Sarah Everard murder: Wayne Couzens sentenced to whole-life order

·4-min read

An officer who strangled Sarah Everard with his police belt after kidnapping her under the guise of a fake arrest will die in jail.

Wayne Couzens, 48, was handed a whole-life order for the "grotesque" killing of the 33-year-old marketing executive which shocked and outraged the nation.

Sentencing at the Old Bailey on Thursday, Lord Justice Fulford said the seriousness of the case was so "exceptionally high" it warranted a whole-life order.

As it happened: Reaction as Wayne Couzens' sentenced to whole-life term

"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," he said.

He described the murder as "devastating" and "tragic" and said Couzens went out "hunting a lone female to kidnap and rape".

He said Ms Everard was "a wholly blameless victim of a grotesque series of circumstances that culminated in her death".

Sarah's family released a statement saying they were "very pleased" Couzens received a full-life sentence.

"Nothing can make things better, nothing can bring Sarah back, but knowing he will be imprisoned forever brings some relief," the statement 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 last moments of Sarah Everard's life were "as bleak and agonising as it is possible to imagine", he added.

Couzens shook in the dock as he was sent down to begin his sentence.

The court had heard how Couzens used his Metropolitan Police-issue warrant card and handcuffs to snatch Ms Everard as she walked home from a friend's house in Clapham, south London, on the evening of 3 March.

The firearms officer, who had clocked off from a 12-hour shift at the American embassy that morning, drove to a secluded rural area near Dover in Kent, where he parked up and raped Ms Everard.

Ms Everard, who lived in Brixton, south London, had been strangled with Couzens' police issue belt by 2.30am the following morning.

Married 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.

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 10 March.

In an emergency interview at his home, Couzens concocted a fake story that he had been "leant" on by a gang which forced him to hand over "a girl".

He went on to plead guilty to Ms Everard's kidnap, rape and murder and was sacked from the force in July.

Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick has faced calls to resign.

Speaking outside the court, she said Couzens' actions were a "gross betrayal of everything policing stands for".

She said she was aware a "precious bond of trust has been damaged" for some people and said Couzens had "brought shame on the Met".

"I am so sorry," she added.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "In terms of the monster that has been convicted today, it is right that he has been given a whole life tariff and with that he can never walk the streets of our country again.

"Alongside that of course, it is right that we constantly hold the police to account for what has happened."

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Asked if Dame Cressida should resign, Ms Patel said: "I think first of all there are important questions and questions that I've been asking and challenges, we have to be honest about this, in particular to this case, but also the conduct of that serving officer and conduct of policing more broadly.

"So, I will continue to work with the Metropolitan Police and the Commissioner to hold them to account as everybody would expect me to do, and I will continue to do that."

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