LONDON (AP) — A serving London police officer was sentenced Thursday to a whole life sentence for the kidnapping, rape and murder of a woman in a case that shocked the nation.
Wayne Couzens, 48, was accused of using his police identification and COVID-19 laws to trick 33-year-old Sarah Everard into his car in a false arrest as she walked home from visiting a friend in south London on March 3. Prosecutors said he handcuffed Everard on the pretext that she broke lockdown rules, drove her far outside the capital and then raped and killed her.
Couzens had pleaded guilty to the charges of abduction, rape and murder.
Justice Adrian Fulford said the circumstances of the case are “devastating, tragic and wholly brutal.” He said Couzens went “hunting a lone female to kidnap and rape,” having planned the crime in “unspeakably” grim detail.
Everard’s body was found in woodland in Ashford, Kent, about 60 miles (nearly 100 kilometers) southeast of London, a week after she went missing. Prosecutors said Couzens strangled her before setting fire to the body.
Couzens joined the Metropolitan Police in 2018 and had worked as part of a team protecting diplomatic locations in central London. He had worked an overnight shift at the U.S. Embassy on the day he kidnapped Everard.
The Metropolitan Police has said it was “sickened, angered and devastated” by how one of its own was responsible for the crime.
In the aftermath of Everard’s killing, many questions were raised about trust in police and how police vet their officers. Some also criticized Scotland Yard for not doing enough to protect women and girls and tackle allegations of sexual violence.
After Couzens’ arrest, it emerged that he had been accused of indecent exposure at least twice years before he murdered Everard, and police is being investigated over whether the allegations were dealt with properly.