Couzens given whole-life sentence for kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard

Police officer abused police powers to abduct woman on London street in March

Commissioner Cressida Dick has apologised on behalf of London's Met Police after former officer Wayne Couzens (48) was jailed for life for the abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard (33) in March, 2021. Video: Reuters

 

Wayne Couzens has received a whole-life sentence for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard.

The former Metropolitan police officer abused his police powers and knowledge to lure the 33-year-old off a south London street on March 3rd, 2021. He later burned her body to try to conceal his crimes, which the Everard family say robbed them of a chance to see their murdered loved one one last time and say a proper goodbye.

Lord Justice Fulford handed down the whole-life tariff at the Old Bailey after a two-day sentencing hearing, which heard horrific details of Everard’s ordeal in her final hours.

Murder carries a mandatory life sentence, the only issue for the judge was whether he set a minimum term that Couzens would serve of 30 years, or a term meaning he could never be released. Couzens, 48, joins a notorious list of about 60 prisoners in England and Wales who are serving whole-life sentences.

He pleaded guilty to his crimes at earlier hearings after being faced with overwhelming evidence of his guilt. Couzens went to London in a hired car “hunting” for a woman to kidnap and rape and spotted Everard walking home.

Former police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, who was on trial for kidnapping, raping and murdering Sarah Everard. Photograph: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire
Former police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, who was on trial for kidnapping, raping and murdering Sarah Everard. Photograph: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire

He staged a false arrest, most likely exploiting Covid lockdown restrictions in force at the time. He used his police warrant card and handcuffs to get Everard into his car, and drove her to Kent before strangling her with his police belt and burning her body.

Couzens’ barrister said his client deserved a long sentence, but not a whole-life tariff, in part because he had pleaded guilty. Jim Sturman QC said: “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.” Couzens was sacked from the Met after his plea to murder.

‘Haunted’

Earlier, the family of Ms Everard said they were haunted by thoughts of her suffering in the final hours of her life when she was raped and murdered by a police officer, in emotional victim impact statements read in court.

Ms Everard’s parents and sister described the multiple agonies they endured, first not knowing where she was when she disappeared, and then waiting to find out how she had died and being unable to say goodbye because her body had been burned.

Ms Everard’s mother, Susan, said: “Sarah is gone and I am broken hearted. She was my precious little girl, our youngest child. The feeling of loss is so great it is visceral.

“In her last hours she was faced with brutality and terror, alone with someone intent on doing her harm. The thought of it is unbearable. I am haunted by the horror of it.

Family members of Sarah Everard . Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Family members of Sarah Everard . Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

“I am repulsed by the thought of Wayne Couzens and what he did to Sarah. I am outraged that he masqueraded as a policeman in order to get what he wanted. Sarah wanted to get married and have children; now all that has gone. He took her life and stole her future and we will never have the joy of sharing that future with her.”

‘Waves of panic’

She said alongside the sorrow came “waves of panic” at not being able to see her youngest child again. She said the family had kept their daughter’s dressing gown because “it still smells of her and I hug that instead of her”.

She said Couzens’ cruelty was incomprehensible. Faltering briefly, she added: “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!”

Jeremy Everard and the couple’s other daughter, Katie, each asked that Couzens face them before they began addressing him directly. In both instances, Couzens, who sat throughout the hearing with head bowed and eyes closed, lifted his head slightly but did not look at them.

Jeremy Everard said: “The horrendous murder of my daughter, Sarah, is in my mind all the time and will be for the rest of my life. Sarah was handcuffed and unable to defend herself. This preys on my mind all the time. I can never forgive you for what you have done, for taking Sarah away from us. You burned our daughter’s body, you further tortured us, so that we could not see her again. We did not know whether you had burned her alive or dead. You stopped us seeing Sarah for one last time and stopped me from giving my daughter one last kiss goodbye.”

Katie Everard said she had been shocked by Couzens’ “casual demeanour” on CCTV as he bought a drink at a petrol station at a time when her sister was probably already dead.

Weeping, she told him: “It disgusts me that you were the last person to touch her perfect body and violate her in the way you did. The last person to see her alive and speak to her. How scared she must have been. The last moments of her life not with loved ones, but frightened and fighting for her life.”

She said no punishment received by Couzens could ever compare to the pain suffered by her family, describing her sister as “the very best person with so many people who love and cherish her”.

Susan Everard said Sarah was caring, funny and strongly principled. “What I do know is that Sarah will never be forgotten and is remembered with boundless love,” she said. – Guardian