Published: 12:07, 30 September 2021
| Updated: 15:03, 30 September 2021
The man who murdered Sarah Everard while serving as a Met police officer will die in prison after receiving a whole-life sentence.
Wayne Couzens admitted kidnapping, raping and killing the 33-year-old marketing executive during two hearings in June and July and was sacked from his diplomatic protection role soon after.
The Old Bailey heard yesterday how Couzens, 48, used his warrant card to falsely arrest Sarah by claiming he was on a Covid patrol.
The former armed officer was today jailed for life without the possibility of parole.
Lord Justice Fulford described the circumstances of the murder as "grotesque" and Sarah's final hours as “bleak and agonising as is possible to imagine.”
Couzens kept his head bowed as the judge addressed him, saying: "Wayne Couzens you kidnapped raped and murdered Sarah Everard having long planned an assault on your yet to be victim who you intended to coerce into your custody.
"You have irretrievably damaged the lives of Sarah Everard’s family and friends. Mrs Everard devestatingly referred to how the wider world has lost its appeal for her, and I would add no doubt many others who cared for your victim.
"And Sarah Everard’s sister referred to the inescapable reality of the many lives you have ruined.
"You have eroded the confidence the public are entitled to have in the police forces of England and Wales.
"It is critical each subject can trust police officers when they encounter them and submit to their authority which they are entitled to believe is being exercised in good faith.
"You have utterly betrayed your family. Your wife and children who are entirely blameless will have to live with the ignominy of your dreadful crimes for the rest of their lives.
"You have added to the sense of insecurity many have living in our cities, perhaps particularly women, when travelling by themselves and especially at night.
"During the period before your arrest there was no indication you had the slightest bit of regret following perhaps the realisation of the enormity of the dreadful crimes you committed."
He remarked on the “prosaic” way Couzens behaved during the course of his crimes - calmly making dental appointments and buying trivial items moments after killing Sarah.
Speaking after the sentencing Sarah's family said: "We are very pleased that Wayne Couzens has received a full life sentence and will spend the rest of his life in jail. Nothing can make things better, nothing can bring Sarah back, but knowing he will be imprisoned forever brings some relief.
"Sarah lost her life needlessly and cruelly and all the years of life she had yet to enjoy were stolen from her. Wayne Couzens held a position of trust as a police officer and we are outraged and sickened that he abused this trust in order to lure Sarah to her death. The world is a safer place with him imprisoned.
"It is almost seven months since Sarah died and the pain of losing her is overwhelming. We miss her all the time. She was a beautiful young woman in looks and character and our lives are the poorer without her. We remember all the lovely things about Sarah - her compassion and kindness, her intelligence, her strong social conscience. But we especially like to remember her laughing and dancing and enjoying life. We hold her safe in our hearts.
"We are immensely grateful to the police and legal team who worked on Sarah’s case. We cannot thank them enough for their meticulous and painstaking work and for their constant support. We also send our heartfelt thanks to our family and friends for comforting us through this terrible time."
After cuffing and locking Sarah in the back of his hire car on March 3, the killer drove to the outskirts of Dover where he raped and murdered her. A post-mortem revealed she had been strangled.
Warped Couzens then dumped her body in Great Chart, near Ashford – 80 miles from where he had picked her up.
Shortly after, Couzens took his wife and children to the same woods, where they played metres from where her body was hidden.
He returned the next day to burn her body, then returned again to to dump her remains in a pond.
Couzens had been arrested a day before sniffer dogs found her remains, a week after she went missing. He initially weaved an outlandish yarn involving prostitutes and gangsters. Footage of the bizarre interview was released yesterday.
He said he'd been forced to kidnap Sarah after failing to pay eastern European mobsters for the services of a prostitute he had met at Folkestone's Holiday Inn.
Couzens claimed he was threatened and told his family would be harmed if he did not deliver a woman to the gang, adding he followed their orders but had not harmed Sarah.
But when detectives presented evidence the armed officer reverted to 'no comment' interviews. He would later admit kidnap, rape and murder.
During the sentencing the court was told colleagues knew Couzens was interested in "violent pornography". There have also been reports that co-workers at a previous force nicknamed him 'The Rapist'.
CCTV gathered during a painstaking investigation showed Couzens coolly stopping for refreshments, while he also rearranged dental appointments for his children and booked a slot at the vets for the family dog.
He did all of that after murdering Sarah.
Wayne Couzens interviewed in his home by police
Mitigating, Jim Sterman QC urged the judge not to pass a full-life custodial term.
He argued Couzens entered early guilty pleas, displayed genuine remorse and suffered mild depression at the time of the attack.
Even if the judge didn’t hand Couzens a full life tariff, he still wouldn’t be released until age 81, he argued.
“The defendant was invited yesterday to look at the Everards, he couldn’t I’m told, he is ashamed, what he has done is terrible, he deserves a very lengthy finite term but he did all he could after he was arrested to minimise the wicked harm that he did.
“And that is, in our respectable submission, reason for you to draw back from what the prosecution invites you to do.”
Lord Justice Adrian Fulford told a hearing in July: "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 would receive. He said: "I will need to understand the nature of the life sentence to be imposed."
Nick Price, Head of the CPS Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, said: “Today our thoughts are with the family of Sarah Everard. We can only begin to imagine their suffering which will, of course, not end with this sentence.
“All of us in the CPS have been deeply affected by what happened to Sarah. Wayne Couzens treated her with vile depravity. It was a truly evil thing to do.
“The investigation in this case by the Metropolitan Police was meticulous, and our joint prosecution team worked hard to bring the strongest possible case to court.
“The court has now heard the evidence that showed his deliberate planning, and continued efforts to cover up his crimes.
“We all feel betrayed that Couzens abused his position as a police officer to commit such abhorrent crimes.
“All of us should be free to walk our streets safely."
John Apter, National Chair of the Police Federation, says: "This predator is an absolute disgrace to the police service, and I am totally ashamed that he was ever a police officer.
'The way he took advantage of Sarah’s trust makes me feel sick to the stomach...'
"I am proud to carry a warrant card, but this vile individual’s abuse of that authority has cast a shadow on all those who work within policing. He has brought disgrace to our uniform.The way he took advantage of Sarah’s trust makes me feel sick to the stomach.
"No sentence will ever ease the pain for the family and friends of Sarah or undo the terrible damage this disgusting man has done. He doesn’t deserve to have another single day of freedom and I hope every day he spends in prison is a long one.
"My thoughts, and those of all my colleagues, remain entirely with Sarah’s family and friends."
Chief Constable of Kent Police Alan Pughsley said: "Much like the general public, police forces and officers up and down the country are shocked and saddened by the actions of Wayne Couzens.
"We also understand that as a result of the way he treated Sarah Everard there may be concerns amongst the public, particularly amongst women and girls, about being approached by police officers or knowing how best to verify their identity and the reasons for being stopped.
"I want to make it absolutely clear that Kent Police officers will always carry identification and can always be asked for verification as part of their duties. My officers serve this county with a great deal of pride and passion and they, like the public, will understand now more than ever why those we engage with may want more reassurance about the work we do.
"But I would add that Couzens is not representative of police officers in Kent, or indeed the country - he betrayed the very thing we take an oath to do and that is to protect life. I hope in time the public will realise he is the exception, not the rule, and in the meantime our thoughts are very much with those who knew Sarah."
Couzens had served with the Met since 2018 and was attached to an armed unit responsible for guarding the London parliamentary estate and embassies.
He had previously worked for Kent Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary.
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.