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Sarah Everard murder: Former Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens 'arrested' Sarah for lockdown breach before her murder


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Wayne Couzens arrested and handcuffed Sarah Everard before he raped and murdered her.

The Old Bailey heard Couzens, who was off duty, posed as an undercover police officer when he "hunted for a lone young female to rape and kidnap."

It's also been revealed today that Couzens let his children play just metres away from where he had dumped Miss Everard's body before police had discovered her.

Couzens is at the court today to recieve his sentence after he admitted kidnapping, raping and killing the 33-year-old marketing executive at two Old Bailey appearances in June and July and was sacked from his diplomatic protection role soon after.

Couzens snatched Sarah from the street as she walked in south London in early March.

Her body was discovered a week later more than 80 miles away in Great Chart, near Ashford. A post-mortem report revealed she had been strangled.

At a two-day sentencing hearing which began today Prosecutor Tom Little QC said it was one of the most widely publicised cases, spurring the hashtag “she was just walking home.”

Sarah Everard went missing in Brixton, South London before her body was found near Ashford
Sarah Everard went missing in Brixton, South London before her body was found near Ashford

But he said a more fitting five-word summary would be “deception, kidnap, rape, strangulation, fire.”

Miss Everard had breached Covid protocol by visiting a friend for dinner and wine, making her “more vulnerable” for Couzens to prey upon, explained the prosecutor.

Couzens likely used lockdown rules as an excuse to stop her, handcuff her, then drive her 80 miles where he raped and strangled her before burning her body.

Mr Little said: "The defendant's plot of land is very close to, and in the same woods, where he was to burn Sarah Everard's body after he murdered her.

"He then moved her body in green bags that he had purchased specifically for that task to a pond deeper into the woods, it was only about 130 metres from his plot."

Eye-witnesses saw Couzens “detaining Sarah by fraud” using his warrant card and handcuffs, he added.

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“That was the start of the ordeal, the 80-mile journey whilst detained which was to lead first to her rape and then her murder.

“At some point fairly soon after driving from the pavement onto the South Circular and having not gone to a police station, Sarah Everard must have realised her fate,” he explained.

Sarah's boyfriend described her as “extremely intelligent, savvy and streetwise” and “not a gullible person”. He said she would not have got into a vehicle with a stranger unless she was forced.

CCTV and data from Couzen’s mobile phone captured the journey towards Kent, with the hire car stopping near Military Road, Dover at about 11.30pm.

About five minutes later Couzen’s Seat was captured on camera leaving the area towards rural villages, before returning to Dover about an hour later.

Mr Little said it is likely this is when Couzens raped Miss Everard.

Couzens then stopped at BP Dover South Services on Limekilm Street and bought two bottles of water, apple juice, Lucozade orange and a carrier bag.

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

It was “more than likely” Sarah was murdered by then, Mr Little explained, adding: “To have left her alive even in the boot of the Seat, would have been risky or foolhardy if she made any noise.”

The court heard Couzens the next day bought a hot chocolate and cake at Costa, then casually made a call to a vet to book an appointment for his dog.

Meanwhile, shortly after noon an eye-witness saw “a strong, intense flame, which was not particularly high, which did not have the appearance of a typical woodland fire,” explained Mr Little.

“This is consistent with the location where the defendant burnt Miss Everard’s body, clothing and possessions using petrol he purchased earlier that day.”

Couzens took his wife and children to the same woods, then went back to burn Sarah's body. He returned again to hide it, the court heard.

“The defendant took his family to the very area, allowing his children to play in close proximity where Sarah Everard’s body had been dumped, in the pond,” Mr Little said.

Leading up to the family visit, Couzens bought builders’ bags from B&Q in Dover, alongside tarpaulin and a bungee cargo net from Amazon, for next day delivery.

As publicity for Miss Everard’s disappearance intensified, officers were able to trace the hire vehicle with CCTV.

Couzens had rented the Vauxhall Crossland from Enterprise Rent-a-Car in Dover for the night Sarah vanished, records showed.

The revelation led detectives to his home in Freemen’s Way, Deal, on March 9, but they didn’t approach for two hours.

It would give Couzens the chance to reset his Galaxy Note 10 to factory settings in the first step of an elaborate ploy to deceive Scotland Yard.

When officers arrested Couzens he denied knowing her however, asked if he knew her whereabouts, he said he was “in financial ****.”

Mr Little explained: “When pressed as to where Sarah Everard was, he said repeatedly that he did not know where she was and ‘if I could do something to get her back right this minute.’

But at the same time (said): “I’ll do it again tomorrow if it meant saving my family..... these guys meant business’."

Flowers laid at the site where human remains were found in the search for Sarah Everard (45063057)
Flowers laid at the site where human remains were found in the search for Sarah Everard (45063057)

The court heard Couzens claimed he had been “leant on” by a gang, which threatened his family, to kidnap and hand them girls.

Items seized from his home included a roll of adhesive film he ordered in February. Beige hair bands and a penis pump were found in the bedroom alongside policing items.

A green petrol can identical to one Couzens was seen buying after he killed Miss Everard were also discovered.

Officers went on to find two opened boxes of off-white large latex gloves and a pair of quick plastic cuffs.

Mr Little described the moment Miss Everard's "badly burned body" was discovered in the pond: “Two of the dogs entered the water and indicated interest in the bag.

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“As one of the dogs moved away, the bag appeared to come loose from the floor of the pond, floating upwards and opening up. One of the officers present reported that he could see what appeared to be a body in the bag.

“The dog-handling officers withdrew. Forensic officers attended and confirmed the presence of a very badly burnt human body.”

Nearby, a large burned fridge was discovered among flytip debris nearby. Inside contained the remains of Miss Everard’s hat, eight burnt human bones and the remnants of her belongings.

Couzens moved the fridge “several times” to conceal Ms Everard’s remains, the court heard. His black Seat, seized outside his address at the time of the arrest, contained his and Miss Everard’s DNA.

Police at Freemen's Way, Deal Picture: Barry Goodwin
Police at Freemen's Way, Deal Picture: Barry Goodwin

A search also revealed the broken corner of Miss Everard’s sim card, a Samsung Galaxy watch, plastic gloves, a handcuff key, craft knife, head torch, condoms and a large quantity of hair bands, Mr Little explained.

“A proper inference can be drawn that the defendant deliberately acquired those hairbands for the purpose of the planned kidnap and rape,” Mr Little added

Miss Everard’s neck injuries were “consistent with the use of his police belt”, the court heard.

Couzens told a nurse he suffered anxiety and depression but no other mental health problems. But after he was further arrested on suspicion of murder he self-harmed before a further interview.

“Just as he was about to be taken for interview, he deliberately hit his head on the toilet bowl in his cell, sustained a cut to his head,” Mr Little said.

Couzens then ran into a wall causing another cut to his head and banged his head against a wall in another attempt to self-harm the following day.

He gave no comment police interviews and, when he was charged with kidnap and murder on March 12, made no reply to the caution. Couzens was placed on constant watch until his first court appearance the following morning.

Wayne Couzens after he pulled over to stop Sarah Everard on Poynders Court in London

Her family and friends gave heart breaking tributes to Sarah as part of the hearing. Her mother described the 'incandescent rage' she felt.

Her friend Lucy Ball told how Miss Everard was "immeasuarably kind and funny." She added she has lost trust in police and struggles with suicidal thoughts.

Another friend Kelly McGowan said "most days it was difficult to get out of bed" and the thought of what Sarah endured as "unbearable."

Friend Rosie Willard continued: "Such is the devastation of Sarah's loss, we are just numb."

Wearing a Covid mask with his head bowed, Couzens remained passive throughout the hearing and spoke to confirm his name.

Jim Sterman QC will mitigate for Couzens tomorrow before Lord Justice Adrian Fulford passes sentence.

Read more: Protestors release smoke guns outside the Old Bailey ahead of sentencing

Read more: An insight into the life of murderer Wayne Couzens

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Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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