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Wayne Couzens will die behind bars after kidnapping, raping and murdering Sarah Everard – as the Metropolitan Police face questions over why he was still on the force.
The ex-Pc, 48, was handed a whole life sentence at the Old Bailey on Thursday by Lord Justice Fulford, who said his “warped, selfish and brutal” crimes had eroded confidence in the police.
The judge said the firearms officer had been planning for at least a month before abducting Ms Everard, 33, as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham south London, on the evening of March 3.
Firearms officer Couzens, who had been “hunting” for a victim, used his warrant card and handcuffs to snatch the marketing executive off the street using Covid lockdown rules to make a false arrest.
Lord Justice Fulford said the case in which a serving officer abused his position was so exceptional it warranted a whole life order, meaning Couzens will never be freed.
It is the first time the sentence has been imposed for a single murder of an adult not committed in the course of a terror attack.
“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,” said the judge.
Couzens was known to have been “attracted to brutal sexual pornography” as far back as 2002, while the police watchdog previously said he was linked to a flashing incident in 2015 and two more days before he killed Ms Everard.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said “serious questions” need to be answered by the force but backed Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick who is facing fresh calls to resign over the case, which sparked a national outcry and a debate over the safety of women.
Speaking outside the Old Bailey she said Couzens had brought “shame” on the Met, adding: “I am so sorry.”
The Met announced it will no longer deploy plain clothes officers on their own.
Couzens, who had been a member of the Kent Special Constabulary before moving to the Civil Nuclear Constabulary in 2011, joined the Met in September 2018, working for the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command and on uniformed Covid patrols.
He was sacked after a disciplinary hearing held behind closed doors after he pleaded guilty to Ms Everard’s kidnap, rape and murder.
The married father-of-two, wearing a dark suit and black tie stood shaking slightly in the dock as he was sentenced and kept his head bowed as he shuffled out of court.
The judge told him: “You have eroded the confidence that the public are entitled to have in the police forces of England and Wales.
“It is critical that every subject in this country can trust police officers when they encounter them and submit to their authority, which they are entitled to believe is being exercised in good faith.
“You have utterly betrayed your family.
“Your wife and children, who on all the evidence are entirely blameless, will have to live with the ignominy of your dreadful crimes for the rest of their lives.
“You have 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.”
Couzens did not lift his head to face his victim’s family, who on Wednesday had asked him to look at them as they read emotional victim impact statements.
Ms Everard’s parents, Jeremy and Susan, clasped hands and hugged police officers after he was taken down to the cells.
In a statement, they and Ms Everard’s brother James and sister Katie, said they were pleased with the sentence.
“Nothing can make things better, nothing can bring Sarah back, but knowing he will be imprisoned forever brings some relief,” they said.
“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.”
The judge described Ms Everard as “a wholly blameless victim of a grotesquely executed series of offences that culminated in her death and the disposal of her body”.
Couzens had worked a 12-hour shift at the US embassy before kidnapping Ms Everard in a rented Vauxhall Crossland.
“It is most likely that he suggested to Sarah Everard that she had breached the restrictions on movement that were being enforced during that stage of the pandemic,” Lord Justice Fulford said.
Couzens drove his restrained victim 80 miles before raping his victim, strangling her to death with his police belt and burning her body.
Ms Everard, who lived in Brixton, south London, may have been alive for up to five hours before she was strangled to death, the court heard.
Couzens then burned her body in a refrigerator in an area of woodland he owned in Hoads Wood, near Ashford, before dumping the remains in a nearby pond.
The judge said her state of mind in her final hours “would have been as bleak and agonising as it is possible to imagine”.
Couzens would have needed to apply pressure to her neck for more than two minutes to kill her, the judge said.
He described how Couzens acted “entirely as normal” following the murder, carrying out “prosaic” tasks, including booking dental appointments for his children and calling the vet about his dog Maddie over “separation anxiety”.
Couzens even took his family for a day out to the site where he had disposed of Ms Everard’s body, letting his children play nearby.
He was arrested at his home in Deal, Kent, after police connected him to a hire car he used to abduct Ms Everard, whose remains were found by police dogs on March 10.