Killer cop Wayne Couzens was “hunting for a lone young female to kidnap and rape” when he spotted Sarah Everard walking home, a court has head.
The 48-year-old of Deal, Kent, has already admitted to murder, kidnap and rape at a previous hearing.
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.
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
“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.”
The court heard that Couzens then drove Ms Everard to Dover, Kent, handcuffed into the back of the hire car.
Prosecutors said he moved her into his own Seat car, before driving her into a remote, rural area near Dover.
It was there that he raped her and likely murdered her, before he pulled into the BP petrol station at 2.30am.
Couzens was in debt to the tune of £29,000 at the time of the killing and had been paying for sex with escorts.
The ex-cop joined the force in 2018, covering the Bromley area after he was transferred from the Civil Nuclear Constabulary at Dungeness nuclear power station.
Married to Ukrainian-British scientist Elena Couzens, he was a member of the Army Reserve, serving the 3rd battalion, the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment, for two years from 2002.
Couzens initially denied knowing Ms Everard, telling officers he had only seen her in the news, before changing his story when pressed.
“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.”
This has been refuted by the police and the CPS.
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.’”
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 Sarah vanished, and a similar indecent exposure claim in Kent in 2015.
Couzens, of Freemen’s Way, Deal, admitted kidnap, rape and murder.
The sentencing hearing continues.