Sarah Everard’s kidnapper, rapist and killer will die in prison after being handed a whole-life sentence at the Old Bailey today.
The court heard how 48-year-old former Met officer Wayne Couzens, who pleaded guilty in July, used his warrant card and handcuffs to fraudulently arrest the 33-year-old as she walked home from a friends house in Clapham, through the South Circular, on the evening of March 3, 2021. He then drove the marketing executive to Kent, where he raped and killed her, before burning her body in woodland.
Lord Justice Fulford said Couzens had spent weeks planning his attack, and on the night had been driving around London, scouring for a victim to abduct.
In a statement, Sarah’s family said the judge’s decision brought some ‘relief’, and said the world was a ‘safer place’ with the police officer behind bars.
“We are very pleased that Wayne Couzens has received a full life sentence and will spend the rest of his life in jail,” they said.
“Nothing can make things better, nothing can bring Sarah back, but knowing he will be imprisoned forever brings some relief.
“Sarah lost her life needlessly and cruelly and all the years of life she had yet to enjoy were stolen from her.
“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.
“We are immensely grateful to the police and legal team who worked on Sarah’s case.
“We cannot thank them enough for their meticulous and painstaking work and for their constant support.
“We also send our heartfelt thanks to our family and friends for comforting us through this terrible time.”
Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick described the harrowing case as “one of the most dreadful events in the 190-year-history of the Metropolitan Police Service”, and said she was “so sorry”.
Standing outside the court, she gave the following statement: “This hearing has revealed the full brutality of this man’s crimes against Sarah.
“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.
“What he did was unthinkable and appalling. 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 trustworthy, courageous and compassionate. His every action is the exact opposite of that.
“As the judge said, he has eroded the confidence that the public are entitled to have in the police. It is critical that every subject in this country can trust police officers when they encounter them.
“The judge went on to say he has very considerably added to the sense of insecurity that many have living in our cities, perhaps particularly women.
“I have followed this investigation very closely, I have been in court yesterday and today. I am absolutely sickened.
“Overwhelmingly, my thoughts are with Sarah, with her family and friends, her loved ones.
“He will now spend the rest of his life in prison. I hope that will give them some small comfort.
“This man has brought shame on the Met. Speaking frankly, as an organisation we have been rocked.
“I do want to thank everyone involved in bringing him to justice, and doing so swiftly. Sarah’s courageous and dignified family and friends, the prosecution team, and all those who supported the investigation and prosecution.
“The judge recognised and commended the work of our investigators. I echo those thoughts. I saw for myself first-hand their extraordinary determination and professionalism,.
“This is the Metropolitan Police Service I know. It is capable and caring. It is full of people who are good, who work all their lives to protect others.
“I absolutely know that there are those who feel their trust in us is shaken. I recognise that in some people a precious bond of trust has been damaged.
“Our dedication to you, our public, remains undiminished.
“As Commissioner, I will do everything in my power to ensure we learn any lessons.
“I know that what happened to Sarah, and indeed 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 fully express the fury and overwhelming sadness we all feel about what happened to Sarah. I am so sorry.”
Today Camberwell and Peckham MP Harriet Harman joined calls for Dick to resign.
Couzens, who was a serving police officer when he attacked Sarah, had been allowed to continue working despite having been reported for exposing himself on three separate occasions – including just days prior to her abduction. It has also emerged Couzens was nicknamed ‘The Rapist’ by his colleagues.
Harman has called for more background checks on offers entering the force, and for any facing allegations of violence against women to be suspended, and anyone convicted of similar crimes or admits their guilt to be immediately dismissed.
Sarah Everard was simply walking home. Women must be able to trust the police not fear them. Women's confidence in police will have been shattered. Urgent action needed. Met Commissioner must resign. My letters to Home Sec & Met? pic.twitter.com/eo4CDjI3H3
— Harriet Harman (@HarrietHarman) September 30, 2021
Dulwich and West Norwood MP Helen Hayes said women’s confidence in the police was ‘in tatters’ and called for an independent investigation, adding: “My thoughts today are with the family and friends of Sarah Everard as her killer is sentenced and the family of Sabina Nessa as the man accused of her murder appears in court.
“These talented much-loved young women should both be with us today & no sentence can change that.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said ‘serious questions’ needed to be answered by the Met.
“The details that have come out over the last few days have been utterly harrowing, leaving a nation in shock,” he said.
“Sarah Everard simply set out to walk home. Tragically she never made it back. A life with so much more to give callously cut short under the worst possible circumstances.
“All my thoughts today are with Sarah’s parents, her siblings, her loved ones and everyone who knew her. They have had to endure the most appalling experience imaginable.
“The sentence that has been handed down today is the right one – Wayne Couzens should spend the rest of his life in prison. But no sentence could ever make up for the terrible loss felt by Sarah’s loved ones.
“The fact this heinous crime was committed by a serving police officer makes it even more disturbing. There are some serious questions that need to be answered about how we ensure something like this never happens again, and I’m determined that the lessons are not only learned by the police, but acted upon.
“As mayor, I will continue to do everything within my power to ensure that women and girls feel safe and are safe in London.”