- Tuesday, 19 October 2021 19:06
Former police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, who is on trial for kidnapping, raping and murdering Sarah Everard. Photograph: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire
Wayne Couzens used his warrant card and handcuffs to apprehend Sarah Everard under the pretence she had breached Covid rules before killing her with his police belt, a London court has heard.
The then Metropolitan police officer burned Ms Everard’s body to try to hide his crimes, including kidnap, rape and murder, and as she lay dead in the Kent countryside he went to a shop to buy drink and a Bakewell tart.
Opening a two-day sentencing hearing, prosecutor Tom Little QC said Ms Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, was seized by Couzens from a south London street on March 3rd. He then drove her to Kent, where he killed her.
Couzens’s deceit involved abusing his position as a police officer, the court heard.
Couzens (48), who was a serving police officer at the time of the kidnapping, got ms Everard into a car he had hired “by handcuffing her, as well as showing her his warrant card”, Mr Little said.
Mr Little added: “He was to burn Sarah Everard’s body after he murdered her. He then moved her body in green bags that he had purchased specifically for that task.”
The prosecutor added after his arrest Couzens had given a psychiatrist shocking details of the attack.
“The defendant informed the psychiatrist that he strangled Sarah Everard using his belt. Given all the circumstances this would be consistent with his police belt,” Mr Little told the court.
Couzens, who was off duty, encountered Ms Everard, showed his warrant card and handcuffed her with police issue equipment meant to detain suspects, the court heard.
She had been walking home after going to a friend’s for dinner at the height of the Covid lockdown. Meanwhile, Couzens had switched from his own vehicle to a hire car as he scoured London’s streets “hunting for a lone young female to kidnap and rape, which is what he did”, Mr Little told the court.
A woman who witnessed the start of Couzens’s kidnapping of Ms Everard saw him handcuff her on the pavement. Mr Little said the witness thought she was witnessing an undercover police officer arresting a woman, whom she assumed “must have done something wrong”.
The witness then saw Couzens walking Mr Everard, her hands handcuffed behind her back, towards his car.
Mr Little said Ms Everard may have been more vulnerable to an accusation of breaching Covid rules because she had been to a friend’s place for dinner during the lockdown.
“She was detained by fraud. The defendant using his warrant card and handcuffs as well as his other police issue equipment to effect a false arrest,” the prosecutor said.
“Having handcuffed her to the rear she would not have been able to undo the seatbelt that the defendant must have placed over her. That was the start of her lengthy ordeal including an 80-mile journey whilst detained which was to lead first to her rape and then her murder.
“At some point fairly soon after driving from the pavement on to the South Circular and having not gone to a police station, Sarah Everard must have realised her fate.”
Mr Little told the court Ms Everard was the victim of “deception, kidnap, rape, strangulation, fire”.
Couzens appeared in person at the Old Bailey in central London wearing a dark blue suit and mask, and spoke only to confirm his identity. He sat, head bowed and eyes closed, as the prosecutor outlined the details of his crimes, which Mr Little stressed had involved manipulation and deception. Ms Everard’s parents were in attendance.
The court heard Couzens had tried to dispose of Ms Everard’s mobile phone and that semen was found on her body. A fragment of Ms Everard’s sim card was found in a car Couzens used.
Mr Little said Couzens was likely to have been wearing his police belt with handcuffs and a rectangular black pouch, similar to a pepper spray holder, when he kidnapped Ms Everard.
“He detained, restrained and kidnapped Sarah Everard,” Mr Little told Lord Justice Fulford, who will decide on the sentence on Thursday.
The court was told Couzens had undertaken police Covid patrols and so knew what language to use to those who may have breached the rules.
Couzens pleaded guilty to the kidnap, rape and murder of Ms Everard at earlier court hearings.
Ms Everard disappeared on March 3rd. She was reported missing by her partner the next day when she failed to meet him as arranged. Her body was recovered seven days later from woodland near Ashford in Kent, about 30km west of Couzens’ home in Deal.
It was hidden and wrapped in a builder’s bag Couzens had bought days earlier. Ms Everard was identified from her dental records. A postmortem showed she had died from compression of the neck.
Couzens was an armed officer in the Met’s elite parliamentary and diplomatic protection group. he faces a mandatory life sentence.
This week’s hearing will set a minimum term or tariff which he must serve in jail before he can be considered for release.
On the day of the attack, Couzens finished work at 7am, then collected a rental car he had hired three days earlier. He drove around in the hire car before he spotted Ms Everard walking home.
He was arrested at his home in Deal on March 9th, first on suspicion of kidnap. The next day, while in police custody, he was arrested on suspicion of Everard’s murder.
Couzens was vetted when he first became a police officer with the civil nuclear constabulary (CNC) in 2011. That force has said nothing was reported to it suggesting any problem with his behaviour or conduct.
In 2018, Couzens joined the Met, Britain’s biggest force. Before joining the CNC Couzens volunteered with Kent police from 2005-09, becoming a special sergeant. He was also in the territorial army and worked at the family garage in Kent.
The case has triggered questions about whether opportunities to spot the danger Couzens posed were missed. This is being investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
The IOPC said it was also investigating allegations the Met may not have properly investigated claims against Couzens days before he attacked Ms Everard.
The IOPC said it was carrying out an investigation into alleged Met failures to properly investigate two allegations of indecent exposure linked to Couzens in London in February 2021.
The IOPC is also investigating alleged Kent police failures “to investigate an indecent exposure incident linked to PC Couzens in Kent in 2015” six years before he attacked Ms Everard.
The kidnapping and murder of Ms Everard triggered a national debate about the safety of women in the UK and whether the criminal justice system does enough to protect them and punish those who attack them.
The sentencing hearing continues, and is expected to conclude on Thursday. – Guardian