PC Wayne Couzens, 48, this morning admitted murdering Sarah Everard after kidnapping her off the street and raping her in a terrifying ordeal – but the coward refused to explain why he killed her.
The serving Metropolitan Police officer, appearing via video link from HMP Belmarsh, told the hushed Old Bailey he was guilty of deliberately killing her after the abduction and sex attack.
Couzens, who may now face a rare whole life prison sentence, came up with an implausible lie an Eastern European gang had forced him to kidnap her after underpaying a prostitute.
As the Met – whose Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick was in court today – relentlessly pursued its investigation the absurd story was dropped as he realised he could not escape justice.
But despite his new confession, Couzens – a diplomatic protection officer – has still refused to explain why he carried out his crimes, offering brazen ‘no comment’ replies in every police interview. He had even tried to kill himself in custody by running into a wall at the station.
He had meticulously planned the kidnap and hired a car three days earlier and bought a roll of self-adhesive film advertised as a carpet protector on Amazon.
The circumstances of what happened after he took Sarah will not be detailed until a hearing in September, but the court was told investigations have found she was transferred to Couzens’ own car in Kent, which is where he may have carried out the rape.
Carolyn Oakley, CPS Specialist Prosecutor in the Special Crime Division, said: ‘Wayne Couzens lied to the police when he was arrested and to date, he has refused to comment. We still do not know what drove him to commit this appalling crime against a stranger.’
Questions will also be asked over whether the Met could have stopped him after an indecent exposure was reported to it four days before he struck. CCTV footage showed it was Couzens but it was not realised until after he had killed Sarah. The sequence of events are currently under investigation by the Independent Office of Police Conduct.
Sarah was taken as she was walking home through Clapham Common from a friend’s house towards Brixton on March 3.
She had been reported missing by her boyfriend, who she called for around 14 minutes on an approximately 2.5 mile journey home which began at around 9pm.
Hunched over in a grey prison tracksuit, bald and bearded Couzens’ quietly answered ‘guilty maam’ when the charge was put to him by the court clerk.
Tom Little, QC, prosecuting, confirmed today the cop did not ‘and had never met Sarah’ before he abducted her.
Ms Everard’s parents, Jeremy, a professor of electronics at the University of York, and her mother, Susan, were among members of Sarah’s family in court to hear Couzens admit murder today.
The marketing assistant, who grew up in York and lived in London, was seen on a doorbell camera at around 9pm walking along Poynders Road towards Tulse Hill.
CCTV caught her alone at quarter past nine and again at 9.28pm, before she was seen on the camera of a marked police car at 9.32pm.
Then at around 9.35pm, a bus camera captured two figures on the road and a white Vauxhall Astra with its hazard lights flashing.
Footage from another bus caught the same car with both front doors open.
Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, went missing as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham, South London, on March 3
Police today released this mugshot of murderer police officer Wayne Couzens after he admitted the offence this morning
Serving Met Police officer Wayne Couzens (above), 48, from Deal, Kent, had been charged with the kidnap and murder of Miss Everard.
Sarah’s family leave the Old Bailey after a previous hearing where Couzens made two guilty pleas. Her father Jeremy is seen on the left, with her sister Katie can be seen on the right.
A number of areas were searched in Clapham as police tried to look for missing Sarah before they turned the hunt to Kent
The vehicle was later confirmed to have been hired from Dover after police caught its registration number and traced it as it left London for Kent.
Today the court heard investigators are still analysing scientific evidence relating to Wayne Couzens’ own car, into which he transferred Ms Everard from the hire car he used to kidnap her.
They believe it could establish where it was she was raped and murdered by the killer.
Her disappearance saw a major Metropolitan Police investigation launched before her burnt body was found a week later in woodland in Kent.
When the killer first appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on March 13, prosecutor Zoe Martin detailed how the investigation began the day after Ms Everard was last seen.
‘Sarah Everard saw a friend in the Clapham Junction area, on March 3 and bought a bottle of wine.
‘She left that address at about 9pm to come home. Her address was about two and half miles away and a 9.15pm she called her boyfriend for about 15 minutes.
‘That call finished at 9.28pm and there has been no further activity on her phone since then.
Couzens as he served as a police officer before transferring to the Met Police elite unit where he was armed for his duties
Jeremy Everard (second left), the father of Sarah Everard, leaves the Old Bailey, central London, at an earlier hearing
Killer officer was accused of indecent exposure three days before he murdered Sarah
The public reacted with horror when the Metropolitan Police announced that one of their own had been arrested over the death of Sarah Everard.
Wayne Couzens, who is married with children, was a highly trusted member of the force’s Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command.
The armed unit is responsible for guarding the Parliamentary estate, including Downing Street and the Palace of Westminster, as well as embassies in London.
The 48-year-old officer had been accused of indecent exposure in a branch of fast food restaurant McDonald’s three days before Miss Everard died, but was not arrested or taken off duty while the matter was investigated.
A number of separate troubling incidents involving police officers have attracted public attention in recent months.
In June, West Mercia Pc Benjamin Monk was convicted of the manslaughter of former footballer Dalian Atkinson, having kicked the 48-year-old in the head twice after what the judge called an ‘excessive’ 33-second use of a Taser.
In April, former probationary Metropolitan Police officer Ben Hannam, 22, was found guilty of membership of banned right-wing extremist group National Action (NA) and jailed for four years.
He had been with the London force for nearly two years before he was found on a leaked database of users of extreme right-wing forum Iron March and arrested last year.
Hannam, who pleaded guilty to possessing a prohibited image of a child, was also convicted of lying on his application and vetting forms to join the police and having two terror documents detailing knife combat and making explosive devices.
In March, ex-Pc Oliver Banfield, who served with West Midlands Police, was given a curfew and ordered to pay compensation and costs after admitting assault by beating.
‘She was reported missing at 8.10pm on March 4 after she failed to meet her boyfriend as arranged.
‘Investigating officers became involved on Friday March 5. Sarah Everard was captured on CCTV at 9.15pm.
‘The next siting was at 9.28pm and again she was alone.
‘At 9.38pm a bus camera captures two figures standing by a White Vauxhall Astra. One of the figures had lighter clothing and the other darker clothing.
‘Another bus camera also capture the same vehicle. The registration of the vehicle was captured and the police tracked the vehicle using CCTV.’
The Vauxhall drove to Tilmanstone in Kent.
‘The white Vauxhall Astra is a hire car with Enterprise Car Hire in Dover. On 28 February 2021 Wayne Couzens (WC) booked a hire car using his name, address and two different mobile numbers.
‘He paid a deposit using his bank card. WC collected the white Vauxhall Astra seen in the CCTV on Wednesday 3 March 2021 at 16.45 and returned it at approximately 08.30 on 4 March 2021.
‘On investigating the telephone numbers given to Enterprise it is discovered that WC is a serving police officer; it is the same mobile number on his personal records at the MPS.
‘He is currently employed within the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Group and is a trained firearms officer.
‘On 2 March 2021 at 19.00 he started work at his base in Lille Road, West Brompton and worked a 12-hour shift. He then began a period of leave and was not due back at work until Monday 8 March.
‘On 5 March he reported to work that he was suffering with stress. On 6 March he emailed his supervisor to say that he no longer wanted to carry a firearm. On 8 March he reported in sick.’
Couzens was arrested at his home in Deal on 9 March and interviewed but told investigators a pack of absurd lies.
He initially said he ‘did not know Sarah Everard ‘.
‘He then disclosed that he had financial difficulties and he and his family were being threatened by a gang of Eastern Europeans,’ said the prosecutor.
‘He said that 2/3 weeks ago he had underpaid a prostitute (he usually meets them at Hotel Bursten or the Holiday Inn in Folkestone) and a gang with links to this prostitute told him that, as a consequence, he had to deliver them ‘another girl’.
‘They said that if he didn’t, they would harm his family. He also detailed that that the gang had been watching him at his house.
‘He said he kidnapped SE and drove her out of London. When he got between Ashford and Maidstone, he was flashed by a Mercedes Van with Romanian number plates.
Wayne Couzens seen in a court sketch during a previous hearing relating to the case
Sarah’s murder sparked outpouring of grief
Kind, caring and beautiful’, Sarah Everard came to represent women everywhere who feel unsafe on the streets of Britain.
Lockdowns intensified the vulnerabilities of lone women who took to the streets on foot or bicycle rather than risk public transport during the Covid-19 crisis.
On March 3, the 33-year-old marketing executive had picked up a bottle of wine before visiting a friend in Clapham, south London, and later decided to walk two-and-a-half miles home.
The last time her boyfriend, Josh Lowth, spoke to her was in a 14-minute phone call after she set off.
Her route through south London was tracked by CCTV and even a passing police car dashcam – yet none was able stop the unfolding horror.
As a serving police officer, Pc Wayne Couzens might have appeared to her as a trusted figure before the dreadful realisation of his true intent.
After Ms Everard was found dead in woodland in Kent, her family issued a statement, describing her as a ‘shining example’.
They said: ‘Sarah was bright and beautiful – a wonderful daughter and sister.
‘She was kind and thoughtful, caring and dependable.
‘She always put others first and had the most amazing sense of humour.
‘She was strong and principled and a shining example to us all.
‘We are very proud of her and she brought so much joy to our lives.’
Amid the outpouring of shock and grief, women came together to share their experiences and push for more to be done to stem the tide of violence.
‘He pulled into a layby and three Eastern European men got out of the van and took SE.
‘This was between 23.00 and 23.30 on 3 March 2021 and she was still alive and uninjured when he delivered her to the men.
‘He gave a description of the men and a rough indication of the location of the exchange.
‘Police established that WC and his wife purchased a small area of land in 2019.
‘The woodland is off Fridd Lane in Ashford. This together with the phone data which will be briefly summarised, led to the area being designated as a crime scene.
‘At about 16.45 on 10 March 2021 a body was discovered approximately 100 meters away from the area owned by WC. The body was in a large green builders’ bag and deposited in a stream. As referred to, dental records have confirmed that this is the body of SE.’
Couzens had made several recent purchases on Amazon.
On 28 February, the day he booked the hire car, he purchased a roll of self-adhesive film advertised as a carpet protector.
On 5 March Couzens was seen on CCTV at B&Q in Dover purchasing two green rubble bags for £9.94. The transcation is confirmed from his banking records.
On 6 March the officer ordered a two metre by 2 metre tarpaulin and a bungee cargo net. The items were shipped to him the next day.
Ms Everard’s phone has never been found.
Couzens’ mobile was seized but it had been wiped of all data at 7.11pm on March 9.
Earlier in the case’s long history Couzens’ lawyer Jim Sturman QC said: ‘Responsibility for the killing is also admitted.’
During a previous hearing in June via videolink Couzens sat with his head bowed, only repeating ‘guilty sir’ when charges were put to him.
Sarah’s family were in court that day too for the 20-minute hearing and saw him make his pleas.
Today Tom Little, QC, prosecuting, told the court: ‘Before the defendant kidnapped Sarah Everard, he had not previously met her, he did not know her, and did not have direct or indirect contact with her.
‘They were total strangers to each other.’
There was a huge search for Sarah Everard after she went missing after visiting a friend
CCTV footage of Sarah Everard captured earlier on the night she was kidnapped in March
An handout photo made available by the Metropolitan Police of Sarah Everard
Sarah’s death prompted a vigil in her memory to be held in London near where she vanished
Police officers clash with people as they form a gathering in Clapham Common, South London, after the Reclaim These Streets vigil for Sarah Everard was officially cancelled on March 13
Met’s apology over revealing how Sarah died
The Metropolitan Police’s senior investigator in the Sarah Everard murder case has apologised ‘wholeheartedly’ after the force put out a press release revealing her alleged cause of death.
The trial judge, Lord Justice Fulford, criticised the release of the interim findings of the pathologist before the material had been considered by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) reviewing lawyer or the defence.
At a hearing at the Old Bailey on Friday June 4, which members of Ms Everard’s family watched by video link, prosecutor Tom Little QC said the press release had been issued ‘a matter of hours’ after the report was uploaded to the court’s digital case files.
‘The prosecution case will be that she was strangled, there’s no doubt about that. How that came into the public domain is another matter,’ said Mr Little.
‘DCI Katherine Goodwin apologises wholeheartedly to the court and the defence for the fact this press release was issued in terms setting out in very short form the underlying evidence.
‘But this was done before the material had even been considered by the reviewing lawyer, the court and the defence.’
DCI Goodwin sat in court throughout the hearing.
The judge said the Met’s directorate of media and communications ‘was responsible for providing the information to the press’, which had been justified on the ‘basis of transparency’ after repeated requests for an update from the media on Ms Everard’s cause of death.
The court heard the pathologist Dr Ben Swift had not been able to provide a final report until Professor Charles Mangham had reviewed the evidence.
‘This is in fact an interim rather than a final finding which may go to underscore the undesirability of this kind of event taking place,’ said the judge.
Lord Justice Fulford detailed the reporting of the release but did not criticise the press.
He said: ‘Whatever the strict position in law, given this press release came from the Metropolitan Police, it is unsurprising that this material was reported by the press, given the appearance of authorisation that had been created in the way in which this material was provided to the press.
‘I do not therefore in these particular circumstances in any sense criticise the press for what happened.’
Psychiatric reports are yet to be prepared, and Lord Justice Fulford said: ‘This has been a mammoth investigation which has produced some very significant results to establish what happened.
Mr Little said: ‘It was a very swift investigation in which the defendant was identified very quickly given the limited CCTV evidence available to identify the suspect.’
Jim Sturman, QC, for Couzens, said: ‘He has pleaded guilty today based on genuine guilt.
‘He accepts that the victims in this case are Ms Everard’s family and friends, not him.
‘He will bear this burden for the rest of his life and in his words ‘I deserve it’.’
Lord Justice Fulford remanded Couzens in custody ahead of a two day sentence listed to begin on September 29.
The prosecution had objected to bail when Couzens first appeared at the Old Bailey in March over fears he would kill himself.
Mr Little had said: ‘The objections to bail are failure to surrender second a fear of further offending and third remand for the defendants own protection.
‘In relation to a failure to surrender we rely on the gravity of the offences, the strength of the evidence and the substantial media coverage setting out what we submit is a substantial risk that he will try to abscond if granted bail.
‘He obviously has some knowledge having trained as a police officer which might assist him in that regard.
Couzens is a member of the elite Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection squad – a role that entitled him to carry a firearm and a Metropolitan Police warrant card.
Formed in 2015, the unit is responsible for the protection of government owned buildings and embassies as well as ministers and visiting heads of state.
As part of his armed duties protecting MPs and dignitaries, Couzens has provided static security for major public events attended by senior members of the Royal Family.
All police recruits undergo careful vetting to check whether they have a criminal record when they join the force.
To be accepted into the elite Westminster armed unit, officers must face rigorous tests and firearms training.
Scotland Yard has referred itself to the police watchdog over the arrest of its own officer and separately over the force’s actions after Sarah was reported missing.
It was previously revealed she spent a quarter of an hour on the phone making plans to see her boyfriend Josh Lowth the following day, before her mobile was either switched off or ran out of battery.
Mr Lowth, 33, whose LinkedIn says he is Marketing Director at MA Exhibitions, later raised the alarm to police when she failed to meet him as she had arranged, her aunt confirmed.
The disappearance of Sarah Everard and Wayne Couzens’ arrest
– 2019: Wayne Couzens and his wife buy a small area of woodland off Fridd Lane in Ashford, Kent.
– February 28 2021: Couzens books a white Vauxhall Astra from a car hire firm in Dover, Kent, using his personal details and bank card.
He also purchases a roll of self-adhesive film advertised as a carpet protector on Amazon.
– March 2: 7pm – Couzens, who is employed in the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Group, starts a 12-hour shift at his base in West Brompton, west London.
– March 3: On the day of her disappearance, Sarah Everard visits a friend in the Clapham Junction area and uses her bank card to buy a bottle of wine in Sainsbury’s in Brixton Hill, south London, on her way.
4.45pm – Couzens collects the hire car.
9pm – Ms Everard leaves to walk home, some 2.5 miles away.
9.13pm – She calls her boyfriend for a little over 14 minutes.
9.15pm – Ms Everard is captured alone on CCTV at the junction of Bowood Road and the South Circular.
9.28pm – The next sighting is on Cavendish Road and she is still alone.
9.32pm – Ms Everard is caught on the camera on a marked police car.
9.35pm – A bus camera captures two figures on Poynders Road standing beside a white Vauxhall Astra parked on the pavement with hazard lights flashing.
9.38pm – Another bus camera captures the same vehicle with the two front car doors open.
– March 4: 1am – Having travelled out of London, the car is in the Tilmanstone area of Kent.
8.30am – Couzens returns the hire car used in the abduction.
8.10pm – Ms Everard is reported missing by her boyfriend, Josh Lowth.
– March 5: The case is escalated and the Specialist Crime Unit becomes involved.
– Couzens, who is due to be off until March 8, reports to work that he was suffering with stress.
2pm – He buys two green rubble bags for £9.94 at B&Q in Dover.
– March 6: Couzens emails his supervisor that he no longer wanted to carry a firearm.
He orders a tarpaulin and a bungee cargo net on Amazon which are shipped to him the next day.
– March 8: The officer reports in sick on the day he is due to return to work.
– March 9: 7.11pm – Couzens’ phone is wiped of all data.
7.50pm – Couzens is arrested at his home address in Deal, Kent.
– In a brief interview, he tells a story about being threatened by an Eastern European gang.
– March 10: At around 4.45pm, a body is discovered in a wooded area in Ashford, Kent, and later formally identified by dental records. It is around 100 metres from land owned by Couzens.
– March 11: Couzens answers ‘no comment’ in formal interviews.
– March 12: 8.45pm: Couzens is charged.
– July 9: Couzens pleads guilty to murder when he appears at the Old Bailey by video link from Belmarsh high security jail.