Wayne Couzens jailed for life for rape and murder of Sarah Everard

Former police officer dumped victim's body in refrigerator and set it on fire in bid to hide evidence

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Former London police officer Wayne Couzens has been sentenced to life in prison for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard.

Sentencing Couzens at the Old Bailey in London, Lord Justice Fulford handed down the maximum penalty, meaning the killer will die in jail.

He said Couzens, 48, went out “hunting a lone female to kidnap and rape” having planned an attack in “unspeakably” grim detail.

The judge said Couzens must have realised he “may well need to kill the woman he intended to abduct and rape” but that did not become a “definite outcome” before events began to unfold.

The defendant’s preparations included taking some of his police-issue equipment with him and lying to his family about working on the night of the murder, the court heard.

The judge called the circumstances of the case “devastating, tragic and wholly brutal” and paid tribute to the dignity of Everard’s family.

He said the statements they made in court conveyed the human impact of the “warped, selfish and brutal offending which was both sexual and homicidal" and said Everard was “a wholly blameless victim” of a “grotesque” series of offences.

As the life sentence was delivered, Everard's family members were seen crying and wiping their eyes as they hugged each other.

In a statement released after the sentencing, the Everard family said they were “very pleased” that Couzens will “spend the rest of his life in jail.”

They said the knowledge that he will remain behind bars until his death “brings some relief” but that “nothing can make things better, nothing can bring Sarah back”.

Sarah Everard, 33, was abducted by Wayne Couzens in south London as she walked to her Brixton home on March 3. He raped and murdered her before setting her body on fire. AFP

"Sarah lost her life needlessly and cruelly and all the years of life she had yet to enjoy were stolen from her,” they said.

“Wayne Couzens held a position of trust as a police officer and we are outraged and sickened that he abused this trust in order to lure Sarah to her death. The world is a safer place with him imprisoned.

"It is almost seven months since Sarah died and the pain of losing her is overwhelming. We miss her all the time.

“She was a beautiful young woman in looks and character and our lives are the poorer without her.

“We remember all the lovely things about Sarah – her compassion and kindness, her intelligence, her strong social conscience. But we especially like to remember her laughing and dancing and enjoying life. We hold her safe in our hearts.”

The family said they are “immensely grateful” to police officers and lawyers who worked on the case and thanked relatives and friends who had reached out to comfort them.

The court was told that Couzens’ colleagues in the Civil Nuclear Constabulary nicknamed him “The Rapist” and knew he was "attracted to violent sexual pornography".

Couzens’ lawyer argued that while he had a plan to abduct a rape a woman, he did not plan to commit murder.

Couzens used his police-issue warrant card and handcuffs to snatch the 33 year old marketing executive in a fake arrest as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, on the evening of March 3.

The firearms officer had finished a 12-hour shift at the American embassy that morning.

After abducting Everard, he drove 80 miles to a secluded rural area near Dover in Kent, where he parked his car and raped her. Afterwards, he used his police belt to strangle her.

By 2.30am the next morning she was dead, five hours after being abducted as she was walking to her home in Brixton.

Couzens placed the body of his victim in a fly-tipped refrigerator in a patch of woodland he owned near Ashford, Kent, and set it alight.

He later dumped the remains in a nearby pond. Police sniffer dogs found Everard’s body on March 10.

Couzens was arrested at his home in Deal, Kent, after police connected him to a hire car he used to abduct Everard.

Police released footage showing him sitting on his couch in handcuffs being questioned by officers about the disappearance of Everard.

He was shown a photo of her but denied ever having met her, and said he only knew about the missing person case from the news.

The judge said the evidence gathered against Couzens was “unanswerable” and there was “no credible explanation” for his actions.

From the moment Couzens first spoke to investigating officers he had attempted to “minimise his true responsibility” for his actions, the judge said.

The Metropolitan Police sacked Couzens in July after he pleaded guilty to her kidnap, rape and murder.

On Wednesday, Everard’s parents and sister came face-to-face with her killer for the first time at the start of the two-day sentencing at London court.

All three asked Couzens to look at them as they delivered their moving speeches to the courtroom.

His barrister, Jim Sturman QC, said Couzens felt too “ashamed” of his actions to look at the Everards.

“He was invited to look at the Everards. He could not, I am told. He is ashamed,” Mr Sturman said.

“What he has done is terrible. 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.”

Before Thursday's sentencing, Labour MP and chairman of the parliamentary human rights committee Harriet Harman called on Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick to resign over the case.

In her letter to the police chief, Ms Harman said that “women's confidence in the police will have been shattered” by the case and that it is “not possible for you [Dick] to lead” the changes necessary in the force going forward.

Dame Cressida faced a barrage of criticism in March over the force's handling of a vigil in memory of Everard.

Female demonstrators were thrown to the ground and arrested by male police officers at the gathering on Clapham Common.

Scotland Yard was later exonerated over its policing of the event, with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services concluding officers “did their best” to peacefully disperse the crowd.

Today, Dame Cressida said Couzens had brought “shame” on the Metropolitan Police and branded him a “coward”.

Following the sentencing she said: “I am absolutely horrified that this man used his position of trust to deceive and coerce Sarah and I know you all are too.

“His actions were a gross betrayal of everything policing stands for.”

Dame Cressida added: “He showed himself to be the coward he is through his lies and seeking to minimise his true responsibility for his crimes.

“Police officers are here to protect people. To be courageous and compassionate. His actions were the exact opposite of that.”

“As Commissioner I will do everything in my power to ensure we learn any lessons.

“I know that what happened to Sarah, and what has happened to other women in London and beyond in recent times, has raised important questions about women’s safety.

“Here in the Met I commit to keep working with others to improve women’s safety and reduce the fear of violence.

“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.”

Updated: November 22, 2021, 8:58 AM