actions raise many questions and concerns but we will not be commenting further until the hearing is complete.’   

Ms Everard's death sparked an outpouring of grief, outrage and a series of protests at the rate of violence against women

Ms Everard’s death sparked an outpouring of grief, outrage and a series of protests at the rate of violence against women

Defendant was in debt for £29,000, had rowed with the Met over pay, and used prostitutes

Couzens was in debt to the tune of £29,000 at the time of the killing and had been paying for sex with escorts.

He married in 2006, and has two children. They lived together in Freemens Way in Deal.

He had a Galaxy handset on the Vodafone network and a Samsung Galaxy watch.

Mr Little told the Old Bailey: ‘In relation to finances at the material time his bank accounts were generally overdrawn only being brought into credit for short periods either by wages paid in and/or the use of short term payday loans.

‘He had a total debt of just under £29,000 with a number of financial institutions, which were the subject of a debt management plan agreed in Oct 2020 with a debt management company, Payplan, with agreed monthly repayments of £235.

‘As at March 2021, the defendant also had a credit card account with NatWest which was in debt (£3460.70); and a PayPal credit card account which was also in debt (£1580.27); both of which had debt payment plans in place to make minimum monthly payments.’ 

Couzens was involved in a dispute with the Metropolitan Police over his pay,’ Mr Little said, adding: ‘He talked freely to colleagues about this, and the fact that he was hoping to obtain legal assistance in the near future. He had not discussed any other financial problems with colleagues. 

‘Most of his colleagues had the impression that he was a ”family man’.’ 

Couzens bought a rubbish-strewn plot of woodland where he burned Sarah’s body  

The court heard that Couzens and his wife had bought a plot of woodland by Ashford, Kent.

‘The defendant’s plot of land is very close to, and in the same woods, that he was to burn Sarah Everard’s body after he had murdered her.

‘He then moved her body in green bags that he had purchased specifically for that task to a pond deeper into the woods but which was only about 130 metres from his plot,’ said Mr Little.

Members of the public had noticed Couzens wearing his police belt when not on duty, with a pair of handcuffs and black pepper spray holder.

‘This is the type of equipment that it can be inferred that the defendant was wearing when he kidnapped Sarah Everard,’ said Mr Little.

Couzens lied to his family that he was due to work when he was not and used a hire car to drive into London on the night of Ms Everard disappearance.

Ms Everard had worked from home that day and walked from her Brixton address to have dinner at a friend’s address in Clapham Junction.

Murderer worked on ‘Covid patrols’ and was aware of rules around how to tackle those breaching them 

In January this year Couzens was working in ‘Covid patrols’ and was aware of coronavirus regulations and the language used on those who may have breached them.

Mr Little said that he had ‘arrested’ and handcuffed Ms Everard for a breach before raping and murdering her. 

He said: ‘These were uniform Covid patrols in which the Covid regulations were enforced. The defendant undertook a couple of such shifts.

‘He was therefore aware of the regulations and what language to use to those who may or may not have breached them, if speaking to them. He was to use that knowledge to kidnap Sarah Everard.’   

CCTV footage of Sarah Everard captured earlier on the night she was kidnapped in March, sparking a nationwide hunt

CCTV footage of Sarah Everard captured earlier on the night she was kidnapped in March, sparking a nationwide hunt

A number of areas were searched in Clapham as police tried to look for missing Sarah before the hunt moved to Kent

A number of areas were searched in Clapham as police tried to look for missing Sarah before the hunt moved to Kent

Killer officer was accused of indecent exposure three days before he murdered Sarah

The public reacted with horror when the Metropolitan Police announced that one of their own had been arrested over the death of Sarah Everard.

Wayne Couzens, who is married with children, was a highly trusted member of the force’s Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command.

The armed unit is responsible for guarding the Parliamentary estate, including Downing Street and the Palace of Westminster, as well as embassies in London.

The 48-year-old officer had been accused of indecent exposure in a branch of fast food restaurant McDonald’s three days before Miss Everard died, but was not arrested or taken off duty while the matter was investigated.

A number of separate troubling incidents involving police officers have attracted public attention in recent months.

In June, West Mercia Pc Benjamin Monk was convicted of the manslaughter of former footballer Dalian Atkinson, having kicked the 48-year-old in the head twice after what the judge called an ‘excessive’ 33-second use of a Taser.

In April, former probationary Metropolitan Police officer Ben Hannam, 22, was found guilty of membership of banned right-wing extremist group National Action (NA) and jailed for four years.

He had been with the London force for nearly two years before he was found on a leaked database of users of extreme right-wing forum Iron March and arrested last year.

Hannam, who pleaded guilty to possessing a prohibited image of a child, was also convicted of lying on his application and vetting forms to join the police and having two terror documents detailing knife combat and making explosive devices.

In March, ex-Pc Oliver Banfield, who served with West Midlands Police, was given a curfew and ordered to pay compensation and costs after admitting assault by beating. 

Met ‘sickened, angered and devastated’ by Couzens’ crimes 

Speaking outside the Old Bailey in July, Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said she was ‘very sorry’ for the loss, pain and suffering of the Everard family. 

She said: ‘All of us in the Met are sickened, angered and devastated by this man’s truly dreadful crimes. Everyone in policing feels betrayed.’

The police watchdog has received a string of referrals relating to the Couzens case, with 12 police officers being investigated. 

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said it was looking at whether the Met failed to investigate two allegations of indecent exposure relating to Couzens in February, just days before the killing.

Kent Police are also being investigated over their response to a third allegation of indecent exposure dating back to 2015.

The case has prompted renewed concern about police recruitment checks and why Couzens continued to hold a warrant card, despite the allegations of sexual offences.

Scotland Yard has said there was no information available at the time that would have altered the vetting decision in his case.

When the killer first appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on March 13, prosecutor Zoe Martin detailed how the investigation began the day after Ms Everard was last seen.

‘Sarah Everard saw a friend in the Clapham Junction area, on March 3 and bought a bottle of wine.

‘She left that address at about 9pm to come home. Her address was about two and half miles away and a 9.15pm she called her boyfriend for about 15 minutes.

‘That call finished at 9.28pm and there has been no further activity on her phone since then. 

‘She was reported missing at 8.10pm on March 4 after she failed to meet her boyfriend as arranged.

‘Investigating officers became involved on Friday March 5. Sarah Everard was captured on CCTV at 9.15pm.

‘The next siting was at 9.28pm and again she was alone.

‘At 9.38pm a bus camera captures two figures standing by a White Vauxhall Astra. One of the figures had lighter clothing and the other darker clothing.

‘Another bus camera also capture the same vehicle. The registration of the vehicle was captured and the police tracked the vehicle using CCTV.’

The Vauxhall drove to Tilmanstone in Kent.

‘The white Vauxhall Astra is a hire car with Enterprise Car Hire in Dover. On 28 February 2021 Wayne Couzens (WC) booked a hire car using his name, address and two different mobile numbers.

‘He paid a deposit using his bank card. WC collected the white Vauxhall Astra seen in the CCTV on Wednesday 3 March 2021 at 16.45 and returned it at approximately 08.30 on 4 March 2021. 

Sarah's family leave the Old Bailey after a previous hearing where Couzens made two guilty pleas. Her father Jeremy is seen on the left, with her sister Katie can be seen on the right.

Sarah’s family leave the Old Bailey after a previous hearing where Couzens made two guilty pleas. Her father Jeremy is seen on the left, with her sister Katie can be seen on the right.

There was a huge search for Sarah Everard after she went missing after visiting a friend before her remains were found in Kent

There was a huge search for Sarah Everard after she went missing after visiting a friend before her remains were found in Kent

Police released this mugshot of murderer police officer Wayne Couzens after he admitted the offences early this year

Police released this mugshot of murderer police officer Wayne Couzens after he admitted the offences early this year

The disappearance of Sarah Everard and Wayne Couzens’ arrest

March 3: Sarah disappeared after leaving a friend’s home in Clapham at around 9pm. She leaves out of her friend’s back gate and speaks to her boyfriend on the phone for 15 minutes.  

March 5: Sarah’s family share missing posters of her after they become increasingly concerned that she is still not home, spreading the word online with links to the Missing People charity.

March 6: Met Police release an appeal, saying Sarah was thought to have walked through Clapham Common, heading towards Brixton home, a journey of 50 minutes. They say they are not certain she ever arrived home.

March 7: Police release footage of Ms Everard and say she was walking alone on A205 Poynders Road towards Tulse Hill when she was last seen on CCTV, which has not been released to the police.

March 8: Specialist officers are drafted and 120 calls from public come in. A door-to-door operation sees police speak to 750 families.

March 9: Police search gardens near Ms Everard’s route and nearby Oaklands Estate.

Officers also search a pond in Clapham Common and drains along the A205. 

11.59pm: Met police officer Wayne Couzens arrested in Kent on suspicion of kidnap. 

‘On investigating the telephone numbers given to Enterprise it is discovered that WC is a serving police officer; it is the same mobile number on his personal records at the MPS. 

‘He is currently employed within the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Group and is a trained firearms officer.

‘On 2 March 2021 at 19.00 he started work at his base in Lille Road, West Brompton and worked a 12-hour shift. He then began a period of leave and was not due back at work until Monday 8 March.

‘On 5 March he reported to work that he was suffering with stress. On 6 March he emailed his supervisor to say that he no longer wanted to carry a firearm. On 8 March he reported in sick.’

Couzens was arrested at his home in Deal on 9 March and interviewed but told investigators a pack of absurd lies.

She added: ‘He initially said he ‘did not know Sarah Everard ‘.

‘He then disclosed that he had financial difficulties and he and his family were being threatened by a gang of Eastern Europeans,’ said the prosecutor.

‘He said that 2/3 weeks ago he had underpaid a prostitute (he usually meets them at Hotel Bursten or the Holiday Inn in Folkestone) and a gang with links to this prostitute told him that, as a consequence, he had to deliver them ‘another girl’.

‘They said that if he didn’t, they would harm his family. He also detailed that that the gang had been watching him at his house.

‘He said he kidnapped SE and drove her out of London. When he got between Ashford and Maidstone, he was flashed by a Mercedes Van with Romanian number plates. 

‘He pulled into a layby and three Eastern European men got out of the van and took SE.

‘This was between 23.00 and 23.30 on 3 March 2021 and she was still alive and uninjured when he delivered her to the men.

‘He gave a description of the men and a rough indication of the location of the exchange. 

‘Police established that WC and his wife purchased a small area of land in 2019.

‘The woodland is off Fridd Lane in Ashford. This together with the phone data which will be briefly summarised, led to the area being designated as a crime scene.

‘At about 16.45 on 10 March 2021 a body was discovered approximately 100 meters away from the area owned by WC. The body was in a large green builders’ bag and deposited in a stream. As referred to, dental records have confirmed that this is the body of SE.’

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