Sarah Everard was the victim of a “false arrest” before she was raped and murdered by police officer Wayne Couzens, a court has heard.
Her family on Wednesday came face to face with her killer for the first time at the opening of the two-day sentencing at the Old Bailey court in London.
Prosecutor Tom Little QC said Couzens, 48, snatched the 33-year-old marketing executive in a “false arrest”, by “handcuffing her and showing his warrant card” as she walked home in Clapham, south London, on the evening of March 3.
He had finished his 12-hour shift with an elite diplomatic protection unit hours before pouncing on the woman.
He was said to be wearing his police belt with handcuffs and a rectangular black pouch, similar to a pepper spray holder, and using a hire car when he kidnapped Everard.
The court heard how members of the public had noticed the police officer wearing the belt while off-duty.
Everard had been walking to her home in Brixton from a friend’s house in nearby Clapham after 9pm when she disappeared.
Mr Little said Couzens worked on Covid patrols in late January this year, enforcing coronavirus regulations, so would have known what language to use on people in breach of restrictions.
The prosecutor said he must have taken her mobile phone from her and removed the sim card, which he tried to destroy.
Mr Little said: “Whilst it is impossible to summarise what the defendant did to Sarah Everard in just five words, if it had to be done then it would be more appropriate to do so as deception, kidnap, rape, strangulation, fire.”
After her body was discovered in a builder's bag in a woodland in Ashford, Kent, her death was summarised by the hashtag “she was just walking home”, he said.
But that did not completely describe what happened to Everard, the court heard.
Mr Little said the disappearance of Everard was one of the most widely publicised missing person investigations in the country.
A statement provided by a former long-term boyfriend of Everard described her as “extremely intelligent, savvy and streetwise” and “not a gullible person”, the court heard.
He said he could not envisage her getting into a car with someone she did not know “unless by force or manipulation”.
Lord Justice Fulford will consider whether to hand down a whole life term before he sentences Couzens on Thursday.
Everard’s parents were pictured arriving hand-in-hand a the court to attend the sentencing of their daughter’s murderer.
In June he admitted kidnapping and raping Everard before formally pleading guilty to murder in July.
Everard’s death shocked the nation and prompted an outpouring of anger from campaigners and members of the public, particularly women.
It also sparked a debate on the wider issue of violence against women.
Ahead of the start of the two-day sentencing, Scotland Yard released a statement which read: “We are sickened, angered and devastated by this man’s crimes which betray everything we stand for.
“Our thoughts are with Sarah’s family and her many friends. It is not possible for us to imagine what they are going through.
“We recognise his actions raise many questions and concerns but we will not be commenting further until the hearing is complete.”