Sarah Everard’s killer “shook” in the dock as he was handed a rare whole-life sentence by Britain’s top court over the kidnapping, rape and murder of the 33-year-old.
The serving British Met Police officer, Wayne Couzens, kidnapped Everard as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, on March 3. The judge described his actions as “wholly brutal”.
The 48-year-old falsely arrested her on the pretence of breaching coronavirus restrictions, before raping and murdering her and using his family as cover to help him hide her body.
Her murder outraged the nation and sent shockwaves across the globe, with the judge saying Couzens had “eroded the confidence that the public are entitled to have to the police force in England and Wales.”
Couzens was sentenced to a whole life order at the Old Bailey criminal court in central London, the first police officer to receive such a sentence.
In the UK, prisoners rarely serve full term life sentences except for an exception to the rule — a “whole life order”.
The sentence, described a “rare” by experts, means Couzens will never be released from prison. There will be no chance for parole.
Lord Justice Fulford defended his ruling, saying the circumstances were “exceptionally high”, describing Everard’s final moments “as bleak and agonising as it is possible to imagine”.
“The misuse of a police officer’s role such as occurred in this case in order to kidnap, rape and murder a lone victim is of equal seriousness as a murder for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause,” he told the Old Bailey.
The judge described the case as “devastating, tragic and wholly brutal” before handing down the sentence, telling Couzens: “You betrayed your family and there’s no evidence of genuine contrition”.
The killing, he said, was “grotesque”, describing Couzens’ “warped, selfish and brutal offending which was both sexual and homicidal”.
'Shaking' killer 'kept his head down'
According to the BBC’s Lucy Manning, Couzens “kept his head down as he has throughout his time in the dock” as the sentence was handed down but said he was “shaking” as the Everard family looked on.
“After he was sentenced, police officers who investigated the murder hugged the Everard family,” she writes.
“But as her parents and sister said yesterday – all they want is Sarah back and no punishment will ever compare to the pain and torture Couzens inflicted on them.”
On the night of the murder, Couzens had finished a 12-hour shift at the American embassy where he served with the elite diplomatic protection unit .
Prosecutor Tom Little had earlier told the court Couzens went “hunting for a lone young female to kidnap and rape”.
Security camera footage showed him holding up the police ID, handcuffing Everard then putting her into a car he had hired “to kidnap and rape a lone woman”, he said.
A couple driving past in a car witnessed the scene but assumed an undercover police officer was making an arrest, the lawyer added.
Everard was handcuffed just after 9.30pm that night, before Couzens drove to Dover, on the English south coast.
There, he transferred her to his own car — which was captured on camera, driving her to a remote rural area where he raped her.
Her burnt remains were found in a remote forest a week after she vanished from London.
In a statement before the sentence, the Metropolitan Police said it was “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.”
A senior investigator on Everard’s case, former DCI Simon Harding, stold Sky News it would be “something that will stay with me for the rest of my life”.
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