Policeman Wayne Couzens will die in jail over kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard
An officer who strangled Sarah Everard with his police belt after kidnapping her under the guise of a fake arrest for breaking lockdown rules 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 described the circumstances of the murder as “grotesque”.
He said the seriousness of the case was so “exceptionally high” that it warranted a whole life order.
He said: “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 paid tribute to the dignity of Ms Everard’s family, whose statements in court revealed the human impact of Couzens’ “warped, selfish and brutal offending which was both sexual and homicidal”.
Couzens shook in the dock as he was sent down to begin his sentence.
The court had heard how Couzens (pictured) 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 March 3.
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 March 10.
Police waited for two hours before moving in to detain the officer, giving him the chance to wipe his mobile phone beforehand.
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.
On Wednesday, Ms Everard’s parents Jeremy and Susan and sister Katie asked Couzens to look at them, condemning him as a “monster” as he sat quaking in the dock with his head bowed.
Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick also attended court to hear how one of her own officers had abused his position to carry out his crimes.
Prosecutor Tom Little QC suggested the case was so exceptional and unprecedented that it could warrant a whole life order, meaning Couzens would die in jail.
Couzens’ defence barrister Jim Sturman QC urged the judge to hand him a lengthy life sentence, meaning he would be eligible for parole in his 80s.
Mr Sturman said: “The defendant was invited to look at the Everards. He could not, I am told.
“He is ashamed. What he has done is terrible. He deserves a very lengthy finite term, but he did all he could after he was arrested to minimise the wicked harm that he did.”
‘Women are being picked off like big game,’ says heartbroken campaigner
A campaigner has joined calls for the Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick to resign, saying women are terrified and being “picked off like big game”.
Jamie Klingler, who co-founded Reclaim These Streets, spoke outside the Old Bailey as Wayne Couzens was handed a whole life sentence for the murder of Sarah Everard on Thursday.
She told PA news agency: “It’s the only appropriate sentence for such an abhorrent crime which had abuse of power at its core.
“But it doesn’t bring her back.
“No life sentence would have been enough.
“Her family’s tragedy does not end today.
“We would have been outraged had it not been a life sentence.”
She said Couzens’ crime was “fundamentally preventable”, referring to allegations about prior incidents of indecent exposure being probed by the police watchdog.
“Being in a police department, being nicknamed the rapist and no-one stopping him?
“Indecent exposure and no-one is stopping him?
“And it’s unfathomable that Cressida Dick stays in her position,” she said
She criticised the Met Commissioner, accusing her of being “dismissive” of Couzens, who was sacked from the force after pleading guilty to kidnap, rape and murder in July.
Ms Klingler said: “It’s not a bad apple.
“This man did this and he was one of yours and now they are trying to spin and say he was a former police officer, he was a serving police officer who used a warrant card to arrest her.
“I think Cressida Dick needs to resign.”
Ms Klingler said that hearing details of how Couzens abused his power to adbuct Ms Everard, even handcuffing her under the guise of a lockdown arrest, had “broken all of us”.
“I don’t think any of us had allowed ourselves to imagine how bad it was.”
She said “predatory behaviour” was the common thread of cases.
“They are picking us off like we are big game.
“We are all brokenhearted and scared and no-one cares enough to make it a fundamental priority.
“Everyone I’ve spoken to in the last two days has been in bits, it’s you and me, you know?”
Asked what the police could do better, she said: “How can they do any worse?
“It’s a bleak day and we are just desperately sad for her family.”
Earlier, Anna Birley, 32, also co-founder of Reclaim These Streets, called for a “culture change” within the Metropolitan Police and said the Government urgently needs to bring in new laws to protect women too.
Ms Birley, who is also a Labour and Co-operative councillor for Lambeth Council and helped organise several well-attended vigils for women murdered in London including an event in Clapham for Ms Everard, said “a wholesale change within our criminal justice system” is needed.
When asked if she thought the Government were failing to protect women from violent crime, Ms Birley said: “Yes.
“There have been opportunities for the Government to bring in new laws to protect women, they were proposed as parts of the Police (Crime, Sentencing and Courts) Bill by Harriet Harman and Caroline Nokes and others from all different parties, and the Government declined to take the opportunity to protect us.
“Instead we’ve seen lots of consultations, lots of reports, lots of nice words and very little action.”
On whether anything has changed since the rape and murder of Ms Everard, she said: “What’s depressing is very little has changed.
“There’s some new funding for streetlighting, but it’s not very much and certainly not proportional to the scale of the problem and if the answer to violence against women and girls were a few more street lights and a bit better CCTV then it would have been solved decades ago.
“The Government needs to stop dilly-dallying and take tangible action to stop women from being killed.”
She added: “It’s wrong that so few women feel able to report sexual violence or rape.
“It’s wrong that when women of colour are the victim, they often feel like they’re not being believed or taken seriously; 1.4% of rapes result in a man being charged.
“That’s wrong and we need much better conviction rates and much more appropriate sentencing.
“And there are things that aren’t illegal but should be.
“You will get a fine for dropping litter, but you can kerb crawl a girl home from school without consequence.”
Data from the Home Office showed that in the 12 months to March, just 1.4% of 55,130 offences recorded by police led to prosecution.
Ms Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, was abducted near Clapham Common in south London in March this year.
Her rape and murder by off-duty Metropolitan Police officer Couzens prompted a widespread outpouring of grief and anger, as well as demonstrations over concern for women’s safety.
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