Sarah Everard: police officer Wayne Couzens pleads guilty to murder
ITV News correspondent Rebecca Barry reports family angst behind Sarah Everard case after Wayne Couzens pleads guilty to her murder
Metropolitan Police Officer Wayne Couzens pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to the murder of Sarah Everard.Couzens, 48, kidnapped Ms Everard in a rental car as she drove home alone to a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, on the evening of March 3.
The sexual predator, who had completed a 12-hour shift that morning, then raped and strangled the 33-year-old marketing manager.
Police have launched an urgent investigation after Ms Everard was reported missing by her boyfriend Josh Lowth.
Couzens appeared at the Old Bailey via video link from Belmarsh High Security Prison. He was seen wearing a light blue sweatshirt, sitting with his head down and his hands clasped.
Ms Everard’s family were in court and watched Couzens respond “guilty ma’am” when asked to enter her plea.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick apologized to Ms Everard’s family, adding in a statement outside the Old Bailey: “Everyone in the police feels betrayed.”
Outside of court, she said she spoke to her family and told them “how sorry I am for their loss, for their pain and suffering.”
She said the force was “disgusted, angry and devastated by this man’s crimes – they are appalling”.
“Everyone in the police feels betrayed”: Cressida Dick condemns Couzens in court
Last month the police officer accepted responsibility for the murder of Ms Everard and pleaded guilty to her kidnapping and rape.
But Couzens has not at this stage pleaded to a murder charge pending medical reports.
Speaking about the investigation into the murder of Sarah Everard, Lord Justice Fulford said: “It has been a gigantic investigation which has produced very important results in terms of being able to understand what happened.”
He set a two-day sentence starting September 29.
Defending Jim Sturman QC said: “His pleas today represent a plea of guilty and remorse for what he did and, as he told us this morning, he will bear the burden for the rest of his life – his words: ‘as I deserve it’.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick was also in Old Bailey for the hearing.
Prosecutor Tom Little QC told the court: “Before the accused kidnapped Sarah Everard from the South Circular on March 3 of this year, he had never met her before, he did not know her and had not. no direct or indirect contact with her.
“They were complete strangers to each other.”
How Couzens murdered Sarah Everard and tried to cover his tracks
Couzens kidnapped Ms Everard in a rental car as she drove home alone to a friend’s house in Clapham, south London on the evening of March 3.
The PC, who had completed a 12-hour shift that morning, raped and strangled Ms Everard.
Police have launched an urgent investigation after Ms Everard was reported missing by her boyfriend Josh Lowth on March 4.
Couzens, a gun-trained parliamentary and diplomatic protection officer, wiped his phone minutes before being arrested at his home in Deal, Kent on March 9.
The next day – a week after her disappearance – Ms Everard’s body was found in a wooded stream in Ashford, Kent, a few yards from land owned by Couzens.
The murder sparked protests over the rate of violence against women.
Police have been criticized for mistreating women during vigil for Mrs. Everard in the presence of the Duchess of Cambridge.
It can now be reported that Couzens, who joined the Met in 2018, had booked a rental of a Vauxhall Astra and purchased a roll of sticker film a few days before the murder.
At around 9 p.m. on March 3, Ms Everard set off on foot for the two-and-a-half-mile trip home, chatting with her boyfriend by cell phone on the way.
A camera attached to a marked passing police car captured her walking alone at 9:32 p.m.
Just three minutes later, a bus camera appeared to capture the moment she was intercepted by Couzens in Balham, south London.
Two figures could be seen standing near the rental car, which was parked on the sidewalk with its hazard lights flashing.
After snatching Ms Everard, Couzens left London to arrive in the Tilmanstone area, near Deal, at 1 a.m.
Investigators tracked the car’s route using CCTV cameras and ANPR and identified the driver as an agent on duty through the car rental company.
Couzens had used his personal details and bank card to make the reservation, picking up the Vauxhall Astra on the afternoon of the pickup and returning it the next morning.
In the days that followed, Couzens reported he was suffering from stress and no longer wanted to carry a gun, according to a case summary.
On March 8, the day he was scheduled to take up duty, he declared himself ill.
The next day, police arrested Couzens at 7:50 p.m. – 39 minutes after erasing data from his cell phone.
An elaborate lie
In an interview with the police, Couzens concocted an elaborate story and claimed to have financial problems.
He said he got into trouble with a gang of East Europeans who threatened him and his family.
A gang demanded that he deliver “another girl” after underpaying a prostitute weeks earlier, he said.
He kidnapped Ms Everard, drove her out of London and handed her over to three Eastern European men in a van at a rest area in Kent, still alive and unharmed, Couzens said.
Meanwhile, police discovered that Couzens and his wife bought a small plot of timber in 2019 in Ashford.
Telephone data led officers to the site and at 4:45 p.m. a body was found approximately 100 meters outside the property lines.
The remains thrown into a stream inside a large bag of Green Builders have been identified as Ms. Everard’s by dental records.
Couzens seen on CCTV before the murder
Further investigations revealed that the same day Couzens booked the rental car, he purchased a roll of self-adhesive film from Amazon.
Two days after Ms Everard was last seen, Couzens was caught on CCTV buying two bags of green rubble from B&Q in Dover.
He then ordered a tarp and an elastic cargo net for delivery on March 7.
Even though Couzens’ phone had been erased, data from the cell site linked it to the kidnapping and the area where Ms Everard was ultimately found.
Not only was his device located there in the early hours of March 4, but also in the days leading up to his arrest.
The accused made no comment in a formal interview and was charged on March 12.
At a previous hearing, prosecutor Tom Little QC had underlined the “significant” risks of Couzens recidivism if he was released on bail.
He cited an alleged incident of indecent exposure on February 28 – days before the murder.
In a series of referrals in the case, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said it was investigating whether Met police officers responded appropriately to a indecent exposure report at a South London fast food restaurant.
Carolyn Oakley, prosecuting attorney in the Special Crimes Division, said Friday: “Today Wayne Couzens pleaded guilty to the murder of Sarah Everard. This plea is the result of hard work on the part of the prosecution team. The police are to be commended for their thorough and tireless investigation into Sarah’s disappearance.
“Wayne Couzens lied to the police upon his arrest and to this day he has declined to comment. It is still unclear what prompted him to commit this appalling crime against a stranger.
“Today is not the day to hear the facts about what happened to Sarah. Today is a day to remember Sarah and our thoughts remain with her family and friends. “