Watch: Wayne Couzens handed whole life sentence for kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard
The police officer who kidnapped, raped and murdered Sarah Everard as she made her way home from a friend’s house will die in jail.
Wayne Couzens, 48, was given a whole life order after he strangled Ms Everard, 33, with his police belt after kidnapping her using COVID lockdown regulations to make a “false arrest”.
Speaking at his sentencing at the Old Bailey on Thursday morning, Lord Justice Fulford described the murder of Ms Everard as "devastating, tragic and wholly brutal".
The evidence gathered against Couzens was “unanswerable” and there was “no credible innocent explanation” for it, he said.
Fulford described the circumstances of the murder as “grotesque”, saying 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.”
Couzens shook in the dock as he was sent down to begin his sentence.
Couzens 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 3 March.
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.
Couzens went “hunting a lone female to kidnap and rape” having planned in “unspeakably” grim detail, the judge said.
The defendant’s preparations included taking some of his police kit with him and lying to his family about working on the night of the murder, the Old Bailey heard.
The judge paid tribute to the dignity of Ms Everard’s family, whose statements in court revealed the human impact of the “warped, selfish and brutal offending which was both sexual and homicidal.”
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Ms Everard, a marketing executive who lived in Brixton, south London, had been strangled with Couzens’ police belt by 2.30am the following morning.
Married Couzens 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 10 March.
Couzens was sacked from the force after he pleaded guilty in July to her kidnap, rape and murder.
On Wednesday, Ms Everard’s parents and sister condemned her killer as a “monster” as he sat quaking in the dock of the Old Bailey with his head bowed for the start of his sentencing.
Her father Jeremy Everard demanded the killer look at him as he said: “I can never forgive you for what you have done, for taking Sarah away from us.”
Her mother, Susan Everard, said she was “incandescent with rage” at what he had done, saying he disposed of her daughter “as if she was rubbish”.
She added: “I am outraged that he masqueraded as a policeman in order to get what he wanted.”
Sister Katie Everard wept as she said: “My only hope is that she was in a state of shock and that she wasn’t aware of the disgusting things being done to her by a monster. When you forced yourself upon her and raped her.”
Couzens' barrister said the murderer could not look at Ms Everard’s family and is “ashamed” of his crime.
Jim Sturman QC told the court on Thursday morning: “No right-minded person… can feel anything other than revulsion for what he did.
“He does not seek to make excuses for anything that he did and he is filled with self-loathing and abject shame. And he should be.”
The court heard how Couzens had booked a hire car before going out “hunting” for a lone young female to kidnap and rape.
Chilling CCTV footage played in court showed Couzens raising his left arm, holding a warrant card, before handcuffing Ms Everard and putting her into the back of the car.
A passing couple witnessed the kidnapping but mistook it for an arrest by an undercover officer, the court heard.
Just days after burning Ms Everard’s body and dumping her in a pond in private woodland, amid extensive publicity about Ms Everard’s disappearance, Couzens took his family on a day out to the same woods, allowing his two children to play close by.
Couzens worked for the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command after joining the Met in 2018, having transferred from the Civil Nuclear Constabulary.
He was sacked by the force after entering guilty pleas.
Nick Price, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said the murder of Ms Everard was “a truly evil thing to do”.
In a statement, he said: “Today our thoughts are with the family of Sarah Everard. We can only begin to imagine their suffering which will, of course, not end with this sentence.
“All of us in the CPS have been deeply affected by what happened to Sarah. Wayne Couzens treated her with vile depravity. It was a truly evil thing to do.
“The court has now heard the evidence that showed his deliberate planning, and continued efforts to cover up his crimes.
“We all feel betrayed that Couzens abused his position as a police officer to commit such abhorrent crimes.
“All of us should be free to walk our streets safely.”
Scotland Yard said in a statement ahead of the sentencing hearing: “We are sickened, angered and devastated by this man’s crimes which betray everything we stand for.”
The Police Federation said “predator” Couzens was “an absolute disgrace to the police service”.
John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “This predator is an absolute disgrace to the police service, and I am totally ashamed that he was ever a police officer.
“I am proud to carry a warrant card, but this vile individual’s abuse of that authority has cast a shadow on all those who work within policing. He has brought disgrace to our uniform."
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