Wayne Couzens’ victims reveal horror of flashing crimes before Sarah Everard murder
Women who were flashed by Wayne Couzens in the weeks before he kidnapped, raped, and murdered Sarah Everard have spoken of the horror when they realised they had come face-to-face with the notorious killer.
Couzens, 50, who was a member of the Met Police’s Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command, snatched Ms Everard, 33, as she walked home alone in March 2021.
As details of the terrible crime emerged, it became clear there had been a pattern of escalating offending, with a series of incidents of indecent exposure linked to the officer.
At the Old Bailey on Monday, Couzens was sentenced to 19 months in prison for three incidents of flashing before he went on to murder.
Mrs Justice May said the failures by police to stop Couzens had made him feel “invincible”, believing he had the “power to sexually dominate women without being stopped”.
The three women who were flashed gave victim impact statements to the court on Monday, setting out how Couzens’ behaviour has damaged their lives and their feelings of “survivor’s guilt” because of what he went on to do.
The crime you perpetrated has left a dark stain on my daily life
The first victim was cycling along a country lane in Kent when she encountered Couzens in November 2020. He was standing by the side of the road, naked and masturbating, while staring directly at her.
“I imagine that most of you reading, or listening, to this statement will be able to leave your home without a sense of restriction”, she said. “You may choose to go to work, go to the theatre, to the library, to meet friends, to travel or to do the mundane things which form part of daily life.
“You may be able to do these things without thinking about the dangers which lay outside the sanctuary of your home.
“Do you enjoy a woodland stroll at the weekend, alone or with your family, without thinking about the dangers of being in a quiet, remote place? Do you feel vulnerable? Are you afraid?”
Addressing her comments directly to Couzens, she said: “I feel both vulnerable and afraid because of the crime you committed. The crime you perpetrated has left a dark stain on my daily life. I saw you, now known globally as a convicted murderer and rapist, in the act of masturbating whilst completely naked. Your intention was to cause distress and alarm.
“The pleasures of being able to take a walk on my own, or to cycle to the railway station, without fear, are now denied to me. These are simple examples, taken from daily life. I am denied these activities every day. Cycling is impossible for me. I face each venture outside with fear and trepidation. Your crime has had an impact on my personal life and my professional career. Prior to this, I travelled extensively for work, this is now very difficult too. I worry for myself; I worry for my family and friends, and I worry for strangers too.
“Before this crime, I did not experience this overwhelming fear. Now, I have been diagnosed with, and am being treated for, PTSD because of your crime.
“When you decided on the 13th of November 2020 that you would seek sexual gratification by going to a local woodland spot, standing on the side of the road, stripping completely naked and masturbating furiously in full view of passing strangers, you took something important from me.
“You took my sense of freedom; my ability to go outside without fear. In that moment I was very afraid, and I am still afraid now.
“You have, by that act, changed my life and that of those around me. I wish, daily, that I could go back to a time before this happened; before you took my freedom and replaced it with fear. It was a selfish, aggressive act and it has had a serious impact upon the quality of my life, and upon the quality of life of those close to me.
The horror of what happened will remain with me for the rest of my life
“I am aware that for some indecent exposure, is viewed as a minor offence but research shows that this is a progressive form of behaviour.
“I remember vividly being concerned that somebody who could expose themselves to a stranger in such an intimidating way could go on to commit much more serious acts. This is what happened.
“Four months after you exposed yourself to me, you raped and murdered an innocent woman. There were opportunities to identify you and they were not taken. I did not feel that, when I reported your crime, it was taken as seriously as I felt that it should have been. The horror of what happened will remain with me for the rest of my life.
“You committed this offence at a time of day when you could have been seen by anyone, including children. Indecent exposure is a sexual offence which should be taken seriously.
“Currently our society, and some police forces, do not, in my experience, take this crime as seriously as they should. When you should have been acting professionally and protecting the public, you were gratifying yourself and abusing your position. Your behaviour, and the subsequent failure by Kent police, have seriously eroded my confidence in the police generally.
“As a result of what you did and went on to do I have been harassed at my home address. I have had people calling my personal and work phones. The consequence of this is that I have had to change my social media and disconnect my phone. All I have wanted is to be left alone.
“I can no longer pass areas of woodland without experiencing symptoms of a panic attack and I am unable to walk or cycle alone. These feelings have not subsided with time, I cannot erase the memory of the violence of the act on that date and I cannot erase the memory of your subsequent crimes of rape and murder. These monstrous acts are now part of my life.
“You stared directly into my eyes whilst being completely naked and masturbating in public, this was an act of aggression. You did this to me. Your intention was to cause fear whilst seeking sexual gratification. I am a middle-aged woman with resilience and a wealth of positive life experiences and yet this crime has impacted my life so severely that I am unable to leave the house alone. My life has changed.
“As a direct result of your crime, of what you freely chose to do, I am no longer able to exercise this most basic of human needs; to act independently and step outside my home without fear. I am no longer free, and neither should you be.”
Couzens struck again on Valentine’s Day, 2021, driving up to a takeaway with his penis exposed through his shorts.
The woman who served him said she was in “shock”.
I could not get the image out of my head of what I had seen
“I was only on night shifts that night because we were short-staffed and I needed to earn some extra money. I did not expect to bring the food back and to have an erect penis shown to me.
“It took me a moment to process what had just happened. Then I became really upset and burst into tears. I remember everything about what had happened over the incident…even what his hands look like and I still do remember this vividly.
“Following this incident I decided with my family that I no longer wanted to do night shifts. When I was working I would wear my name badge and would often still wear it out of work as I was leaving. I did not know whether the person was waiting for me in the car park or could do so in the future. I just didn’t feel that it was a safe environment to work on the night shift after this had happened.
“I reverted to working morning shifts which I felt was safer and provided my family reassurance that I was safe. This cost me financially because the night shifts did pay more but it was worth it to provide them that reassurance.
“My husband generally became more concerned for my safety and felt it was necessary check that I was safe when travelling home from work or would collect me himself. I felt the need to do this because of this incident and what this person did to me.
“In the weeks that followed the incident I could not get the image out of my head of what I had seen and this did result in me comfort eating more. In the initial weeks this affected my intimacy with my partner until, with time, I was able to start processing what had happened.
“Following this I also became more aware of dangers around me. When I saw a male in a car I became more anxious. I started noticing this more and making adjustments such as how I held my keys to protect myself. When I got in my car I started locking the doors to make sure that nobody could get into the car. This was all done to try to protect myself and my children from anything that could happen to us.
“I realized when I saw a picture in the press of the person following their arrest that this was the same person and my initial reaction was to feel sick. I could not help but feel relieved that it wasn’t me, or that it could have been me. At the same time I felt really sorry for Sarah’s family and felt a large amount of survivor’s guilt. I could not imagine how they were feeling or what they were going through. Now after such a long period of time I have managed to put the incident behind me because I know that they have had it much worse.
“My perspective of the police has been altered significantly. Prior to this I did not have a firm opinion of the police as I have been fortunate enough not to require them. However now while I know the police have a duty of care, my trust in the police to treat me well has been diminished. I do not like to tar everyone with the same brush but it has been difficult not to do so after knowing what he did for a living and knowing I could have come across him in uniform and not known what he was capable of.
“Following the incident there was a lot of pressure on me as a result of all the attention that the incident had received. This was from my colleagues and from the press who all wanted to know what had happened and I was not left alone.
“I was relieved when the offender plead guilty and took responsibility for their actions. I just want to move on from everything that has happened and try to put the incident behind me.”
I was just in shock
The third victim gave evidence in court in person, tearfully revealing how she had initially felt compassion towards Couzens but now bitterly regrets that instinct.
“I saw this man who looked distressed and openly displaying his private parts. My initial reaction was that he was suffering and tried to remain calm.
“I carried on working, asked him if he wanted anything with his food, passed him his drink. Although I acted unaffected, I did not feel comfortable standing there while waiting for his food. I did not know him, I did not know why he was doing that. It made me feel really awkward. This had not happened to me before.
“I moved away from the window and told my manager what situation I was faced with. I did not say I refused to serve him but merely stated my concerns. My manager took my role and handed him his food while also noting down his number plate. I was then told that a man had done this several times before. But this time, I had notified a manager who was therefore aware of the seriousness of a serial offender. After this I was taken off the window for some time in case this person came back.
“I used to walk home after my shifts and following this I made sure to check that I was finishing work at the same time as colleagues who would be walking back at the same time to make sure that nothing happened to me while I walked back home. I worked in the evenings so this walk was late at night.
I could not believe that I had met someone who would go on to be a killer
Wayne Couzens flashing victim
“I became aware following this of the seriousness of what could have happened to me before while I had been walking late at night, I was perhaps oblivious to this before.
“A few days later, I woke up to a message from one of the managers I worked with. It was a link to a Wayne Couzens article, asking if that was the man I’d seen. Before I even had a chance to read the article, I recognised his face. I was unaware of what he’d done at this point. I was just in shock. It took me some time to process everything that had happened.
“I could not believe that I had met someone who would go on to be a killer.
“The next thing I saw was a photo of Sarah Everard. Whether I looked for similarities between myself and Sarah, or whether they were really there, I was scared. I felt like that could have been me. I still think about this now.
“I think I was in shock to the whole situation. Reality set in when I next arrived at work and was told that reporters might find me. I was scared that my identity would be made public and somehow get caught up in a whirlwind of activity that I don’t think I was prepared for.
“Everyone at work did me the decency of removing their name badges for my peace of mind. Work friends and my family made sure I was not walking alone after and before shifts; the fact that people around me thought I needed some protection made me feel unsafe.
“For a while afterwards I was still not sure if I’d be followed home from work, approached or contacted by all sorts of people.
“I have started since this happened to take measures to keep myself safe such as taking public transport home. It should not be for me to have to take measures to keep myself safe. I should not have to be in fear of somebody attacking me and I should feel able to walk home while feeling safe.
“If I was confronted by this situation again I would not be as considerate towards that person that I would have been. I would be less inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt and think that possible there may have a medical condition or that person was suffering. Now I would believe there would be a more serious motive for it. I am less naïve than I was as a direct consequence of this experience.
“After all this time, I have seen more and more officers found involved in illegal activities. The people we are supposed to trust. I had not previously had many dealings with police. After finding out what Wayne Couzens did for a living it has caused me to be more wary of taking things like that trust at face value. It made me realise that police officers are ordinary people, some of whom could be a threat instead of trying to protect me.
“This indecent exposure incident was reported on the Sunday. I had no one contact me or ask for a statement. It was only after Sarah’s murder that I became involved. If he had been held accountable when we had reported the crime, we could have saved Sarah.”