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Sarah Everard’s killer Wayne Couzens from Deal ‘should never have been a police officer’, report finds

Sarah Everard’s killer Wayne Couzens should never have been given a job as a police officer and chances to stop the sexual predator were repeatedly ignored and missed, an inquiry has found.

Police – including Kent’s force – “failed” to spot warning signs about his “unsuitability for office”, a damning report concluded amid fears many more women and girls could have been victims of Couzens.

Wayne Couzens worked in three police forces
Wayne Couzens worked in three police forces

Publishing her findings today, inquiry chairwoman Lady Elish Angiolini warned without a radical overhaul of policing practices and culture, there is “nothing to stop another Couzens operating in plain sight”.

Three different police forces “could and should” have stopped Couzens from getting a job as an officer, she said, as she identified a catalogue of failings in how he was recruited and vetted, and how allegations against him were investigated.

Miss Everard’s family said in response they believe the 33-year-old marketing executive died because Couzens was a police officer, adding: “She would never have got into a stranger’s car.”

Branding Couzens a “predatory sex offender and murderer”, the inquiry laid bare a history of alleged sexual offending dating back nearly 20 years before the off-duty armed Metropolitan Police officer abducted Miss Everard in March 2021.

According to the report, over the last two years the inquiry uncovered evidence Couzens was accused of a string of other incidents of sexual abuse, including a “very serious sexual assault of a child barely into her teens”.

Sarah Everard was killed after she was kidnapped while walking home
Sarah Everard was killed after she was kidnapped while walking home

The findings identified at least five incidents which were not reported to police, with Lady Elish saying she believes there could be more victims.

Setting out a raft of recommendations to “make sure something like this can never happen again”, Lady Elish said: “Wayne Couzens should never have been a police officer. And, without a significant overhaul, there is nothing to stop another Couzens operating in plain sight.

“Now is the time for change.”

She urged “all those in authority in every police force in the country” to read the report and “take immediate action”.

It adds "despite the favourable light in which Couzens was generally perceived" by the time Couzens resigned from Kent Special Constabulary, he "already had a history of abusive and potentially criminal sexual activity".

Among the measures, Lady Elish called for an urgent review of indecent exposure charges against serving officers and said reports of the crime need to be taken seriously.

Wayne Couzens will never be released from prison
Wayne Couzens will never be released from prison

Miss Everard’s mother Sue, father Jeremy, sister Katie and brother James said in a statement: “It is obvious that Wayne Couzens should never have been a police officer. Whilst holding a position of trust, in reality he was a serial sex offender.

“Warning signs were overlooked throughout his career and opportunities to confront him were missed.

“We believe that Sarah died because he was a police officer – she would never have got into a stranger’s car.”

Couzens – who will never be released from prison – used his status as a police officer to trick Miss Everard into thinking he could arrest her for breaking lockdown rules in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

Lady Elish Angiolini. Picture: Ian Wallman
Lady Elish Angiolini. Picture: Ian Wallman

After the harrowing killing, it emerged there had been concerns about Couzens’s behaviour while he was a police officer, with reports he was nicknamed “the rapist”.

He was a special constable with Kent Police from 2006 to 2010, became an officer with the Civil Nuclear Constabulary in 2011, and then moved to the Met in 2018.

Couzens indecently exposed himself three times before the murder, including twice at a drive-through fast-food restaurant in Kent in the days prior to the killing.

He was not caught despite driving his own car and using his own credit card at the time.

The report highlights how failures in investigations into allegations of indecent exposure meant real opportunities to disrupt Couzens’ offending and bring his policing career to a halt were missed.

It adds Kent Police failed to investigate two reports of indecent exposure, including the incident in 2015, long before Miss Everard’s rape, abduction and murder, missing opportunities to bring him to justice.

Lady Elish described these failures by Kent Police as “grave errors” and “a very obvious red flag”.

Then-Met police constable Samantha Lee was sacked and barred from being a police officer after it was found she had not properly investigated the incidents.

Couzens was also later revealed to have been part of a WhatsApp group with fellow officers that shared disturbing racist, homophobic and misogynist remarks.

Ordered by then home secretary Priti Patel, the inquiry tasked with looking at how Couzens came to be a police officer and was able to carry out the murder has so far cost £2.9 million, according to figures to September last year.

The first phase of the inquiry considered evidence covering a 20-year period, reviewing more than 100,000 pages of documents and carrying out 144 interviews, prompting 76 conclusions and making 16 recommendations for improvement.

The inquiry continues in two parts, looking at the crimes of David Carrick and looking at wider problems within the police in the wake of both cases.

Responding to the report findings, a Kent Police spokesman said: “Everyone at Kent Police is shocked, appalled and disgusted by the crimes Wayne Couzens committed against Sarah Everard and we share in the collective grief for her loss.

“Part one of the Angiolini Inquiry report has been made available to us today, and whilst we continue to carefully consider its contents we fully accept the recommendations made of Kent Police.

“We also accept our investigation into a 2015 incident of indecent exposure was flawed due to it being allocated to an officer who was not a trained investigator, and apologise for this failing.”

Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott says he will “hold the Chief Constable to account” to ensure that the recommendations of this report are acted on.

He added: “My thoughts today are with Sarah Everard’s parents, her family and friends.

“Both her family and the public deserve an explanation as to how this was able to happen and why so many opportunities were missed to stop him.

“The report highlights clear failings by the Force, which they have accepted, as do I.

“There are also wider failings across policing that enabled his offending to continue, through poor investigations, culture, vetting and misconduct processes.

“Standards across the country need to improve so that this can never happen again.

“I will be asking to meet Lady Elish to discuss her findings and the implementation of her recommendations.”

Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley from the Met Police said: “There is nothing we can say to the family of Sarah Everard and all those who loved her that will convey how very sorry we are.

“Wayne Couzens’ crimes were horrific. The fact that he abused his position as a Metropolitan Police officer to carry them out represents the most appalling betrayal of trust.

“It damages the relationship between the public and the police and exposes long-standing fundamental flaws in the way we decide who is fit to be a police officer and the way we pursue those who corrupt our integrity once they get in.

“The report published today is an urgent call to action for all of us in policing.

“We must go further and faster, to earn back the trust of all those whose confidence in policing has been shaken by events of recent years.

“Regardless of our significant progress over the past year, the scale of the change that is needed inevitably means it will take time and it is not yet complete.

“The majority of my Met colleagues share my determination to reform by both confronting the risk posed by predatory men in policing, and also, improving our protection of women and children across London.”

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