Killer policeman Wayne Couzens used Covid laws as a pretence to stop, handcuff and fraudulently arrest Sarah Everard as part of a ‘planned’ kidnapping, the Old Bailey heard today.
Couzens, 48, cuffed the 33-year-old’s hands so she could not undo the seatbelt before driving 80 miles to rape and murder her, the prosecution said.
After the atrocity, he stopped at a BP station to buy a Lucozade, water and apple juice, before taking the marketing executive’s body to a patch of rubbish-strewn woodland to set on fire.
Couzens had finished his shift with an elite diplomatic protection unit hours before he pounced on Ms Everard as she walked home from a friend’s flat in Clapham, south London, the Old Bailey heard.
Ms Everard was described by a former long-term boyfriend as ‘extremely intelligent, savvy and streetwise’ and ‘not a gullible person. He said he could not envisage her getting into a car with someone she did not know ‘unless by force or manipulation.
Prosecutor Tom Little QC said Couzens knew Covid regulations and may have used the fact Ms Everard had been to dinner at a friend’s house as an excuse to stage and arrest.
‘He had carried out Covid shift and was aware of the regulations – he was to use that knowledge to kidnap Sarah Everard,’ Mr Little said.
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.
Father-of-two Couzens was a firearms officer in the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command. He was over £29,000 in debt at the time of the murder and had been using prostitutes, the Old Bailey heard.
He has admitted kidnap, rape and murder and will receive his sentence after a two-day hearing.
Couzens with his head bowed in an artist’s impression sketching during the sentencing hearing at the Old Bailey today
Ms Everard’s boyfriend Josh Lowth arrives for the sentencing of her killer, policeman Wayne Couzens at the Old Bailey this morning
As Couzens watched in the Old Bailey with his head bowed, the court heard horrific details of the serving police officer’s deceit and Sarah’s final hours before she was raped, murdered and burned in a pre-meditated attack that was weeks in the planning:
- Prosecution say five words summarise what PC Wayne Couzens did to Sarah Everard: ‘Deception, kidnap, rape, strangulation, fire’;
- Friends in Deal said Couzens was regularly seen wearing his police belt with handcuffs and pepper spray, when not on duty, and he lied that he was an undercover police officer;
- In December 2020 he joined Match.com and said he had no wife and children. He also signed up to an escort agency;
- In January 2021, Couzens worked on COVID patrols and ‘used this knowledge’ to kidnap his victim, who he stopped after doing laps of west and south-west London on the night of March 3, 2021;
- On February 10 he bought a ‘police standard issue handcuff key with double locking pin’ from Amazon, which he used on his police-issue cuffs to detain Sarah Everard and force her into his hire car;
- On February 28, Couzens booked a hire car online from Enterprise and ordered a 100m roll of carpet protector film from Amazon, used to line the boot where he eventually kept Sarah’s body;
- He had told his wife that he was working a night shift when he grabbed Sarah – in fact he was off duty and cruising the streets looking for a victim;
- A couple driving past witnessed the kidnapping. Couzens using his warrant card and handcuffs to make a false arrest. They believed she had ‘done something wrong’ so didn’t intervene;
- A former boyfriend said Sarah was ‘extremely intelligent, savvy and streetwise’ and would never get into a stranger’s vehicle ‘unless by force or by manipulation’, which is exactly what Couzens did;
- Sarah was driven 80 miles to the Kent coast, where she was raped and murdered after a five-hour ordeal;
- In 2019 Wayne Couzens bought plot of woodland in Hoads Wood near Ashford. He bragged it was ‘perfect for day trips’ – but it’s where he burned Sarah’s body and dumped it in bags in shallow water.
‘Fake arrest’ over Covid lockdown rules that Couzens used an excuse to handcuff and kidnap Ms Everard
Wayne Couzens accused Sarah Everard of breaking lockdown rules to make a ‘fake arrest’, the Old Bailey heard today.
The policeman used his handcuffs and warrant card to snatch Ms Everard as she walked home from visiting a friend in Clapham, south London, on the evening of March 3.
The sexual predator, who had clocked off from a 12-hour shift that morning, went on to rape and strangle the 33-year-old marketing executive then set fire to her body.
A week after she disappeared, Ms Everard’s remains were found in a woodland stream in Ashford, Kent, just metres from land owned by Couzens.
CCTV footage showed Couzens raising his left arm holding a warrant card before handcuffing Ms Everard and putting her into the hire car.
A passenger in a passing car witnessed the kidnapping but mistook it for an arrest by an undercover officer, the court heard.
A woman on the pavement appeared to have her left arm behind her back and was in the process of ‘giving her other arm behind her back’ as a man in dark clothing handcuffed her, according to the witness.
Mr Little said: ‘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’.
‘They were in fact 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 affect a false arrest.’
Couzens (left) kidnapped, raped and murdered Ms Everard (right) in depraved crime after he had finished his shift
Below is a summary of today’s hearing in the order it was heard in court:
‘Deception, rape, strangulation and fire’
Sarah Everard was the victim of ‘deception, kidnap, rape, strangulation, fire’, the Old Bailey heard at the start of her murderer’s sentencing.
Wayne Couzens, 48, was a serving PC with the Metropolitan Police when he snatched Ms Everard as she walked home in Clapham, south London, on the evening of March 3.
The sexual predator, who had clocked off from a 12-hour shift that morning, went on to rape and strangle the 33-year-old marketing executive.
The disappearance of Sarah Everard and Wayne Couzens’ arrest
March 3: Sarah disappeared after leaving a friend’s home in Clapham at around 9pm. She leaves out of her friend’s back gate and speaks to her boyfriend on the phone for 15 minutes.
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.
11.59pm: Met police officer Wayne Couzens arrested in Kent on suspicion of kidnap.
A week after she disappeared, Ms Everard’s body was found in a woodland stream in Ashford, Kent, just metres from land owned by Couzens.
Prosecutor Tom Little QC said: ‘The defendant’s plot of land is very close to, and in the same woods, that he was to burn Sarah Everard’s body after he had murdered her.
‘He then moved her body in green bags that he had purchased specifically for that task to a pond deeper into the woods but which was only about 130 metres from his plot.’
The firearms-trained parliamentary and diplomatic protection officer wiped his phone just minutes before he was arrested at his home in Deal, Kent, on March 9.
The killing prompted national outrage and sparked protests over the rate of violence against women.
In July, Couzens pleaded guilty to Ms Everard’s murder, kidnap and rape by video link from jail.
Today, he came face to face with his victim’s family when he was brought into the dock of the Old Bailey for the start of his sentencing.
Opening the facts, Mr Little said the disappearance of Ms Everard was one of the most widely publicised missing person investigations the country has ever seen.
After her body was discovered in woodland, it became summarised by the hashtag ‘she was just walking home’, he said.
But that did not completely describe what happened to Ms Everard, the court heard.
Mr Little said: ‘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 more appropriate to do so as deception, kidnap, rape, strangulation, fire.’
Ms Everard: ‘Extremely intelligent, savvy and streetwise’
Ms Everard was described by a former long-term boyfriend as ‘extremely intelligent, savvy and streetwise’ and ‘not a gullible person’, the court heard.
He said he could not envisage her getting into a car with someone she did not know ‘unless by force or manipulation’, said the prosecutor.
Mr Little said Couzens worked on Covid patrols in late January this year, enforcing coronavirus regulations, so would have known what language to use to those who may have breached them.
Couzens was said to be wearing his police belt with handcuffs and a rectangular black pouch, similar to a pepper spray holder, when he kidnapped Ms Everard.
Mr Little said he snatched Ms Everard in a ‘false arrest’, by ‘handcuffing her and showing his warrant card’.
The prosecutor said he must have taken her mobile phone from her and removed the sim card, which he tried to destroy.
Ahead of the start of the two-day sentencing, Scotland Yard released a statement which read: ‘We are sickened, angered and devastated by this man’s crimes which betray everything we stand for.
‘Our thoughts are with Sarah’s family and her many friends. It is not possible for us to imagine what they are going through.
‘We recognise his actions raise many questions and concerns but we will not be commenting further until the hearing is complete.’
CCTV footage of Sarah Everard captured earlier on the night she was kidnapped in March, sparking a nationwide hunt
Killer was in debt for £29,000, rowed with the Met over pay, had a fake Match.com profile, and used escorts
Couzens was in debt to the tune of £29,000 at the time of the killing, the Old Bailey heard.
Mr Little told the Old Bailey: ‘In relation to finances at the material time his bank accounts were generally overdrawn only being brought into credit for short periods either by wages paid in and/or the use of short term payday loans.
‘He had a total debt of just under £29,000 with a number of financial institutions, which were the subject of a debt management plan agreed in Oct 2020 with a debt management company, Payplan, with agreed monthly repayments of £235.
‘As at March 2021, the defendant also had a credit card account with NatWest which was in debt (£3460.70); and a PayPal credit card account which was also in debt (£1580.27); both of which had debt payment plans in place to make minimum monthly payments.’
Couzens was involved in a dispute with the Met over his pay,’ Mr Little said, adding: ‘He talked freely to colleagues about this, and the fact that he was hoping to obtain legal assistance in the near future. He had not discussed any other financial problems with colleagues.
‘Most of his colleagues had the impression that he was a ”family man’.’
The court also heard how Couzens had been paying for sex with escorts and had a Match.com profile under a fake name.
Mr Little said: ‘In early February 2021, the defendant was in contact with an escort with username ”escourtbabygirl” through the Adult Work Escort Service.’
Couzens bought a rubbish-strewn plot of woodland where he burned Sarah’s body
The Old Bailey heard that Couzens and his wife had bought a plot of woodland by Ashford, Kent.
Mr Little said: ‘The defendant’s plot of land is very close to, and in the same woods, that he was to burn Sarah Everard’s body after he had murdered her.
‘He then moved her body in green bags that he had purchased specifically for that task to a pond deeper into the woods but which was only about 130 metres from his plot,’ said Mr Little.
PC worked on ‘Covid patrols’ and ‘knew the language used to tackle offenders’
In January this year Couzens was working in ‘Covid patrols’ and was aware of coronavirus regulations and the language used on those who may have breached them, the Old Bailey heard.
Mr Little said that he had ‘arrested’ and handcuffed Ms Everard for a breach before raping and murdering her.
He said: ‘These were uniform Covid patrols in which the Covid regulations were enforced. The defendant undertook a couple of such shifts.
‘He was therefore aware of the regulations and what language to use to those who may or may not have breached them, if speaking to them. He was to use that knowledge to kidnap Sarah Everard.’
Ms Everard’s death sparked an outpouring of grief, outrage and a series of protests at the rate of violence against women
Couzens carried handcuffs around while not on duty
Members of the public had noticed Couzens wearing his police belt when not on duty, with a pair of handcuffs and black pepper spray holder.
‘This is the type of equipment that it can be inferred that the defendant was wearing when he kidnapped Sarah Everard,’ said Mr Little.
He continued: ‘It was not unusual for officers on PaDP to take personal protective and other equipment (including body armour and handcuffs) home with them from the Lillie Road base – they were required to undertake frequent training, at a number of different locations, to which they would travel directly.
‘For convenience, they would often take home the kit needed.
‘Two members of the public had independently noticed seeing the defendant when he was not on duty wearing his Police belt with handcuffs and a rectangular black pouch (similar to a pepper spray holder) attached to it (whilst out in Deal walking his dog; and when attending a local computer hardware repair shop in the town).
‘This is the type of equipment that it can be inferred that the defendant was wearing when he kidnapped Sarah Everard.
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.
‘It is instructive that in relation to the incident in the repair shop that when the owner asked the defendant jokingly if he was ‘into kinky stuff’ when he referred to the handcuffs that were visible on the defendant’s belt. The defendant said ‘I am an undercover police officer’.
‘As he said that the defendant chuckled but then opened his jacket a little more to reveal his Police issue kit.’
Murderer’s final shift before the murder – guarding the American Embassy
Couzens worked his last shift from 7pm on March 2 to 7am the next day. It was a posting at the American Embassy.
Mr Little said: ‘That evening the defendant discussed the possibility of leaving the Metropolitan Police because of the pay dispute and depending on the outcome he might go off sick with stress.
‘This was meant to be the start of his period of five rest days, from Wednesday Mar 3 at 7am to Mar 8 at 7am, when he was due to return to Lillie Road for a training day.’
The next day he had a sick day but lied to his family, saying he was working another night shift.
At this point his wife sent a message to his mother saying: ‘Wayne had a call for overtime shift tonight. I wondering if you could pick children from school tomorrow, would you?’.
Couzens journey to ‘hunt a lone young female to kidnap and rape’
After his final shift, Couzens drove back to his home in Kent in his own car, a Seat.
After leaving home, Couzens picked up a Vauxhall Crossland hire car that he had booked on February 28.
Describing his appearance, Mr Little said: ‘The defendant was wearing a black puffa-style jacket with a Barbour logo on the breast pocket, a dark blue hooded jumper with a yellow lining in the hood, a dark baseball cap with a white Polo logo on the front, light-grey trousers and black and white trainers.’
During his journey back to London, Couzens was captured on CCTV purchasing a pack of 14 hair bands in a Tesco, which was a ‘significant’ purchase and part of his plans.
He proceeded to drive the car around in central and south London, crossing the river twice.
‘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,’ Mr Little said.
Ms Everard’s movements on the night she was abducted and the final phone call to her boyfriend
Ms Everard had worked the day of March 3 at home, and planned to go to a friend’s house near Clapham Junction to have dinner.
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.
‘Her boyfriend went round to her flat but got no answer,’ Mr Little said. ‘He started to make enquiries with the hospitals and emergency services, and reported Sarah as missing to the police.
‘He also made enquiries with other friends and family, but nobody had heard from her all day.’
A number of areas were searched in Clapham as police tried to look for missing Sarah before the hunt moved to Kent
Missed chance to stop horror as couple witness kidnapping – but are reassured he was an undercover police officer
The kidnap happened on Poynders Road (A205), with Couzens travelling in the same direction as Ms Everard.
In chilling CCTV footage, 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.
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.
‘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.
‘At some point fairly soon after driving from the pavement onto the South Circular and having not gone to a police station for example, Sarah Everard must have realised her fate.’
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.
Kidnapping took ‘just five minutes’ – as harrowing video shows Ms Everard in the back of Couzens’ car
The court heard Ms Everard’s kidnapping took less than five minutes.
Harrowing CCTV footage from a private car then showed the marketing executive in the back of Couzens car.
‘A nearside rear-facing camera shows a figure in the rear passenger seat (behind the driver),’ Mr Little said.
‘This was plainly Sarah Everard. A figure was also sitting in the driver’s seat. This was the defendant.’
Ms Everard was handcuffed at about 9.34pm, detained in Couzens’ hire car by 9.37pm and they were on their way to Kent a minute later, Mr Little said.
Couzens switches cars into car and takes Ms Everard to a rural area to rape her
The court was shown CCTV of the defendant’s hire vehicle in Dover shortly after 11.30pm as he transferred his victim to his own car, a Seat.
Couzens then drove to a remote rural area north-west of Dover which he knew well where he parked up and raped Ms Everard.
Between 1.03am and 2.43am, Couzens returned to central Dover with Ms Everard still in his Seat.
Mr Little said the CPS ‘simply can’t say whether it was approximate to the rape or in the hour or two after that’ that Ms Everard was murdered.
With victim’s body in the boot, Couzens buys a Lucozade, hot chocolate and a Bakewell tart
The court heard the prosecution could not pinpoint the exact time Ms Everard was killed.
However, Mr Little said that she must have been dead by around 2.30am when Couzens pulled into a BP service station in Dover to buy a Lucozade, apple juice, two bottles of still water and a carrier bag.
He visited Hoads Wood near Ashford twice during in the early morning, leaving just before sunrise.
The court heard he was to return to the area later the following day two more times.
At 8.15am on March 4, Couzens was captured on CCTV in a Costa Coffee shop in Dover buying a hot chocolate and bakewell tart.
He went on to return the Vauxhall hire car having driven just over 300 miles.
There was a huge search for Sarah Everard after she went missing after visiting a friend before her remains were found in Kent
Couzens throws Ms Everard’s phone into the sea before returning home
Later that morning (March 4), Couzens threw Ms Everard’s mobile phone into a channel at Sandwich, only for it to be retrieved by a diver as part of a search of the waterway.
After disposing of the phone he returned home, where he stayed all day.
During the day a local dental surgery phoned to cancel an appointment for his two children. He was calm and accepting of this on the phone, Mr Little said.
At around 12.45pm, a local man was driving past Hoads Wood in Ashford where he saw a ‘strong, intense flame’ around three-foot square.
‘This is consistent with the location where the defendant burnt Ms Everard’s body, clothing and possessions using the petrol he had purchased earlier that day,’ Mr Little said.
Killer phones vet to speak about his dog before dumping Ms Everard’s body and ‘allowing his children to play near it’
Having burnt Ms Everard’s body, clothing and possessions inside a refrigerator, Couzens went on to call the vet about his dog.
In the call played in court, Couzens explained that his pet had ‘separation anxiety’.
He then bought builders bags at a B&Q in Dover before returning to the woods.
Mr Little said: ‘Whilst in the woods 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.
‘He did so using the two bags that he had just purchased from B&Q.’
Mr Little added that Couzens ‘allowed his children to play in relative close proximity to where Sarah Everard’s body had been dumped in a pond’.
Couzens hands in his Met firearms permit
On the evening of March 6 – a Saturday – Couzens emailed the following to his supervisor.
The court heard this read: ‘Sgt, at this moment in time I feel unable to carry firearms. The stress of my payroll situation is causing me financial implications, I feel totally mislead and disillusioned by the way I have been recruited and the lack of measures to find a solution from HR.
‘I have been totally honest from the outset all through my application to present. I have provisionally made an appointment with my GP to seek advice. I thought I was in a good place after returning from injury however, this is not the case and I feel more of a liability due to the current situation I find myself in. I will keep you updated throughout.’
Police released this mugshot of murderer police officer Wayne Couzens after he admitted the offences early this year