Published: 10:39, 09 July 2021
| Updated: 15:18, 09 July 2021
A police officer has pleaded guilty to the murder of Sarah Everard.
Wayne Couzens, 48, today appeared at the Old Bailey where he entered a guilty plea to one count of murder.
His lawyer said that he told them this morning that he 'deserves' to bear the burden for the rest of his life and he was sorry for what he did, not for himself.
He appeared in court in June when he admitted counts of rape and kidnapping but, while his lawyer said “responsibility for the killing is also admitted”, he did not enter a plea to murder.
It can now be revealed that Couzens initially weaved an outlandish yarn about gangsters.
He told detectives he had kidnapped Sarah on the orders of Eastern European mobsters to settle a debt racked up after he had failed to pay for a prostitute he had regularly met at Folkestone’s Holiday Inn.
Couzens said that after abducting the 33-year-old he had delivered her to the gang who were waiting in a lane, when in fact he had murdered her.
Lawyers had been awaiting medical reports before he entered a plea. Those reports, the court heard, relate to his “mental state” but will now be taken into account at a later sentencing hearing.
His wife, Olena Couzens, attended today's hearing via video-link while Met Commissioner Cressida Dick appeared in court in person.
Couzens appeared via video-link from HMP Belmarsh. He wore a blue sweatshirt and grey tracksuit bottoms.
He sat with his head down and hands together and spoke only to confirm his identity and say "guilty" when asked how he pleaded to the charge of murder.
Miss Everard, a marketing executive, was abducted while walking home in south London in March and was later discovered more than 50 miles away in Great Chart, near Ashford. A post mortem report revealed she had been strangled.
Miss Everard, originally from York, went missing while walking home to Brixton after visiting a friend.
Human remains were discovered a week later next to a defunct leisure and golf complex in Great Chart, with dental records confirming the body belonged to Miss Everard.
The court today heard how detectives had carried out a "mammoth investigation".
Lord Justice Adrian Fulford said: "It is astonishing the amount of work that has been done investigating this matter in such a short period of time; this has been a mammoth investigation which has produced some very significant results in terms of coming to understand what happened."
He added he needed a note from lawyers to help him determine the kind of life sentence Couzens will receive. He said: "I will need to understand the nature of the life sentence to be imposed."
Representing Couzens, Jim Sterman QC said: "His pleas today represent truly genuine guilt and remorse for what he did and as he put it to us this morning, he will bear this burden for the rest of his life, and 'I deserve to' is what he said.
“He accepts the victims in this case are the Everard family and friends, not him. He does not feel sorry for himself he feels sorry for what he did.”
Police are still analysing evidence in the murder of Sarah in an attempt to establish exactly what happened to the 33-year-old.
Prosecutor Tom Little QC, today told the Old Bailey: “There are some scientific findings which need to be concluded and then potentially some statistical evaluation in order to consider whether, for example, mixed DNA may contain blood or semen.
“That may go to establish where it was that Sarah Everard was raped and where she was murdered.
“They were total strangers to each other.”
“The only account that you have for him is that he gave on April 9 is when he gave an entirely false story as to what happened to the deceased.
"You wish to be in the position where you can set out as fully as possible what the Crown’s understanding is of the train of events that led to her death.”
He added that, contrary to some early reports, Miss Everard and Couzens were “total strangers”.
He said: "Before the defendant kidnapped Sarah Everard on the South Circular on March 3, he had not previously met her, did not know her, and had no direct or indirect contact with her.
“They were total strangers to each other.”
Couzens served with the Met since 2018 and was attached to an armed unit responsible for guarding the London parliamentary estate and embassies.
A woman in her 30s was arrested at the same time as Couzens on suspicion of assisting an offender but no further action was taken.
Couzens is due to be sentenced on September 29.