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Sarah Everard murder investigation: Serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens is still in custody after human remains discovered


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The Metropolitan Police made five referrals to the police watchdog after arresting a serving officer on suspicion of murdering Sarah Everard.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has so far confirmed it will probe one relating to the Met's handling of an indecent exposure complaint made against suspect Wayne Couzens, 48, in the days before the 33-year-old marketing executive's disappearance.

Sarah Everard went missing in South London and police have confirmed a body has been found in Ashford
Sarah Everard went missing in South London and police have confirmed a body has been found in Ashford

The incident happened in a takeaway in south London on February 28.

Another, referral which the IOPC is still assessing, relates to an incident earlier today in which Couzens suffered a head injury while in custody.

He was taken to hospital under armed guard but is now back at the police station.

Just after 6pm this evening they confirmed officers have been given an extension to question him further.

A spokesman said: "The man remains in custody at a London police station after an application to extend his detention was granted at Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court.

"A woman aged in her 30s, who was arrested at the same time on suspicion of assisting an offender, has been released on bail to return to a police station on a date in mid-April.

"Sarah’s family have been informed of these developments. Specialist officers are in place to support them at this incredibly distressing time. Support is also being provided to Sarah’s many friends."

Watch KMTV's report from the scene today

Two of the referrals to the IOPC were linked to the conduct of Couzens.

The IOPC has determined both these matters should be locally investigated by the Met.

A third relates to the actions of police after Ms Everard was reported missing. The Met await the IOPC’s assessment.

A further voluntary referral was made for a conduct matter in relation to the police investigation into the separate allegations of indecent exposure. The IOPC have determined this will be subject to an independent IOPC investigation.

Another mandatory referral to the IOPC made after Couzens was taken to a hospital for treatment to a head injury sustained while alone in his custody cell.

A Met spokesman said: "He was being monitored by CCTV and received immediate first aid. We await the IOPC’s assessment. We are offering every assistance to the IOPC."

Wayne Couzens, 48. Picture: Facebook
Wayne Couzens, 48. Picture: Facebook

The IOPC said its investigation will look at the actions of the Met after police received a report on February 28 that “a man had exposed himself at a fast food restaurant in South London”.

That means the indecent exposure allegation against PC Couzens was reported four days before Ms Everard vanished.

The IOPC added: “Yesterday we determined that two conduct referrals relating to kidnap/murder and indecent exposure allegations against the arrested officer should remain under local investigation by the force.

“We are still assessing a mandatory referral in relation to the actions of police after they received a report that Sarah Everard was missing.”

The investigation into Ms Everard's murder is being led by Specialist Crime detectives who are drawing on expertise and skills from hundreds of colleagues across the Met. They are also being supported by Kent Police.

Earlier today the first flowers were laid at the abandoned Great Chart Golf and Leisure complex where human remains were discovered last night. Police and are expected to continue their searches in Kent for several days.

Flowers laid at the site where human remains were found in the search for Sarah Everard
Flowers laid at the site where human remains were found in the search for Sarah Everard
Flowers laid at the site where human remains were found in the search for Sarah Everard
Flowers laid at the site where human remains were found in the search for Sarah Everard

Flowers laid in Ashford

While the identification process is expected to take a while the family of Ms Everard have been informed.

Police remain at the scene and throughout today vehicles, including a team of police divers, have been turning up.

Floodlights and welfare units were set up in the car park of the complex last night.

Welfare units are delivered to the site near Great Chart
Welfare units are delivered to the site near Great Chart

At midday yet more welfare units arrived on the back of a lorry suggesting police intend to spend far longer at the site.

And private ambulances were seen arriving at the spot but left soon after.

Floral tributes were laid at the entrance to the complex, which was a popular paintball, archery and golf facility before it closed unexpectedly in 2019.

One read: "Sarah, wherever you are... I wish I could be there."

The Bears Lane site is in a very rural area and officers and air support are combing many acres of land.

In June 2019, the owners gained planning permission for 10 executive homes on part of the site in the hope it would secure the future of the attraction, but construction is yet to begin.

Meanwhile, officers stand guard at the home of father-of-two Couzens after his arrest there on Tuesday night.

The terrace property in Freemen's Way, Deal, remains fenced off - yesterday both family cars were removed from the drive way and officers began digging in the garden.

Police at BCB Garage this morning
Police at BCB Garage this morning
Police in Freemen's Way on the second day of the search
Police in Freemen's Way on the second day of the search
Police divers arrive at Great Chart on the second day of the search
Police divers arrive at Great Chart on the second day of the search

Police search the home in Freemen's Way

Couzens, who is based with the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command, was initially arrested on suspicion of Ms Everard’s kidnap but was yesterday further arrested on suspicion of murder and a separate act of indecent exposure.

Around 150 officers spent yesterday combing the Great Chart site, 30 miles from Couzens' home, and there was also a search of woodland near Betteshanger Park closer to the address.

Kent Police has told the public to expect a large presence of officers in the area in the days to come.

Assistant Chief Constable Tom Richards from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: "We know that people will be deeply concerned given the events of the last few days and the circumstances surrounding it, but as you would expect, the Metropolitan Police Service is carrying out an extensive and thorough investigation, and the public will see an increased visibility of officers throughout the area.

"Our officers will be supporting that presence around the county to listen to any concerns and will do everything we can to support and reassure people. The safety of our communities remains our priority and there is nothing that suggests there is a wider threat to the public."

Wayne Couzens as a Kent Police special at a training event at Folkestone police station in 2008 Picture: Dave Downey
Wayne Couzens as a Kent Police special at a training event at Folkestone police station in 2008 Picture: Dave Downey

Before joining the police Couzens, a former TA reservist and Kent Police special, spent 20 years working at the former family business, BCB Garage, in Dover.

It shut in 2015 and sits derelict. Last night detectives taped the site off.

Met Commissioner Cressida Dick sought to reassure the public in the wake of yesterday’s developments, saying “it is thankfully incredibly rare for a woman to be abducted from our streets”.

Sarah Everard
Sarah Everard

She added: “But I completely understand that despite this, women in London and the wider public – particularly those in the area where Sarah went missing – will be worried and may well be feeling scared.”

The Met said the arrested officer’s main job was uniformed patrol of diplomatic premises, but would not specify where he had worked. He was not on duty at the time of Ms Everard’s disappearance.

The diplomatic protection squad is responsible for guarding the Parliamentary estate including Downing Street and the Palace of Westminster, as well as embassies in London.

Ms Dick added: “The news today that it was a Metropolitan Police officer arrested on suspicion of Sarah’s murder has sent waves of shock and anger through the public and through the whole of the Met.

“I speak on behalf of all my colleagues in the Met when I say we are utterly appalled at this dreadful news. Our job is to patrol the streets and to protect people.”

Cressida Dick announces the discovery of human remains

Investigators are continuing to work “around the clock” on what Ms Dick described as a “very fast moving” case.

A neighbour of the Great Chart complex told a national paper: "The police were searching ditches and outbuildings. They knocked on our door and asked to search our buildings which of course was fine.

"The officer said they were from the Met and looking for a 'high risk missing person'. They had the helicopters out with their searchlights on until about 4am.

"The area they're searching has been empty for a couple of years. It's so remote. Someone would have to know the area, to come here. We only ever get locals round here. It used to be a golf complex and a leisure facility with paintballing. It backs on to woods. There have been more than 20 officers here since last night and they had the sniffer dogs out."

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John Chidwick, 67, told a paper: "He had some timber sheets going spare and I asked if I could have them to build a manure box for my allotment. He was a nice, friendly bloke and well spoken.

"He hadn't been living on the road all that long, about four years give or take, but seems to be a family man as most people around here are. I know he's a police officer."

Read more: Women speak of experiences of sexual harassment following disappearance of Sarah Everard

Marketing executive Ms Everard, 33, vanished while walking home from a friend’s flat in south London on Wednesday March 3.

She is thought to have walked through Clapham Common towards her house in Brixton – a journey which should have taken around 50 minutes.

Police at Freemen's Way, Deal Picture: Barry Goodwin
Police at Freemen's Way, Deal Picture: Barry Goodwin
Police search ground at Bears Lane, Great Chart, Ashford Picture: Barry Goodwin
Police search ground at Bears Lane, Great Chart, Ashford Picture: Barry Goodwin
Police at Freemen's Way, Deal Picture: Barry Goodwin
Police at Freemen's Way, Deal Picture: Barry Goodwin

This morning Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted his condolences.

Home Secretary Priti Patel added: "Every woman should feel safe to walk on our streets without fear of harassment or violence. At this deeply sad and tragic time as we think and pray for Sarah and her family."

Meanwhile, a vigil titled “Reclaim these streets” has been organised on Facebook and is due to take place at Clapham Common bandstand at 6pm on Saturday evening.

Organisers said: “It’s wrong that the response to violence against women requires women to behave differently. In Clapham, police told women not to go out at night this week. Women are not the problem.

“We’ve all been following the tragic case of Sarah Everard over the last week. This is a vigil for Sarah, but also for all women who feel unsafe, who go missing from our streets and who face violence every day.”

She was last captured on a doorbell camera walking along the A205 Poynders Road towards Tulse Hill at around 9.30pm on March 3.

To get the latest updates in ongoing cases, police appeals and criminals put behind bars, click here

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