The police watchdog is investigating the Met after it emerged murder suspect Wayne Couzens continued to work as an armed officer for three days after an allegation of indecent exposure was made.
Couzens, 48, was arrested late on Tuesday on suspicion of the kidnap and murder of marketing executive Sarah Everard, 33, and indecent exposure to a second unnamed victim.
The Metropolitan Police tonight confirmed an investigation has been launched into whether officers responded ‘appropriately’ to the report of indecent exposure, which was received by Scotland Yard days before Sarah vanished.
Couzens – an armed Metropolitan Police officer based in Westminster – is alleged to have exposed himself at a fast food restaurant in south London on February 28.
It is understood he continued working following the incident and had been on shift at the US Embassy in Battersea shortly before Miss Everard’s disappearance on March 3.
The US Embassy last night refused to comment on the claim, telling MailOnline: ‘We were shocked and saddened to hear the news of Sarah Everard’s disappearance. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends during this difficult time.’
Sources told The Daily Mail the allegation may not have reached ‘command level’ so colleagues were unlikely to be aware of it, meaning he was able to continue working as an armed officer right up until his arrest.
The Met arrested one of its own officers, Wayne Couzens (left), on suspicion of murder and kidnap following the disappearance of Sarah Everard. The police watchdog has confirmed it is investigating Scotland Yard’s handling of an indecent exposure allegation reported three days before the 33-year-old vanished
Sarah Everard was last seen walking home through Clapham at around 9.30pm on March 3. On Wednesday police discovered human remains in Ashford, Kent
The force made a voluntary referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), who have determined the matter will be subject to an independent probe.
The IOPC said an investigative team will seek to establish how the indecent exposure allegation against Couzens was handled by the Metropolitan Police.
The Met also made a mandatory referral to the IOPC after Couzens was rushed to hospital for treatment when he sustained a head injury while in a cell alone.
A statement added the suspect was being monitored by CCTV at the time, and had received immediate first aid after being found unconscious in Wandsworth Police Station.
Couzens – an armed Metropolitan Police officer based in Westminster – is alleged to have exposed himself at a fast food restaurant in south London on February 28
Sources say an allegation of indecent exposure made against Couzens may not have reached ‘command level,’ so colleagues were unlikely to be aware of it, meaning he was able to continue working as an armed officer around London right up until his arrest. File photo
It is understood he was taken to Accident and Emergency at St George’s Hospital in Tooting at around 8pm yesterday before being returned to custody.
Police have refused to comment on whether or not the injuries were self-inflicted, but Met sources said it is not expected any arrests will be made.
‘The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has started an independent investigation into whether Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officers responded appropriately to a report of indecent exposure,’ the IOPC said tonight.
‘The IOPC’s investigation follows a conduct referral from the MPS in relation to two officers, received last night, which is linked to four other referrals.
‘They are all connected to the arrest of a serving MPS officer on suspicion of kidnap, murder and a separate allegation of indecent exposure.
‘Our investigation will look at the actions of the MPS after police received a report on February 28 that a man had exposed himself at a fast food restaurant in South London.
MailOnline has pieced together Sarah’s final movements as it was claimed that Couzens was working at the US Embassy on the day she vanished
Police forensic officers visit the home the home of prime suspect Wayne Couzens today as the investigation continues
A private ambulance at the scene of Hoad’s Wood near Ashford in Kent this afternoon as the investigation continues
Police officers and private ambulance workers at the scene of the 500-acre Hoad’s Wood near Ashford this afternoon
‘Yesterday we determined that two conduct referrals relating to kidnap/murder and indecent exposure allegations against the arrested officer should remain under local investigation by the force.
‘We are still assessing a mandatory referral in relation to the actions of police after they received a report that Sarah Everard was missing.
‘A fifth mandatory referral was received from the MPS today in relation to police contact with the arrested officer who was treated in hospital after sustaining a head injury while in custody yesterday afternoon.
‘That referral is also being assessed to determine what further action may be required from us.’
The Metropolitan Police added in a statement: ‘Following the arrest of a police officer, the Metropolitan Police Service made two referrals, one mandatory and one voluntary, to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
‘These were linked to the conduct of the officer arrested on suspicion of kidnap, murder and indecent exposure.
‘The IOPC has determined both these matters should be locally investigated by the MPS.
Police search woodland in Ashford near Kent today (pictured) where human remains were found. Officers say they are not yet able to say if the remains are Sarah Everard’s
Police have today expanded their presence at the site in Ashford where human remains were found last night, including a mobile HQ (pictured being dropped into place) and a diving unit
A Metropolitan Police van and a private ambulance at the scene of the woods near Ashford in Kent this afternoon
‘We also made a mandatory referral in relation to the actions of police after Sarah was reported missing. We await the IOPC’s assessment.
‘A further voluntary referral was made for a conduct matter in relation to the police investigation into the separate allegations of indecent exposure. The IOPC have determined this will be subject to an independent IOPC investigation.
Couzens today remains in custody at a London police station after an application to extend his detention was granted at Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court.
A woman in her 30s, who was arrested at the same time on suspicion of assisting an offender, has been released on bail to return to a police station on a date in mid-April.
Couzens tonight remains in custody at a London police station after an application to extend his detention was granted at Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court
Officers from the Metropolitan Police laid flowers at the gates of the disused golf course and sports centre close to the woodland where remains feared to be Sarah’s have been found
It was claimed on Thursday that Couzens worked a 2pm to 8pm shift at the US embassy on the day his alleged victim disappeared.
The building he was guarding is less than three miles from where Miss Everard was last seen at 9.30pm as she walked home to Brixton on March 3.
The US Embassy has refused to comment on the claim, telling MailOnline: ‘We were shocked and saddened to hear the news of Sarah Everard’s disappearance. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends during this difficult time.
‘We do not comment on issues related to Embassy security.’
Met Commissioner Cressida Dick revealed on Wednesday that human remains were found in the week-long search for Miss Everard in woodland near Ashford, but said identification may take ‘considerable time’ – a strong hint that the body found is in a very poor state.
Met Police operations will continue at the woods and in Deal for the rest of the week.
A Kent Police spokesman said: ‘Over the next few days, the Met Police will continue to carry out activities across the area whilst their enquiries progress.’
Two officers in an unmarked Land Rover were said to have been watching the house Couzens shares with his wife in Deal, Kent, for two hours before 20 police sprinted in from around the corner to arrest him six days after his alleged victim vanished.
Police had swooped over something they saw on CCTV on a London bus that passed Sarah as she walked towards Brixton, according to the Daily Telegraph, who said he was working in the hours before his arrest.
A car – thought to be a hire vehicle – was reportedly picked up on a motorist’s dashcam near to the spot where Sarah disappeared last Wednesday.
The disappearance of Sarah Everard: the week-long investigation so far
March 3: Sarah vanished ‘into thin air’ after leaving friend’s home Clapham around 9pm. She leaves out of her friend’s back gate and speaks to her boyfriend on the phone for 15 minutes.
Around three miles away Wayne Couzens finishes a 6-hour shift guarding the US Embassy in Battersea.
March 5: Sarah’s family share missing posters of her after they become increasingly concerned that she is still not home, spreading the word online with links to the Missing People charity.
March 6: Met Police release an appeal, saying Sarah was thought to have walked through Clapham Common, heading towards Brixton home, a journey of 50 minutes. They say they are not certain she ever arrived home.
March 7: Police release footage of Ms Everard and say she was walking alone on A205 Poynders Road towards Tulse Hill when she was last seen on CCTV, which has not been released to the police.
March 8: Specialist officers are drafted and 120 calls from public come in. A door-to-door operation sees police speak to 750 families
March 9: Police search gardens near Ms Everard’s route and nearby Oaklands Estate.
Officers also search a pond in Clapham Common and drains along the A205
Cordon around the Poynders Court housing complex on Poynders Road, forensics officers on scene
11.59pm: Met police officer Wayne Couzens arrested in Kent on suspicion of kidnap. A 39-year-old woman at the same address is arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender.
Neighbours say they spotted a Land Rover containing two men watching the property for two hours before around 20 officers raided the house.
A shirtless Couzens was led from the house in handcuffs with one witness saying: ‘He looked very calm – just walked out’.
March 10: Specialist police search team arrives in Kent. They search Couzens’ home and garden as well as nearby Betteshanger Park which is around two-and-a-half- miles from the house as well as an abandoned leisure complex in Great Chart near Ashford.
3pm: Met Police confirm the arrested man is an officer in the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command. They disclose he has now been re-arrested on suspicion of the murder of Sarah Everard and the indecent exposure of a second woman. They refuse to say when or where the alleged indecent exposure took place.
8pm: Dame Cressida Dick confirms human remains were found in woodland in Ashford, Kent in the search for Sarah. She was unable to confirm whether the remains belonged to the missing woman.
March 11: 10am: Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was ‘shocked and deeply saddened by the developments in the Sarah Everard investigation’, adding: ‘We must work fast to find all the answers to this horrifying crime’.
Home Secretary Priti Patel added: ‘Every woman should feel safe to walk on our streets without fear of harassment or violence. At this deeply sad and tragic time as we think and pray for Sarah and her family’.
It is claimed Couzens was working at the American Embassy in Battersea on the day Miss Everard disappeared.