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Sarah Everard detective struggling to see how Met can ‘win back trust’

<span>Katherine Goodwin was speaking in a new BBC documentary Sarah Everard: The Search for Justice.</span><span>Photograph: BBC/PA</span>
Katherine Goodwin was speaking in a new BBC documentary Sarah Everard: The Search for Justice.Photograph: BBC/PA

The Metropolitan police are still grappling with how to “win back trust” three years after the 2021 death of Sarah Everard, the officer who led the investigation into her murder has said.

DCI Katherine Goodwin was speaking in a BBC documentary, Sarah Everard: The Search for Justice, which follows the inquiry into the killing of the 33-year-old, who was walking home in London before she was kidnapped and murdered by Wayne Couzens.

The documentary reveals police discovered Couzens was suspected of an indecent exposure offence in Kent days before Everard’s disappearance, before they found out he was a serving Metropolitan police officer.

“At that time, Wayne Couzens was a name that meant nothing to any of us. So immediately we start researching the name, also the phone number and the address that had been given when he’d hired the car,” said Goodwin.

A team of officers were sent to Couzens’ house in Kent to question him and, while they were en route, a detective ran into Goodwin’s office, shut the door, and told her: “You need to hear this.”

A researcher on the phone then revealed that Couzens was a serving Met officer.

Goodwin said: “I knew that I had to tell my boss and I can just remember the shock of having to just sit on the floor of the office and say to her, ‘You’re not going to believe this, that he’s a police officer’. And then the same question went through her head as went through my head… ‘Are you sure?’.”

A devastating official report by Elish Angiolini published last week revealed police failures, including catastrophically flawed vetting, that allowed Couzens to use his status as a police officer to kidnap and murder Everard.

“I think what most troubles me is, now I’ve had the chance to sort of think, is how we can possibly win back trust from the public, and I begin to wonder then how endemic it is,” said Goodwin.

The documentary, which was two and a half years in the making, includes CCTV footage, media coverage and archived police interviews with Couzens upon his arrest and in police custody. It was made with the input of Everard’s parents.

It shows an officer interviewing Couzens while holding a picture of Everard, saying: “People trust us to look after them. People trust us to help them. You know, protect and serve, that’s what they say isn’t it? That’s what we’re here to do. We all took that oath, you included.”

The documentary looks at Couzens’ time serving in Kent – after initially failing a vetting process. The full extent of Couzens’ alleged offences includes two allegations of rape, sexually assaulting a girl and eight incidents of indecent exposure.

The first part of the three-part Angiolini inquiry found that Couzens should never have been hired as a police officer and found the force culpable for leaving him at large. Writing in the Observer, Angiolini has since called for a change in the way police respond to indecent exposure cases and called for a specialist policy on investigating all sexual offences within forces, to stop another “Couzens operating in plain sight”.

“It’s not very often that a case comes along that starts a national conversation,” said the Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy. “But it’s much bigger than just what we see in the police. It’s what we see right across society, how issues of violence against women and girls are taken more generally.” In the past 12 months, 98 women have been killed by men in the UK.

Kent police have said: “We accept our investigation into a 2015 report of indecent exposure was flawed and we apologise. Kent police is appalled by the crimes committed against Sarah Everard. We fully accept the recommendations of the Angiolini inquiry report.”

  • Sarah Everard: The Search for Justice will air on BBC One and iPlayer on Tuesday at 9pm.