Sarah Everard: Questions police must answer

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Sarah Everard: Questions police must answer
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Police faced growing questions on Thursday over how a Met officer “slipped through the net” before raping and murdering Sarah Everard.

As “monster” Pc Wayne Couzens was being sentenced at the Old Bailey, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Sir Keir Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions, led the calls for answers.

At least two opportunities may have been missed by police to suspend Couzens. He is reported to have indecently exposed himself at a McDonald’s in south London just days before Ms Everard’s murder.

He was nicknamed “The Rapist” by former colleagues at the Civil Nuclear Constabulary in Kent for making women officers feel uncomfortable. He also allegedly drove around in a car naked in 2015, three years before he was hired by the Met.

Sir Keir, the Labour leader, told LBC radio: “How did he slip through the net? There were obviously warning signs so how did he get through the net? I know that thousands upon thousands of police officers doing a fantastic job up and down the country are absolutely sickened by this. But how on earth did he get through the net is the critical question that now just has to be answered.”

A source close to Ms Patel said: “It is right that the Met reflect upon how a serving police officer was able to commit these heinous crimes. They have extremely difficult questions to answer over the coming weeks and months and the Government will be holding them to account robustly on behalf of the public and Parliament.

“Confidence of women and girls in the police’s ability to keep them safe is paramount. Trust must be restored.”

Apparent shortcomings over the two earlier sex crime allegations against Couzens are among around a dozen inquiries into the activities of at least 12 officers linked to the case.

Horror: Ms Everard is “arrested” by killer (PA Media)
Horror: Ms Everard is “arrested” by killer (PA Media)

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is investigating both Kent police and the Met over the handling of the cases. Two of the investigations by the IOPC are understood to have been completed.

However, the watchdog is believed to be liaising with forces before it fully reveals all of it findings. A “lengthy update” is expected on Thursday after Couzens’s sentencing.

During a two-day sentencing, which started on Wednesday, the Old Bailey heard that Couzens, 48, used his official warrant card to trick Ms Everard, a 33-year-old marketing assistant, into believing she was being arrested for breaking pandemic restrictions. He picked her up in Clapham as she headed home from a friend’s house on March 3.

Wayne Couzens being questioned by police (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Media)
Wayne Couzens being questioned by police (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Media)

As details of the case have emerged, including harrowing statements from Ms Everard’s family, public anger has grown. Her mother, Susan, said: “I play it out in my mind. I go through the terrible sequence of events. I wonder when she realised she was in mortal danger. I wonder what her murderer said to her… In the evenings, at the time she was abducted, I let out a silent scream: ‘Don’t get in the car, Sarah. Don’t believe him. Run!’”

Ms Everard’s father, Jeremy, said the murder was on his mind “all the time”, while her sister Katie broke down in tears when she said Couzens had “fly-tipped” Sarah’s body “like she meant nothing”.

Campaigner Patsy Stevenson, who was arrested at a vigil for Ms Everard shortly after her death, told Sky News that police did not take women’s safety seriously. She said: “Why was he allowed to become and remain a police officer? When they say we’ve done everything possible, they clearly didn’t.”

Couzens at petrol station (PA)
Couzens at petrol station (PA)

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said: “We are sickened, angered and devastated by this man’s crimes, which betray everything we stand for. Our thoughts are with Sarah’s family and her friends. It is not possible for us to imagine what they are going through.”

Treasury minister Simon Clarke told Sky News: “It is so important to emphasise that Wayne Couzens, who is a monster, does not represent the work of all those tens of thousands of police men and women who go about every day to keep us safe.” Couzens joined the elite armed Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command last year and was part of a 14-man squad tasked with guarding foreign embassies and diplomatic buildings in London.

The court heard he was wearing “an array of equipment”, including a pair of rigid handcuffs, to dupe Ms Everard into thinking he was an undercover officer. After being handcuffed and put into a hire car, Ms Everard was driven two hours outside of London before being raped and strangled. Couzens then burned her body in woodland, near Ashford, Kent. Earlier this year the IOPC said 12 gross misconduct or misconduct notices had been served on police officers from several forces.

One investigation was examining claims that a probationary Met constable, who was at a cordon around a scene of investigation, shared an “inappropriate graphic” with colleagues.

Read More

What the papers say – October 1

Police pledge 650 new officers on beat to protect women after Everard

Detectives investigate whether killer policeman Wayne Couzens committed other crimes

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