Sarah Everard: British policeman told he will die in jail after being found guilty of rape and murder of lady he tricked into his car
A British police officer has been handed a whole life sentence without parole for kidnapping, raping and murdering a 33-year-old marketing executive, Sarah Everard.
48-year-old Wayne Couzens was said to have prowled the dark streets on the evening of 3 March 2021, looking for a prey when he spotted the 33-year-old walking back from a friend’s house in Clapham.
Couzens who at the time was a serving Metropolitan Police office, reportedly produced his warrant card as he tricked her into a fake arrest under the pretence of breaching COVID-19 regulations.
It was captured on CCTV and dashcam footage and witnessed by a couple in a car who assumed Sarah “had done something wrong.”
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. He then strangled her with a police belt he was wearing, burnt her body in a refrigerator in an area of woodland he owned in Hoads Wood, near Ashford, before dumping her remains in a nearby pond.
Everard’s remains were found in woodland in Ashford, Kent, about 60 miles (nearly 100km) southeast of London, a week after she went missing.
Prosecutor Tom Little said Sarah’s injuries were consistent with the suggestion that Couzens had strangled her with his police belt. He added that at some point after her arrest, having not been taken to a police station, “Sarah Everard must have realised her fate.”
The court heard that Sarah must have died before 2.30am on March 4, as that was the time Couzens was seen on CCTV at a Dover petrol station buying Lucozade, two bottles of still water and an apple juice.
After the murder Couzens’ phone was recorded near Ashford at 3am, when he is believed to have hidden her body inside a fly-tipped fridge in woods. Evidence of some of Sarah’s clothing and remains were found in the fridge. He also disposed of her mobile phone – although remnants of her SIM card were later found in his car.
The next morning, Couzens was also seen at a Costa coffee and at a BP petrol station in Dover buying fuel and a jerry can which he would later use to burn Sarah’s body. He returned home at the time he would usually finish a night shift and posed as a normal family man by arranging dental appointments for his two children and a vet appointment for his dog, claiming it had separation anxiety.
On March 5, witnesses said they saw a “large orange and yellow flame” in Hoad’s Wood in Kent, which was consistent, prosecutors say, with where Couzens had burned Sarah’s body.
Mr Little told the court Couzens left the fire “while he did other things.” Later that day, he was caught on CCTV at a B&Q buying two builders bags which he would then use to move Sarah’s remains to a woodland stream.
The next day, on March 6, Couzens sent an email to his sergeant and told him he felt unable to carry a firearm at that time. He said stress over his “payroll situation” had led him to that decision. He told his sergeant he had booked an appointment with his GP.
On March 7, in a chilling twist, Couzens took his family to the woods where he had disposed of Sarah’s body. Mr Little told the court;
“He allowed his children to play in relative close proximity to where Sarah’s body had been dumped in the pond.”
Two days later on March 9, 45 minutes after he had wiped his mobile phone, Couzens was arrested. 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.
Couzens who circled London looking for a “lone woman” he could abduct, was said to have planned the crime for weeks before Sarah vanished, and three days before her murder he hired a car from a rental company in Dover.
When arrested, he gave a twisted web of lies involving a gang from the “Bulgaria, Romania Albania” region. The ludicrous story centred on his insistence he had “no choice” but to kidnap Sarah, who was a stranger to him, for the human trafficking gang.
He claimed he was in “financial s**t” and was unable to pay for a prostitute he met in a Holiday Inn in Folkestone so was ordered to find “another girl” otherwise his family would be harmed.
Couzens who joined the Met Police in 2018, was charged with kidnap and murder more than a week after Sarah first vanished. While in custody, former mechanic Couzens was twice taken to hospital with head injuries.
After his arrest, the dedicated family man persona the monster tried creating began to crumble. The married dad-of-two was revealed as a sex pest who contacted escorts and used a Match.com dating profile.
But even more sinister, it emerged Couzens had slipped through the net despite indulging in dark fantasies. His creeped-out colleagues branded him “The Rapist” and knew he had a sadistic interest in violent porn. The first incident against him was reported in 2002 before he joined the police.
It was also uncovered that he was not given enhanced vetting when he joined the Met’s Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Unit in February 2020, and also did not serve his full two years on probation in September 2018.
Twelve police officers are being investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct for gross misconduct over matters relating to the case. The watchdog is probing whether the Met failed to investigate two allegations of indecent exposure relating to Couzens just four days before he took Sarah.
A separate investigation is also ongoing into claims Kent Police failed to follow up on the allegation of indecent exposure in 2015.
Sarah’s death sparked vigils across the country and demands for action to tackle violence against women. It also triggered a national conversation about women’s safety, as women recounted their own experiences and fears of being out alone at night.
Wayne Couzens pleaded guilty to the crime on July 9. At his sentencing on Thursday September 29, Lord Justice Fulford imposed a rare order which just 61 criminals in the UK have, on grounds of him abusing his position as a police officer. This means Couzens will never be released from prison.
Sentencing, the judge 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.
“Sarah Everard was a wholly blameless victim of a grotesquely executed series of circumstances that culminated in her death and the disposal of her body. She was simply walking home.
“Sarah Everard’s state of mind, and what she had to endure would have been as bleak and agonising as it is possible to imagine.”
Lord Justice Fulford said Wayne Couzens carried out “warped, selfish and brutal offending that was both sexual and homicidal”.
A whole-life order means the criminal is in prison for the rest of their life without ever becoming eligible for parole. It differs from a life sentence, under which the prisoner is given a number of years they must spend in jail after which they will be eligible to apply for parole.
It is handed over to offenders judged to be the most dangerous to society.