Sarah Everard’s Killer, Wayne Couzens, Falsely Arrested Her, Court Hears

Wayne Couzens, a British police officer who pleaded guilty to the murder of Sarah Everard, used the pretense of Covid regulations to kidnap the 33-year-old as she was walking home.


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LONDON — Sarah Everard was walking home after visiting a friend in her south London neighborhood when a police officer stopped her. He waved her toward his car, pulled out his police identification card and swiftly handcuffed her.

It was the middle of a national coronavirus lockdown in March, and the police were charged with enforcing restrictions on movement. The young woman, according to a video of the encounter, did not argue. She got in the car and the officer drove off.

Seven days later, her charred remains were found stuffed in green trash bags in the woods some 60 miles away.

The crime horrified Britain. For any woman who has looked over her shoulder walking home alone, it struck a raw nerve. And even before it was revealed that the killer was a police officer, it raised profound questions about how the authorities handle incidents of violence against women and galvanized a national movement demanding better protections.

But the harrowing details of the abduction, rape and murder of Ms. Everard, 33, were only laid out publicly for the first time on Wednesday during the sentencing hearing for the officer, Wayne Couzens. Mr. Couzens, who worked for the Metropolitan Police, pleaded guilty to her killing earlier this year.

The prosecution on Wednesday called Mr. Couzens’ actions an attack of “deception, kidnap, rape, strangulation, fire.”

Tom Little, a prosecutor, told London’s Central Criminal Court how Mr. Couzens had gone hunting for a lone young woman and had used his official police credentials, equipment and training to carry out the crime.

Entrusted with protecting the public, Mr. Couzens instead used his position of authority to lure Ms. Everard to her death.

The prosecution described how Mr. Couzens confronted Ms. Everard on March 3 in South London as she walked home from a friend’s house and conducted “a false arrest” for breaching lockdown guidelines, to get Ms. Everard into his car.

He then raped and strangled her, before setting her body alight. Ms. Everard’s remains were found near Ashford in Kent. Only days after that discovery, Mr. Couzens took his family on an outing to the same Kent woods, “allowing his children to play in relatively close proximity to where Sarah Everard’s body had been dumped,” Mr. Little said.


Sarah Everard. The crime set off a national movement as women shared their own stories of harassment on the streets.Credit…-/Agence France-Presse, via Metropolitan Police/Afp Via Getty Images

Mr. Couzens had worked on Covid patrols a few months earlier, the prosecutor told the court, giving him an understanding of the protocols regarding potential lockdown breaches.

A witness in a passing vehicle saw what was happening and noted that it looked abnormal, but thought it was just a police officer detaining a woman “who had done something wrong,” the prosecutor told the court.

Chilling footage from surveillance cameras showed the interaction between Ms. Everard, where she complied with Mr. Couzens’ demand to get into the car, as she most likely believed she was being arrested.

Rights groups reacted with outrage to the new information.

The Women’s Equality Party said the abduction in this manner was “a disgusting abuse of power,” and called for an independent inquiry into sexism in the Metropolitan Police force and for violence against women and girls to be treated as a national threat.

“Women cannot be expected to trust the police when we have to live with the fear of this,” the party said in a statement. “Misogyny is steeped in our institutions.”

Stella Creasy, a member of Parliament from the opposition Labour Party, said in a post on Twitter that London’s Metropolitan Police “must now respond to the loss of confidence in the police so many women will feel as a result with a clear plan of action as a matter of urgency.”

Many have also been critical of the failure by the police to investigate allegations of other sexual offenses by Mr. Couzens before the murder of Ms. Everard, including reports that he exposed himself in public days before the attack.

On Wednesday, London’s Metropolitan Police posted a statement ahead of the sentencing hearing acknowledging that Mr. Couzens’ “actions raise many concerns.

“We are sickened, angered and devastated by this man’s crimes which betray everything we stand for,” the police said in a statement.

Ms. Everard was reported missing by her boyfriend the day after being abducted, when she failed to return home. Soon a missing persons poster spread on social media.


Crowds gathered in London’s Parliament Square in March to call for an end to violence against women and girls after Ms. Everard’s death.Credit…Mary Turner for The New York Times

The urgency over her disappearance soon turned to grief and then anger after her body was found.

The crime set off a national movement as women shared their own stories of harassment on the streets and accounts of sexual violence, calling for action to address the issue of women’s safety.

It spurred street protests in the midst of the lockdown, with demonstrators calling for systemic changes to the way the police handle crimes against women.

The fact that Mr. Couzens was a police officer only intensified the public anger over Ms. Everard’s death. He could face up to life in prison for his crimes.

Britain’s reckoning with violence against women was again cast into the spotlight this month after the killing of Sabina Nessa, a 28-year-old elementary schoolteacher who was attacked during what should have been a five-minute walk to meet a friend. Many drew parallels between her death and Ms. Everard’s six months earlier.

In July, after Ms. Everard’s murder and other instances of fatal violence against women, the British government announced a new strategy to tackle this type of violence. The measures included proposed harsher penalties for offenders and increased policing of public spaces.

After Ms. Everard’s death and subsequent protests against policing, Priti Patel, the home secretary, commissioned a report from an independent watchdog group to review the policing response to violence against women and girls.

The report, released this month, called for a “radical change of approach across the whole system involving the police, criminal justice system, local authorities, health and education.”

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