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Wayne Couzens to die behind bars for murder of Sarah Everard as he is sentenced to whole life order

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The police officer who raped and murdered Sarah Everard has been condemned to die in prison for the “wicked” crimes, as a judge imposed a whole life prison order.

PC Wayne Couzens, 48, kidnapped Ms Everard as she walked through the streets of south London, posing as an undercover police officer and carrying out a fake arrest to execute his plan.

Once she was handcuffed in the back of his car, Couzens drove the 33-year-old marketing executive to remote locations in Kent where she was raped and murdered, before burning her body and dumping her remains in a woodland pond.

Imposing the maximum possible sentence, Lord Justice Fulford said Ms Everard’s life, and the pain of her family and friends, must not be forgotten.

“Sarah Everard was a wholly blameless victim of a grotesquely executed series of offences that culminated in her death and the disposal of her body”, he said.

“She was simply walking home in the mid-evening, having visited a friend during the Covid pandemic.

“She was an intelligent, resourceful, talented, and much-loved young woman, still in the early years of her life. I have not the slightest doubt the defendant used his position as a police officer to coerce her in a wholly false pretext into the car he had hired for this very purpose.”

The judge said Couzens had spent around a month visiting London while researching how to carry out the crimes he was plotting.

“(He) had planned well in advance, in all its unspeakably grim detail, what was to occur”, he added, saying Ms Everard’s final hours were “as bleak and as agonising as it is possible to imagine”.

The judge added that Couzens had “throughout sought to minimise his responsibility for what occurred”.

“I have concluded, given the planning and thought that went into the kidnap and rape of the victim, the defendant must have realised he may well need to kill the woman he intended to abduct and rape.

“But this did not become a definite outcome until the events had started to unfold, and he had got the measure of the person he had attacked.”

He said there was a “palpable need” for a whole life order in Couzens’ case.

“The police are in a unique position”, he said. “They have the powers of coercion and control that are in an exceptional category.

“In this country, it is expected 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.

“The misuse of a police officer’s role such as occurred in this case in order to kidnap, rape and murder a lone victim is of equal seriousness as a murder for the purpose of advancing a political, religious ideological cause.”

The judge said Couzens had “eroded confidence” in police forces and “very considerably added to the sense of insecurity that many have living in our cities, perhaps particularly women, when travelling by themselves and especially at night”.

“You have utterly betrayed your family”, said the judge, saying they will now have to live with the “ignominy of your dreadful crimes”.

Sarah Everard (METROPOLITAN POLICE/AFP via Gett)
Sarah Everard (METROPOLITAN POLICE/AFP via Gett)

Speaking on Thursday morning for Couzens, barrister Jim Sturman QC said the married father-of-two who was a firearms officer in the Met’s Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command, is “ashamed by what he has done”.

“No right-minded person reading the papers or listening to the statements read out by the Everard family could feel anything other than revulsion for what he did.

“He doesn’t seek to make excuses for anything he did, he is filled with self-loathing and abject shame, and he should be.”

Calling it a “truly horrible crime” that caused “wicked harm”, Mr Sturman added Couzens’ family and friends are “absolutely staggered” at what he did.

A statement released by Ms Everard’s family in respone to the full life term said: “We are very pleased that Wayne Couzens has received a full life sentence and will spend the rest of his life in jail. Nothing can make things better, nothing can bring Sarah back, but knowing he will be imprisoned forever brings some relief.

“Sarah lost her life needlessly and cruelly and all the years of life she had yet to enjoy were stolen from her. Wayne Couzens held a position of trust as a police officer and we are outraged and sickened that he abused this trust in order to lure Sarah to her death. The world is a safer place with him imprisoned.

“It is almost seven months since Sarah died and the pain of losing her is overwhelming. We miss her all the time. She was a beautiful young woman in looks and character and our lives are the poorer without her. We remember all the lovely things about Sarah - her compassion and kindness, her intelligence, her strong social conscience. But we especially like to remember her laughing and dancing and enjoying life. We hold her safe in our hearts.

“We are immensely grateful to the police and legal team who worked on Sarah’s case. We cannot thank them enough for their meticulous and painstaking work and for their constant support. We also send our heartfelt thanks to our family and friends for comforting us through this terrible time.”

The kidnap and murder of Ms Everard in March sparked national outrage, alongside a wave of vigils and protests about the safety of women on Britain’s streets.

Police will now face tough questions about whether Couzens, who was accused of indecent exposure just days before the murder, was properly monitored or investigated.

Ms Everard was walking home from dinner at a friend’s home on the evening of March 3 when she encountered Couzens on the South Circular.

The PC, wearing his Met-issued police belt, flashed his warrant card and used the Covid-19 regulations to carry out a fake arrest. Ms Everard was handcuffed and put into the back of his hired car, compliant with the apparently legitimate police action. Only later would she realise the terrible fate she faced.

Couzens is believed to have raped Ms Everard in a quiet spot of the Kent countryside, and by 2.30am – within hours of the kidnap – she had been strangled.

He went on to burn her body in a flytipped fridge, in woodland close to a plot of land he owned, and then dumped the charred remains in a nearby pond.

Shockingly, Couzens took his family on a trip to the woodland where Ms Everard’s body was, letting his children play close to the pond where her remains were hidden.

He was captured on March 9, a day before Ms Everard’s body was found, and phone and CCTV evidence helped police to piece together what had happened.

On Wednesday, Ms Everard’s father Jeremy told Couzens: “There is no redemption for what you have done, for taking Sarah away from us.”

Mother Susan Everard said she is “haunted by the horror” of her daughter’s murder, while Sarah’s sister Katie Everard broke down in tears as she branded Couzens a “monster”.

While the murder detectives were praised for the way Couzens was identified as the killer, a string of police watchdog investigations have been launched into Couzens past.

The court heard on Wednesday that he was said by a former colleague to have an “attraction to brutal sexual pornography”, linked to an incident in 2002.

Kent Police are accused of failing to investigate a 2015 allegation of indecent exposure against Couzens, and the Met are facing watchdog probes into the way new claims of indecent exposure from February 2021 were handled.

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