Wayne Couzens sentencing: Everything we know from Sarah Everard killer court hearing

Wayne Couzens is being sentenced at the Old Bailey for the murder, kidnap and rape of Sarah Everard in March. These are the key points to come out of the court hearing.

Serving police officer Wayne Couzens has been sentenced to a whole-life term for subjecting Sarah Everard to “deception, kidnap, rape, strangulation, fire”.

The 48-year-old of Deal, Kent, had already admitted to murder, kidnap and rape at a previous hearing.

Lord Justice Fulford handed him a whole-life order - the first police officer to receive this sentence.

Couzens abducted the marketing executive from Clapham, south London, on March 3 and then rape and murder her in his car.

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Ms Everard’s body was found a week later, more than 50 miles away, hidden inside a green builder’s bag in a stretch of woodland in Ashford, Kent on March 10.

Her parents, Jeremy, a professor of electronics at the University of York, and her mother, Susan, were among members of Sarah’s family in court.

Sarah Everard was described by a former long-term boyfriend as “extremely intelligent, savvy and streetwise.”

Key points

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What was Wayne Couzens sentenced to?

Killer cop Wayne Couzens has been sentenced to a whole-life tarriff, which is the longest prison term that British judges can give.

This means is highly likely that he will die behind bars, and never be released.

Couzens is the first police officer to receive such a prison sentence, and it is the same jail term which serial killers such as the Yorkshire Ripper received.

What the judge said?

Lord Justice Fulford called Ms Everard a “wholly blameless victim of a grotesquely executed series of offences’ ending in her death and disposal of her body”.

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“Her state of mind and what she had to endure over a journey of 80 miles and during the final hours of her life, would have been as bleak and agonising as it is possible to imagine,” he said.

‘Ultimately, she was raped and strangled to death,’ he added.

The judge said that one of the issues he needed to decide is whether a police officer abusing his office in this way falls under the exceptionally serious circumstances that merit a a whole life order.

“In my judgment the police are in a unique position, which is essentially different from any other public servants,” he told Couzens.

“They have powers of coercion and control that are in an exceptional category.

“In this country it is expected that the police will act in the public interest.

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“Indeed, the authority of the police is to a truly significant extent dependent on the public’s consent, and the power of officers to detain, arrest and otherwise control important aspects of our lives is only effective because of the critical trust that we repose in the constabulary, that they will act lawfully and in the best interests of society.

“If that is undermined, one of the enduring safeguards of law and order in this country is inevitably jeopardised.

“In my judgment, the misuse of a police officer’s role such as occurred in this case in order to kidnap, rape and murder a lone victim is of equal seriousness as a murder carried out for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause.”

He told Couzens: “You have irretrievably damaged the lives of Sarah Everard’s family and friends, in the ways to which I have, at least in part, referred.

“You have eroded the confidence that the public are entitled to have in the police forces of England and Wales.

“I have seen no evidence of genuine contrition on your part as opposed to evident self-pity and attempts by you to avoid or minimise the proper consequences of what you have done.”

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What the prosecutor said in court

Prosecutor Tom Little, QC, told the Old Bailey: “Sarah Everard’s disappearance on the evening of March 3 2021 led to one of the most widely publicised missing person investigations this country has seen.

“That is true. Sarah Everard was only walking home when she was taken off the street from her family, friends and colleagues by the defendant on the evening of March 3 2021.

“However, those five words do not fairly or completely begin to describe what happened to her and her body at the hands of the defendant in the hours and days that followed her kidnap.

“Whilst it is impossible to summarise what the defendant did to Sarah Everard in just five words, if it had to be done then it would be appropriate to do so as deception, kidnap, rape, strangulation, fire.”

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What Sarah Everard’s family said

“I can never talk to her, never hold her again, and never more be a part of her life. We have kept her dressing gown - it still smells of her and I hug that instead of her.

“Sarah died in horrendous circumstances. I am tormented at the thought of what she endured.

“It is too painful to contemplate a future without Sarah, so I just live in the here and now. I think of Sarah all the time, but the mornings and evenings are particularly painful.

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“In the morning I wake up to the awful reality that Sarah is gone. In the evenings, at the time she was abducted, I let out a silent scream: ‘Don’t get in the car, Sarah. Don’t believe him. Run!’

“I am repulsed by the thought of Wayne Couzens and what he did to Sarah. I am outraged that he masqueraded as a policeman in order to get what he wanted.

“Sarah wanted to get married and have children, now all that has gone. He took her life and stole her future and we will never have the joy of sharing that future with her.

“Each day dawns and I think, Sarah should be here, leading her life and embracing new experiences. She had so many years ahead of her.

“I don’t know how anyone could be so cruel as to take my daughter’s life. What I do know is that Sarah will never be forgotten and is remembered with boundless love.

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“I cling on to memories of Sarah, I hold them tight to keep them safe. The other night, I dreamt that Sarah appeared at home. In my dream I held her and could feel her physically.

A sign saying “SHE WAS JUST WALKING HOME 97%” among the flowers and candles on Clapham Common for Sarah Everard. Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images

“Jeremy was there, we were comforting her, saying: ‘It’s alright Sarah, it’s alright.’ I would give anything to hold her once more; I hope I dream that dream again.”

Her voice shaking, Ms Everard’s sister Katie told Couzens: “Look at me. You treated Sarah as if she was nothing. Placed more emphasis on satisfying your sick disgusting perversions than on a life. Her life.

“You disposed of my sister’s body like it was rubbish. Fly-tipped her like she meant nothing. She meant everything.

“We weren’t even halfway through our journey and you took it all away! I feel like I live in a make-believe world. As if nothing is real.

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“I have to pretend because the thought of not having Sarah forever is too hard to bear.

“A lifetime now seems a very long time. I should never have to write a eulogy for or bury my little sister. There is no punishment that you could receive that will ever compare to the pain you have caused us.

‘We can never get Sarah back. The last moments of Sarah’s life play on my mind constantly. I am so disgusted and appalled. It terrifies me that you have such disregard for a person’s life.

“You have taken from me the most precious person. And I can never get her back.”

While Ms Everard’s father Jeremy said: “The impact of what you have done will never end. The horrendous murder of my daughter, Sarah, is in my mind all the time and will be for the rest of my life.

“A father wants to look after his children and fix everything and you have deliberately and with premeditation stopped my ability to do that.

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“Sarah was handcuffed and unable to defend herself. This preys on my mind all the time.

“I can never forgive you for what you have done, for taking Sarah away from us.”

A timeline of Sarah Everard’s murder. Credit: Mark Hall

What happened to Sarah Everard

Sarah, 33, left a friend’s home in the Clapham Junction area on March 3 at around 9pm for a walk of two and a half miles to her flat in nearby Brixton.

She was wearing bright clothes, a face mask and a hat.

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After leaving her friend’s house, Ms Everard made a 14-minute call to her boyfriend, sounding “in good spirits” and “not intoxicated”.

They made plans to meet later that week and ended the conversation normally, with Ms Everard intending to walk home through south London, something she did routinely.

“That call that the last that her family, friends and colleagues heard from her,” said the prosecutor.

After failing to text a friend she was home safe and missing a work meeting the following day, Ms Everard’s loved ones frantically attempted to find her and her boyfriend reported her missing.

Artist impression of Wayne Couzens with his head bowed during the sentencing hearing at the Old Bailey, London. Credit: Julia Quenzler / SWNS

How did Wayne Couzens abduct her?

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The father-of-two had finished his shift with an elite diplomatic protection unit hours before he pounced on the marketing executive as she walked home from a friend’s flat in Clapham, south London, on March 3.

He rented a hire car, and proceeded to drive around central and south London, crossing the river twice, the court heard.

“We say circular route taken by the defendant as well as the areas in which he was driving are consistent with the defendant looking for, indeed hunting for a lone young female to kidnap and rape, which is precisely what he did,” said prosecutor Tom Little QC.

Eventually the killer cop came across Ms Everard, 33, walking home from Clapham to Brixton, along the South Circular, the court heard.

CCTV footage of Sarah Everard on March 3 as she walked along Poynders Road towards Tulse Hill in south London shortly before she went missing. A police officer from London's diplomatic protection force has been arrested on suspicion of her murder (Picture: Metropolitan Police/AFP via Getty Images)

Covid rules

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In chilling CCTV footage shown to the court, Couzens is seen driving behind Ms Everard before stepping out of the car and standing a few feet apart from her.

“We can see the left hand of the defendant come towards Sarah Everard as though he was showing her something, we say the warrant card, and afterwards he must have handcuffed her,” said Mr Little.

The Old Bailey heard that a couple driving past the scene saw Couzens in the process of handcuffing Ms Everard, before leading her towards the hire vehicle.

“The immediate impression the passenger formed was that she was witnessing an undercover police officer arresting a woman, whom she assumed ‘must have done something wrong’,” said Mr Little

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“They were witnessing the kidnapping of Sarah Everard.

“She was detained by fraud. The defendant using his warrant card and handcuffs as well as his other police issue equipment to effect a false arrest.

“Having handcuffed her to the rear she would not have been able to undo the seatbelt that the defendant must have placed over her.

“That was the start of her lengthy ordeal including an 80 mile journey whilst detained which was to lead first to her rape and then her murder.”

Sarah Everard's murder in London prompted fresh safety calls.

When was she murdered?

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Couzens drove from south London to Dover with Ms Everard handcuffed in the back of his hire car, the court heard.

He travelled to where he had parked his own vehicle before moving the victim from one car to another.

“In order to have done so and without her escaping or trying to escape or make a noise it can properly be inferred that he, at least, must have threatened her,” said Mr Little.

Couzens drove Ms Everard in his Seat to a remote rural area in Dover which “he knew well”, the prosecutor said..

“This is the area we say that Sarah Everard must have been raped, and must have been raped inside the Seat vehicle,’ said Mr Little.

The court heard it was impossible to pinpoint the exact moment the killer cop strangled Ms Evarard to death because he refused to tell investigators.

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But Mr Little said she was “likely already been murdered” when Couzens stopped at a BP at 2.30am on March 4, and doing so while she was alive and likely to make noise would have been “foolhardy”.

A post-mortem examination determined that her cause of death was strangulation.

“The defendant informed the psychiatrist that he strangled Sarah Everard using his belt,” Mr Little said.

Couzens drove the his car into the wooded area of Hoads Wood in Fridd Lane, leaving it for a while before returning to it, the court heard.

Disposing of evidence

After returning the hired car, the heard Couzens drove to Sandwich where he tried to dispose of the first piece of evidence by throwing Ms Everard’s mobile phone into a flood relief channel.

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The killer then went back to the house he shared with his wife and two children pretending he was just back from a regular night shift, prosecutors said.

After rescheduling his children’s dental appointments to free up his day, he drove back to Hoad’s Wood where he disposed of Ms Everard’s body, stopping along the way to buy a can full of petrol.

Prosecutors say that is when he must have set fire to her body, clothing and other evidence inside a refrigerator.

A witness in the area on March 5 noticed a ‘strong, intense’ flame which did look like a typical woodland fire.

That afternoon Couzens bought two large builder’s bags from a B&Q before driving back to where he had left Ms Everard’s remains, the court heard.

“Whilst in the wood he must have moved Sarah Everard’s heavily burnt body from where he had set fire to it to the pond where she was subsequently found,” Mr Little said.

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“He did so using those two bags he had just purchased from B&Q.”

Police arrest

Police investigating Ms Everard’s disappearance saw the white Vauxhall he used to kidnap her in bus camera footage, which in turn led them to identifying Couzens.

When officers checked with Enterprise Car Hire, they were horrified to find the man who had booked it out was Couzens, a serving police officer.

They attended his address on March 9 and arrested an unresisting Couzens on the suspicion of the kidnap of Ms Everard, the court heard.

The Old Bailey heard Couzens initially denied knowing Ms Everard, telling officers he had only seen her in the news, before changing his story when pressed.

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“The defendant paused and then said he was ‘in financial sh*t’ and that he had been ‘leant on’ by a gang to pick up girls and give them to them,” Mr Little said.

“He had initially refused but when they threatened to take his family and use them instead he felt he had no choice but to comply.”

The court heard that Couzens was in more than £29,000 of debt at the time of his arrest.

Artist impression of Wayne Couzens with his head bowed during the sentencing hearing at the Old Bailey, London. Credit: Julia Quenzler / SWNS

Couzens’ lies

Couzens proceeded to spin a fantastical tale to the officers in answer to their questions, the court heard.

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He claimed an Eastern European gang started pressuring him after he attempted to “rip off” one of their call girls, demanding he “aimlessly and at random” drive around to find a woman for them.

The court heard the fictitious traffickers supposedly threatened to harm his family if he didn’t provide him a victim, and he felt he had “no choice” but to snatch Ms Everard and hand her over to them.

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

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

He claimed he had evidence of that communication in his mobile phone, but when officers examined it they found it had been wiped clean by Couzens.

The Old Bailey heard that at the police station, Couzens declined to provide samples of his DNA, saying it was on advice from his solicitor.

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When asked how he had sustained “visible scratch marks to his head” he blamed them on his dog, the prosecutor said.

Police watchdog investigation

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has served 12 notices for allegations of misconduct to police officers investigating matters against Couzens before Sarah’s murder.

The matters relate to failed investigations into Couzens allegedly exposing himself in a McDonald’s restaurant in south London on February 28, just three days before the murder and a similar indecent exposure claim in Kent in 2015.

Three officers have been served with gross misconduct notices while the IOPC investigate claims a probationary Scotland Yard officer shared an inappropriate graphic on social media before manning the cordon around the scene of the search for Ms Everard.

There is also an ongoing investigation into police officers in multiple forces allegedly sharing inappropriate messages related to Couzens’s prosecution.

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One officer has been served with a gross misconduct notice, while six other officers have been served with misconduct notices.