Sarah Everard: Wayne Couzens to be sentenced for kidnapping, rape and murder

A London police officer, who used his badge to lure an unsuspecting woman to her death, committed a chilling act just days after she was killed.

A serving British police officer who kidnapped a woman as she walked home, falsely arresting her on the pretence of breaching coronavirus restrictions, before raping and murdering her, used his family as cover to help him hide her body.

Sarah Everard was brutally raped and murdered in March by Wayne Couzens, with her burnt remains being found in a remote forest a week after she vanished from London.

Couzens, who served with the elite diplomatic protection unit of London’s Metropolitan Police, admitted to kidnapping, raping and murdering her in July and is facing a life sentence for the crimes.

Ms Everard, who had been visiting a friend in Clapham, in south London, was strangled and then set on fire.

At a two-day sentencing hearing this week, prosecutor Tom Little said Couzens targeted the 33-year-old marketing executive on March 3, after finishing a shift at the US embassy.

Couzens, who was off-duty but wearing his police belt, kidnapped Ms Everard in a “false arrest”, by “handcuffing her and showing his warrant card”, he added.

Security camera footage showed him holding up the police ID, handcuffing Ms Everard then putting her into a car he had hired “to kidnap and rape a lone woman”, he said.

A couple driving past in a car witnessed the scene but assumed an undercover police officer was making an arrest, the lawyer added.

Ms Everard was handcuffed just after 9.30pm that night, before Couzens drove to Dover, on the English south coast.

There, he transferred her to his own car — which was captured on camera, driving her to a remote rural area where he raped her.

Couzens, a married father-of-two, told a psychiatrist he used his police belt to strangle Ms Everard before setting her body on fire and dumping it in bags.

Police checked security camera footage and identified Couzens through his hire car. He was arrested at his home on March 9, just minutes after he deleted his phone data.

The court heard Couzens took his wife and two children on a family trip to Hoads Wood on March 7, where just days earlier he had murdered Ms Everard.

Mr Little said he “took his family on a family trip to the very woods where days earlier he had left Sarah Everard’s body, then returned to burn it and then returned again to move it and hide it”.

The court heard Couzens let his children play in a section of the forest, near the refrigerator he used to burn Ms Everard’s body.

Ms Everard’s remains were found in a stream in Ashford, Kent, on March 9, just metres from land owned by Couzens.

Fragments of her clothing were found in nearby woodland, where her body had previously been burnt.

Couzens sat in the dock at London’s Old Bailey yesterday with his head bowed, watched by Ms Everard’s family, who gave emotional victim impact statements to the court.

Ms Everard’s mother Susan said her daughter “lost her life because Couzens wanted to satisfy his perverted desires. It is a ridiculous reason”.

“I am outraged that he masqueraded as a policeman in order to get what he wanted,” she added.

The victim’s father, Jeremy, asked the killer, “Mr Couzens, please will you look at me”, before telling him: “No punishment that you receive will ever compare to the pain and torture that you have inflicted on us.”

Before the hearing, the Metropolitan Police said they were “sickened, angered and devastated by this man’s crimes, which betray everything we stand for”.

The force has sacked the officer and said his actions “raise many questions and concerns” but it would not comment further until after the sentencing.

Demonstrators outside the court held banners with slogans criticising the police such as “Met Police Blood On Your Hands” and let off smoke flares.

The government has pledged to improve legislation after Everard’s murder sparked widespread anger at women’s lack of safety in public spaces, as well as low conviction rates for offences including rape, domestic abuse and stalking.

— with AFP

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