A serving police officer admitted to murdering Sarah Everard after abducting her from the street as she was walking home in South London.
Metropolitan Police Officer Wayne Couzens pleaded guilty to her murder at the Old Bailey on Friday, having admitted to her abduction and rape at an earlier hearing.
The 33-year-old marketing executive disappeared on March 3 and her body was recovered from a forest near Ashford in Kent, about 20 miles west of Couzens’ home, seven days later. It was hidden and wrapped in a construction bag that Couzens had bought days before. She was identified through her dental records.
Couzens was an armed officer in the Met’s elite parliamentary and diplomatic protection group. The case sparked a debate about women’s safety. The fact that a rapist and murderer had hidden among the ranks of Britain’s largest force and been entrusted with a weapon to protect sensitive sites shook the top of the Met.
It appeared via video link from Belmarsh Prison for the hearing.
The court clerk asked Couzens how he would plead guilty to the murder charge. He replied, “Guilty.”
The clerk checked and asked, “Do you plead guilty to murder?”
“Yes,” Couzens replied, his head slightly raised.
The hearing began when the court was told that Couzens had already pleaded guilty to Everard’s kidnapping and rape.
Couzens, 48, of Deal in Kent, now faces a mandatory life sentence for the murder.
He finished work at 7 a.m. on the day he attacked Everard and then picked up a rental car that he had rented three days earlier. He drove in the rental car, before seeing Everard walking home after visiting a friend’s house. Everard was reported missing by her partner the next day when she was unable to meet him as agreed.
Couzens was arrested at his home in Deal on March 9, first on suspicion of kidnapping, and then the next day, while in police custody, he was arrested on suspicion of the murder of Everard.
The results of an autopsy showed that he had died from compression of the neck.
Everard’s disappearance was initially treated by the Met as a missing persons case, but as concerns mounted, it was taken over by the specialized crime command unit.
Footage of a passing bus captured the white Vauxhall Astra used by Couzens and its license plate. When detectives tracked down the license plate, it drove to a rental company in Dover, Kent. The company provided the details of the person who had rented the car. Couzens had used two mobile phone numbers to hire him, one of which was a mobile number registered in his Met Police personnel file.
When she was arrested, Couzens admitted to taking Everard, but initially denied his murder.
In a strange story made up of lies, he claimed that he had kidnapped Everard and then, while driving through Kent, stopped when his vehicle was intercepted by a gang from Eastern Europe. He claimed they were threatening him and his family after underpaying for a prostitute the gang controlled and whom he met at a Folkestone hotel weeks earlier.
Couzens was vetted when he first became a Civil Nuclear Police (CNC) police officer in 2011. The Guardian understands that he was initially vetted more than the average officer, having served for the first time for eight months on the site. Sellafield High Security and was developed vetted, one of the highest clearance levels.
He then moved on to serve at Dungeness, Kent, which did not require such a high level of research, and served there for the remainder of his time at the CNC. The Met has so far declined to say whether Couzens was vetted in 2018 when he joined Britain’s largest force.
Before joining the CNC, Couzens volunteered with the Kent Police from 2005 to 2009 and became a special sergeant. He was also in the territorial army and worked in the family garage in Kent.
Everard’s abduction and murder sparked a national debate about the safety of women in the UK and whether the criminal justice system does enough to protect them and punish those who attack them.
Vigils held across the country were largely uneventful, but one near the route of Everard’s last known journey, on Clapham Common in south London, resulted in the Met being widely criticized for alleged heavy-handed tactics. .
Despite criticism, a police inspection report not only cleared the police of wrongdoing, but also praised them for their restraint.
The Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) is investigating other matters sparked by the case, including injuries sustained by Couzens while in police custody after his arrest, which are believed to have been self-inflicted.
The IOPC also announced that it would examine the actions of an officer in a search cordon who allegedly shared an inappropriate graphic with colleagues via social media.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism