Police officer who raped and murdered Sarah Everard will die in jail

Judge describes crimes of Wayne Couzens as ‘devastating, tragic and wholly brutal’

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

 

A police officer who used his position to rape and murder Sarah Everard as she walked home in south London last March will die in jail after a judge described his crime as “devastating, tragic and wholly brutal”.

Handing down a whole-life order, judge Adrian Fulford said Wayne Couzens, a Metropolitan Police officer, probably told Ms Everard that she was breaching coronavirus restrictions to coerce her into a car he had hired to carry out the rape.

“You have eroded the confidence that the public are entitled to have in the police forces of England and Wales. It is critical that every subject in this country can trust police officers when they encounter them and submit to their authority, which they are entitled to believe is being exercised in good faith,” he said.

Lord Justice Fulford said that Couzens handcuffed Ms Everard on the roadside, drove her 80 miles to Kent before raping her and strangling her with his police belt. He later burned her body along with her possessions and disposed of them in a wood. Three days later he took his wife and children to the wood near where he has deposited the body.

“Your wife and children, who, on all the evidence, are entirely blameless will have to live with the ignominy of your dreadful crimes for the rest of their lives. You have very considerably added to the sense of insecurity that many have living in our cities – perhaps particularly women – when travelling by themselves and especially at night,” the judge said.

Vilified

Couzens had been accused of indecent exposure in 2015 and again in the days before Ms Everard’s murder, and the Sun newspaper reported that he was nicknamed “the rapist” by colleagues.

Parm Sandhu, a former chief superintendant in the Metropolitan Police, said women police officers were afraid to report the misconduct of male colleagues and she was vilified when she did so.

“The police service is very sexist and misogynistic. A lot of women will not report their colleagues. What happens is that male police officers will then close ranks, and the fear that most women police officers have got is that when you are calling for help, you press that emergency button or your radio, they’re not going to turn up and you’re going to get kicked in in the street,” she told the BBC.

Metropolitan Police chief constable Cressida Dick described Couzens as a coward, and said he had damaged a precious bond of trust and brought shame on the police force.

“There are no words that can express the fury and overwhelming sadness that we all feel about what happened to Sarah. I am so sorry,” she told reporters outside the court.

“I absolutely know that there are those that feel their trust in us is shaken. I recognise that for some people a precious bond of trust has been damaged.”

Scandals

London mayor Sadiq Khan and home secretary Priti Patel agreed this year to renew Dame Cressida’s term as chief constable despite a succession of scandals in the force under her watch. Labour MP Harriet Harman wrote to Dame Cressida and Ms Patel on Thursday saying the chief constable should now resign.

“Women need to be confident that the police are there to make them safe, not to put them at risk. Women need to be able to trust the police, not to fear them,” she said.

“I have written to the home secretary to set out a number of actions which must be taken to rebuild the shattered confidence of women in the police service. I think it is not possible for you to lead these necessary actions in the Metropolitan Police.”