A serving Diplomatic Protection Officer with the Metropolitan Police has tonight been charged with the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard.
Wayne Couzens, 48, was charged with kidnapping and killing the marketing executive, 33, who went missing while walking home from a friend’s flat in south London on March 3.
He is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court tomorrow.
In a statement, Rosemary Ainslie, head of special crime at the Crown Prosecution Service, said: ‘Following a referral of evidence by the Metropolitan Police related to the death of Sarah Everard, the CPS has authorised the police to charge Wayne Couzens with murder and kidnapping.’
The Met Police said Couzens joined the force two years ago in September 2018 when he worked for a response team covering the Bromley area, before moving to the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command in February last year.
Couzens, who is part of the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command, is accused of abducting marketing executive Sarah as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, last Wednesday.
She was last seen on a doorbell camera at the junction of Poynders Road and Cavendish Road at 9.30pm on March 3 after crossing through Clapham Common.
On her way home, Miss Everard had spoken to her boyfriend Josh Lowth, 33, on the telephone and arranged to meet the next day. She was reported missing after friends and family were unable to reach her.
Earlier today, Scotland Yard confirmed that human remains found in an area of woodland in Ashford, Kent, two days earlier had been identified as Miss Everard.
Charged: Wayne Couzens, 48, has been charged with the kidnap and murder of Ms Everard
Metropolitan police have put up a forensics tent and sealed off the garage previously owned by the Couzens family which backs onto the tunnels now being searched by specialist officers today
Police officers are carrying out fingertip searches of an area of grass land behind the suspect’s house in Deal today
Metropolitan Police officers removed their hats in respect alongside funeral directors with the Private Ambulance carrying the remains found in Hoad’s Wood near Ashford in Kent left the area
Forensic officers removed a Ducati Scrambler motorbike from the home of Ssrah Everard suspect Wayne Couzens today
The BCB garage where Wayne Couzens worked is close to Dover’s network of military tunnels running through the cliffs above the docks. Woodland near Ashford where they found remains
Met referred to police watchdog FIVE TIMES over disappearance of Sarah Everard and the arrest of their own officer over her kidnap and murder
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) started an investigation last night into the Met’s handling of the Sarah Everard case and allegations relating to the prime suspect Wayne Couzens.
There are five referrals in total, these are:
Referral 1: Whether two Met officers responded appropriately to a report that Wayne Couzens, 48, allegedly exposed himself twice at a south London McDonald’s on February 28 – three days before Sarah Everard vanished.
Status: The IOPC has launched an investigation
Referral 2: The actions of the police after they received a report of Miss Everard’s disappearance on March 3.
Status: IOPC is considering whether to launch an investigation
Referral 3: A police conduct referral about Couzens relating to his arrest for the alleged kidnap and murder of Miss Everard.
Status: The IOPC has determined the matter should be investigated by the MPS.
Referral 4: A police conduct referral about Couzens in relation to the alleged indecent exposure he has been arrested for.
Status: The IOPC has determined the matter should be investigated by the MPS.
Referral 5: Police care for Couzens in custody after he was taken to a hospital for treatment yesterday to a head injury sustained while in custody in a cell alone. He was being monitored by CCTV at the time.
Status: IOPC is considering whether to launch an investigation.
The heartbroken family of Sarah yesterday paid tribute to the marketing executive, describing her as a ‘shining example to us all’.
Speaking outside Scotland Yard, Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said Miss Everard’s family had been told this ‘most distressing news’.
He said: ‘As you know, on Wednesday evening detectives investigating the disappearance of Sarah Everard discovered a body secreted in woodland in Kent.
‘The body has now been recovered and formal identification procedure has now been undertaken. I can now confirm that it is the body of Sarah.’
He said his ‘thoughts and prayers, and those of the entire organisation’ remain with Miss Everard’s family ‘at this awful time’.
He added: ‘Specialist officers remain in constant contact with Sarah’s family, and will continue to support them throughout the investigation and beyond.
‘That investigation continues at a pace and we have hundreds of officers working round the clock to establish the full circumstances of Sarah’s disappearance, and her murder.’
In a statement released after the charge was confirmed tonight, the Metropolitan Police shared further employment information about Couzens for ‘clarity’ in the face of these ‘exceptional events’.
Couzens joined the force in September 2018, and was first posted to South Area where he joined a response team covering the Bromley area.
He then moved to the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command last February, where his primary role was on uniformed patrol duties of Embassies.
Detectives investigating Couzens were today combing a network of military tunnels in the White Cliffs of Dover which run underneath his family’s former garage.
Officers are also searching his home and garden in Deal and the woodland near Ashford where Sarah’s body was found on Wednesday.
Couzens was arrested at his home on Tuesday on suspicion of murder, kidnap and a separate allegation of indecent exposure towards another woman.
A woman in her 30s who was arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender has been released on bail to return to a police station on a date in mid-April.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said his arrest on Tuesday had sent ‘waves of shock’ through the force.
She was today seen making reassurance patrols on Clapham Common, near to where Miss Everard vanished.
The Couzens’ former garage is on the White Cliffs above the Port of Dover, which is full of tunnels dating back centuries
The military tunnels in Dover and the Fort on Western Heights of Dover, England, also being looked at by police today
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
An aerial view of the Couzens’ garden today complete with a pool apparently covered over by investigators
Scotland Yard is facing an investigation by the police watchdog into its handling of separate allegations of indecent exposure against Couzens.
He was alleged to have twice exposed himself at a south London fast food restaurant on February 28, three days before Misss Everard went missing.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct is to probe whether two officers ‘responded appropriately’ in their investigation.
The Met said: ‘On 28 February the Met created a crime report in relation to two separate indecent exposure incidents at a fast food restaurant in south London.
‘It would be inappropriate to comment further given the IOPC investigation.’
The incident is one of five complaints sent to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) by the Met.
Josh Lowth, 33, is the boyfriend of missing Sarah Everard, the woman seen walking between Clapham Junction and Brixton. The couple spoke for around 15 minutes on the phone before Sarah’s disappearance
The vigil was planned for Saturday in memory of marketing executive Sarah Everard, who disappeared while walking home to Brixton on March 3
Scotland Yard and the IOPC are not commenting on whether officers attended the incident or spoke to Couzens, who continued to work as an armed marksman afterwards.
The Met Police officer served in the territorial army in Kent in the 2000s before joining the police and guarding embassies in London until his arrest on Tuesday.
Couzens served with the 3rd battalion, the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment reservists, from 2002 to 2004, which has its HQ in Canterbury, and is where he first handled guns.
He is reported to have ‘excelled at a battalion-run driving course’ for both civilian and military vehicles and passed the course with ‘flying colours achieving Top Student status’.
Miss Everard is understood to have walked through Clapham Common towards her house in Brixton ahead of her disappearance on March 3 – a journey which should have taken around 50 minutes.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick joins police officers at Clapham Common as part of reassurance patrols, after a body found hidden in woodland in Kent was identified as that of Miss Everard
A serving Metropolitan Police officer, who is aged in his 40s, remains in custody on suspicion of kidnapping and murdering the marketing executive and detectives have been granted more time to question him
Passersby leave tributes and flowers around the Clapham Common bandstand ahead of a planned vigil tomorrow night
People have begun to leave flowers and tributes for Sarah Everard at the Bandstand where they hope to have a vigil tomorrow night
The disappearance of Sarah Everard and the arrest of armed policeman Wayne Couzens
2020/2021: Wayne Couzens is said to have been behaving erratically and had spent a considerable period of time off sick for an unknown issue.
February 28: Couzens allegedly exposes himself in a south London takeaway.
The incident is now being investigated by Britain’s police watchdog. It is not clear if Couzens was arrested, spoken to or of officers even attended the incident at the unnamed restaurant.
But it is known that Couzens continued to work as an armed police officer after the incident.
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’.
4pm: Police later confirm the suspect was treated in hospital for a head injury sustained while in custody, before being returned to a police station.
Ms Everard’s family release a statement paying tribute to her as a ‘shining example to us all’, adding that she ‘brought so much joy to our lives’.
The Met reveals an extension to the suspect’s detention was granted by a magistrates’ court, while the woman arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender is released on bail to return to a police station on a date in mid-April.
6pm: The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) says it has launched an investigation into the Met’s response to a report of indecent exposure following referrals linked to the arrest of the suspect.
The police watchdog says its independent probe follows a ‘conduct referral’ from the force in relation to two officers, and will look at the Met’s actions after it received a report on February 28 that ‘a man had exposed himself at a fast food restaurant in south London’.
Organisers of a vigil for Ms Everard say they are seeking legal action against the Met after claiming the force reversed its position on allowing the event planned for March 13 to go ahead.
March 12: Searches ramp up in the tunnels carved into the White Cliffs of Dover that run around and below Couzens’ family garage.
Teams remain at Couzens’ home in Deal and in woodland near Ashford where human remains were found.
2pm: Scotland Yard confirms the body found in Kent woodland is Sarah. Her family have been informed.
9pm: Wayne Couzens is charged with the murder and kidnapping of Miss Everard.
Her death has prompted an outpouring of grief from the public, with many women and girls sharing stories online of experiencing violence by men.
It has led to the Home Office reopening a public consultation on how to tackle violence against women and girls, with officials considering a proposal for legislation to protect women against public sexual harassment.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: ‘My heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with Sarah, her family and friends at this unbearable time. Many women have shared their stories and concerns online since Sarah’s disappearance last week.
‘These are so powerful because each and every woman can relate.’
Following confirmation that human remains found in woodland on Wednesday are that of Miss Everard, footballer Marcus Rashford sent his well wishes to the family and called on men to ‘play a role’ in ensuring women feel safe.
Rashford said the news was ‘heartbreaking,’ adding: ‘I’m so sorry. This should have never happened.
‘Men we have a role to play. To listen, to protect, and to allow women to feel safe at whatever time of day. I have sisters, nieces… just horrible. I’m sending my love to Sarah’s family’.
The Archbishop of Canterbury also lent his support to women who have suffered ‘the sin of male violence’ in a message of support for Miss Everard.
Justin Welby tweeted: ‘I am heartbroken for the family, partner and friends of Sarah Everard, and all those whose lives she touched. They are in my prayers.
‘May they know the suffering God alongside them in this unimaginable pain.
‘Testimony after testimony from women over recent days have shown us something we have known and ignored for far too long: the profound impact of the sin of male violence, intimidation, harassment, sexism and abuse carried out against women.
‘It is these sins – and the culture that perpetuates and condones them – that need our urgent repentance, our fervent prayer, and our resolute action as men.’
London Mayor Sadiq Khan added: ‘It is devastating news for Sarah Everard’s loved ones that the police have identified her body.
‘My deepest sympathies – and those of all Londoners – are with them.’
It comes as a High Court judge today refused to intervene in a legal battle launched by organisers of a vigil in memory of Sarah Everard.
Reclaim These Streets is planning to host the event in south London on Saturday near to where the 33-year-old went missing.
The group brought urgent legal action at the High Court on Friday in a bid for a declaration that any ban on outdoor gatherings under coronavirus regulations is ‘subject to the right to protest’.
However, Mr Justice Holgate declined to grant the request – in relation to a gathering planned for Saturday – and left it open for talks between the group and the Metropolitan Police to continue.
Scotland Yard later said in a statement that large gatherings could ‘risk undoing all the hard work to reduce the (Covid) infection rate’ and urged people to stay at home rather than attend a vigil.
Despite this, a number of women have said they will attend the London vigil for Sarah regardless of the outcome of discussions with police.
As the hearing got underway in London earlier today, Mr Ephgrave said: ‘I know that the public feel hurt and angry about what has happened, and those are sentiments that I share personally, and I know my colleagues here at Scotland Yard and across the Met share as well.
‘I also recognise the wider concerns that have been raised, quite rightly, about the safety of women in public spaces in London and also elsewhere in the country.
‘I want to say now that this organisation, and the men and women in it, remain committed to protecting Londoners wherever they are in this city.
‘And that commitment is undiminished by these events and if anything that commitment is strengthened by these tragic circumstances.’
Miss Everard’s father Jeremy, 67, a professor of electronics at the University of York, and her mother Susan, 63, travelled down to London to help police in their search soon after Miss Everard went missing last Wednesday.
In a statement they said: ‘Our beautiful daughter Sarah was taken from us and we are appealing for any information that will help to solve this terrible crime.
‘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.
‘We would like to thank our friends and family for all their support during this awful time and we would especially like to thank Sarah’s friends who are working tirelessly to help.’
Steve Lewis, Miss Everard’s head teacher at Fulford School, York, told The Times she was ‘popular and well-liked’ and a ‘lovely, bright, intelligent girl who shone within the school’.
She went on to achieve a 2:1 degree in geography at Durham University in 2008 and moved to London about 12 years ago to pursue her career in marketing.
She took a six-month break in 2013 to travel to South America, spending a month at the carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, before travelling to Iguazu Falls and Buenos Aires, in Argentina.
She supported the Matthew Elvidge Trust, a mental health charity set up in memory of a student who took his own life in 2009.
Miss Everard had just started a new job and was in a relationship with Mr Lowth, a marketing director.