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Sarah Everard: Home Secretary Priti Patel announces inquiry into murderer Wayne Couzens' employment by Met Police and what it might focus on

An independent inquiry will be launched into the “systematic failures” that allowed Sarah Everard’s murderer to be employed as a police officer, the Home Secretary has announced.

The announcement comes as 17 officers and one former officer from several forces are investigated in relation to a variety of incidents linked to the case, including the sharing of vile images.

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference, Priti Patel said the public needs answers to ensure “something like this can never happen again” after Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens kidnapped, raped and murdered the 33-year-old marketing executive.

She said: “The public have a right to know what systematic failures enabled his continued employment as a police officer.

“We need answers as to why this was allowed to happen.

“I can confirm today there will be an inquiry, to give the independent oversight needed, to ensure something like this can never happen again.”

The Home Secretary claimed she has “redoubled” her efforts to help make women and girls feel safer, telling the conference in Manchester on Tuesday: “All our thoughts remain with Sarah Everard’s family and friends.

Sarah Everard was murdered by Wayne Couzens
Sarah Everard was murdered by Wayne Couzens

“Her murderer, whose name I will not repeat, was a monster. His explicit intention was to instil fear and terror in women and girls.

“I say this as Home Secretary, but also as a woman – such unconscionable crimes and acts of violence against women and girls have no place in our society.

“That is why I have redoubled my efforts to ensure women and girls feel safer.”

The Home Office said the inquiry will be made up of two parts – first examining Couzens’ previous behaviour and establishing a “definitive account of his conduct leading up to his conviction, as well as any opportunities missed, drawing on the Independent Office for Police Conduct’s (IOPC) investigations, once concluded.”

The second will look at any specific problems raised by the first part of the inquiry, which could include wider issues across policing – such as vetting practices, professional standards and discipline, and workplace behaviour.

Three of the investigations relate to WhatsApp messages Stock picture
Three of the investigations relate to WhatsApp messages Stock picture

Couzens, a 48-year-old father-of-two, will die in prison after admitting his horrific crimes, committed while off-duty but with the use of his warrant card.

He falsely arrested her quoting Covid regulations after stopping her as she walked through south London, before driving her 80 miles to Kent.

Couzens was arrested at his home in Freemen's Way, Deal, a week later and Sarah's body was found near land he owned the following day.

Since her murder shocking details of his previous conduct have emerged.

He was accused of flashing two women at McDonald's in Swanley days before Sarah's disappearance and was investigated for exposure in 2015 after allegedly driving around a car park in Kent naked from the waist down.

One officer shared vile images with colleagues and then staffed the cordon at the search site in Great Chart Picture: Barry Goodwin
One officer shared vile images with colleagues and then staffed the cordon at the search site in Great Chart Picture: Barry Goodwin

But checks when he joined the Met Police from the Civil Nuclear Constabulary in 2018 didn't flag up any record of the incident.

During his trial it came out that colleagues were aware of his interest in "violent pornography" while former co-workers called him 'The Rapist'.

He also shared homophobic, misogynistic and racist WhatsApp messages with five colleagues, who are now under investigation.

To date the Independent Office for Police Conduct has carried out several investigations linked to the Couzens case involving 17 officers and one former officer:

  • An investigation into allegations that a probationary Met PC, who went on to staff a cordon as part of the search, shared an inappropriate graphic, depicting violence against women, with colleagues via WhatsApp has concluded. The officer and two colleagues have been served with gross misconduct noticed and the IOPC provided a report and conclusions to the Met last month. It will shortly decide what further action will be taken.
  • Five officers from three forces and one former officer are being investigated after WhatsApp messages including sensitive case information were sent between March and October. Three of the serving officers are with the Met, one is from the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and one is from Norfolk Constabulary. The former officer was with the Met. They are being investigated for gross misconduct for "allegedly sending messages of a discriminatory and/or inappropriate nature, and for allegedly failing to challenge the messages sent by the others". Two of the Met officers and the former Met officer have also been notified that they are being criminally investigated for improper use of the public electronic communications network under Section 127 of the Communications Act.
Details from Wayne Couzens' interview with police were shared Photo: Met Police
Details from Wayne Couzens' interview with police were shared Photo: Met Police
  • The IOPC has sent a report on seven officers from several forces to the Met. One officer was investigated for gross misconduct as there was an indication they had shared details presented in court from an interview given by Couzens under caution, when there was no policing purpose to do so. A further six officers were served with misconduct notices as there was an indication they failed to challenge the sharing of the information and that two of them also joined in the conversation.
  • An investigation into the circumstances surrounding how Couzens sustained head injuries in custody on March 10 and 12 after he had been arrested on suspicion of murder found nothing had been done wrong.
  • There are ongoing investigations into the flashing incidents at McDonald's in Swanley (February 2021) and Kent (2015). So far two Met officers have been served with misconduct notices.

Regional director Sal Naseem said: “We are concerned about information that has emerged since Couzens was sentenced to a whole-life term for the murder of Sarah Everard. We are continually reviewing any new information which comes to light.

“Our thoughts also remain with Sarah’s family, friends and all of those affected.

“We would like to reiterate to police officers and staff, current or former, that we have a whistleblowing line for police officers and staff to report concerns of wrongdoing where they believe a criminal offence has been committed, or evidence of conduct that would justify disciplinary proceedings.

“Members of the public can find out more about how to make a complaint about a police force on our website www.policeconduct.gov.uk.

“Our investigations into how Kent Police in 2015, and the MPS in 2021, handled allegations of indecent exposure now linked to Couzens will progress as swiftly as possible following his sentencing for kidnap, rape and murder.

“Two MPS officers have been served by us with misconduct notices for possible breaches of professional standards relating to duties and responsibilities.

“The serving of misconduct notices does not mean disciplinary action will necessarily follow.

“In both investigations we are looking whether the appropriate actions were taken by both forces, including whether policies and procedures were followed. We are also considering whether any issues identified may have impacted on the vetting of Couzens. “

Kent today got £700,000 to tackle violence against women.

To read more of our in depth coverage of all of the major trials coming out of crown and magistrates' courts across the county, click here.

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

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