Killer police officer Wayne Couzens believes he should have a chance of freedom as he admitted the rape and murder of Sarah Everard rather than running a “wicked” false defence, judges were told on Wednesday.
The former Metropolitan Police PC, 49, abducted Ms Everard as she walked home alone in March last year, carrying out a bogus arrest under Covid powers at the side of the South Circular.
His barrister, James Sturman QC, told the Court of Appeal Couzens could have used his police training to mount a bogus defence, putting Ms Everard’s friends and family through the agony of a trial.
He said Couzens initially told police a “ridiculous” story about eastern European gangsters forcing him to kidnap Ms Everard, but he swiftly abandoned that lie.
“He did not continue with that defence after that moment”, said Mr Sturman, saying it was easy to imagine other notorious murderers trying to mount a “wicked” defence.
“Using his knowledge as a policeman, he had additional information that would help him to run that false defence.
“If he had done so, you can imagine the additional horror that would have been inflicted on Sarah Everard’s loved ones, sitting through a trial, hoping upon hoping that he didn’t pull the wool over the jury’s eyes.”
Mr Sturman compared Couzens with serial killer Levi Bellfield, who sadistically put his victims’ families through additional torture in court, or MP killer Ali Harbi Ali, who openly admitted having no remorse or regrets.
And he argued that a “manipulative and devious” defendant could have “seized on” erroneous media reports that Couzens and Ms Everard knew each other before the night of the abduction.
“He could have argued sexual consent – he did not. He could, horrifically, have run a case that it was an accidental killing.
“The rough sex defence has been seen two or three times over the years, and sometimes is accepted by the jury.”
Mr Sturman said Couzens “accepts his crimes are abhorrent” and had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity after being assessed by a doctor as fit to participate in the court proceedings.
He argued Lord Justice Fulford’s assessment of “no remorse” was “untenable”, describing how Couzens was “too ashamed” to look anyone in the eye and had sat rocking back and forth at an early court hearing.
“His remorse was also demonstrated by the fact that not only did he plead guilty before much of the evidence had been served, he indicated an admission of guilt before the pathology evidence was served”, he said.
“He told us about the mechanism of the killing. What he told us was entirely consistent with the findings.”
He added: “He didn’t play the system the way many police officers have over the years.”
In response, prosecutor Tom Little QC said the murder of Ms Everard amounted to a “fundamental attack on our democratic way of life” and said Couzens’ role as a police officer was important to the whole life order decision.
“This was, on any view, a wholly exceptional case”, he said. “A police officer is in a uniquely powerful position, able to carry out an arrest alone on one of London’s busiest arterial roads during a period of lockdown.”
He said Lord Justice Fulford’s sentencing remarks were “clear, coherent and cohesive”, justifying the imposing of the maximum possible sentence.
“The whole life order was the correct sentence to impose in this truly exceptional case”, added Mr Little.
The hearing was also told how Couzens’ wife had been left “utterly devastated” by the murder of Ms Everard, coming out of the blue and shattering her and her children’s happy family life.
“She described a loving husband and a good father who had sunk into depression”, he added.
Five senior judges led by Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett of Maldon will now consider Couzens’ sentence and deliver a decision on a later date.
They are also assessing the sentences of child killer Emma Tustin, double murderer Ian Stewart, triple killer Jordan Monaghan, and abusive father Thomas Hughes.