Police officer Wayne Couzens pleads guilty to murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard

Wayne Couzens kidnapped Sarah Everard in a hire car as she walked home alone from a friend’s house and went on to rape and strangle the 33-year-old marketing executive.

Couzens kidnapped Ms Everard in a hire car as she walked home alone from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, in March.

The 48-year-old firearms-trained parliamentary and diplomatic protection officer, who had clocked off from a 12-hour shift that morning, went on to rape and strangle the 33-year-old.

Sarah Everard

Last month, Couzens, from Deal in Kent, accepted responsibility for killing Ms Everard and pleaded guilty to her kidnap and rape.

Today, with five members of her family and Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick present in court, he pleaded guilty to her murder when he appeared at the Old Bailey via a video link from Belmarsh high security jail.

The police chief said she had personally apologised to Ms Everard’s family, telling them how “very sorry” she is for their loss, adding the force was “sickened, angered and devastated by this man’s crimes – they are dreadful, and everyone in policing feels betrayed”.

Twelve officers are being investigated by the police watchdog over matters relating to the case.

Serving Met Police officer Wayne Couzens has pleaded guilty to the murder of Sarah Everard

Prosecutor Tom Little QC told the court Couzens and Ms Everard “were total strangers to each other”. The police officer “had not previously met her, he did not know her and had no direct or indirect contact with her”, he said.

Sky’s crime correspondent Martin Brunt said it is still unknown what drove Couzens to commit the killing, who he said kept his head bowed and “appeared to be shaking, perhaps even sobbing at one point” as he whispered his plea during the 20-minute hearing.

Jim Sturman QC, defending Couzens, said: “His pleas today represents a truly guilty plea and remorse for what he did and, as he put it to us this morning, he will bear the burden for the rest of his life – his words: ‘as I deserve’.”

Sentencing was adjourned by the judge, Lord Justice Fulford, for a two-day hearing from 29 September, after discussing legal precedents for whole life sentences.

File photo dated 08/06/2021 of Jeremy Everard (left), the father of Sarah Everard, outside the Old Bailey, central London, with other family members. Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, has pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey in London to the murder of Sarah Everard. Issue date: Friday July 9, 2021.

Following his arrest, the killer concocted an elaborate story, claiming he had run into financial difficulties after getting into trouble with a gang of Eastern Europeans who threatened him and his family and demanded he delivers “another girl” after underpaying a prostitute a few weeks before.

He told officers that after the abduction, he had handed Ms Everard over, still alive and uninjured, to three Eastern European men in a van in a layby in Kent.

The defendant went on to make no comment in a formal interview and was charged on 12 March.

Ms Everard’s disappearance sparked a major investigation, with her body being found in a woodland in Ashford, Kent, a week after she vanished.

She was last seen leaving a friend’s house on Leathwaite Road in Clapham, southwest London, at around 9pm on 3 March.

As she set off on foot for the two-and-a-half mile journey home to Brixton, south London, from the Clapham Junction area, she chatted to her boyfriend Josh Lowth on her mobile phone for about 15 minutes.

CCTV image of Sarah Everard on the night she went missing

That call ended at 9.28pm, and footage from a doorbell camera showed her on her own.

Just three minutes later, a bus camera appeared to capture the moment she was approached by Couzens in Balham, south London.

Two figures could be seen standing by the hire car, which was parked on the pavement with its hazard lights flashing.

After snatching Ms Everard, Couzens drove out of London, arriving in the area of Tilmanstone, near Deal, at 1am.

Couzens had booked the hire of a Vauxhall Astra – using his personal details and bank card – on the afternoon of the abduction, and bought a roll of self-adhesive film days before the murder.

Volunteers from London Search and Rescue near Eagle Pond on Clapham Common

Investigators tracked the route of the car using CCTV and ANPR cameras and identified the driver as a serving officer through the car hire firm.

In the days that followed, Couzens reported that he was suffering from stress and did not want to carry a firearm anymore, according to a case summary.

On 8 March, the day he was due on duty, he reported in sick.

The next day, police arrested Couzens at 7.50pm – 39 minutes after he wiped the data from his mobile phone.

File photo dated 14/03/2021 of police outside the home of Wayne Couzens, in Freemens Way in Deal, Kent, after a body found hidden in woodland in Ashford was identified as that of 33-year-old Sarah Everard. Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, has pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey in London to the murder of Sarah Everard. Issue date: Friday July 9, 2021.

However, detectives were able to link the device to the kidnapping, and the area where Ms Everard was found on 10 March, which was near a patch of woodland Couzens and his wife had purchased in 2019.

Her remains had been dumped in a stream inside a large green builders’ bag – which Couzens was caught on CCTV buying at a B&Q in Dover two days after Ms Everard was last seen alive.

In June, police revealed that Ms Everard’s cause of death was “compression of the neck”.

The finding was made in a post-mortem examination into the death of the marketing manager.

An inquest into her death was opened and adjourned pending the outcome of criminal proceedings.

Ms Everard’s murder led to concerns being raised about the safety of women on the streets across the country, with protests held demanding action.

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