A serving British police officer kidnapped a girl as she walked dwelling, handcuffing her in a false arrest for breaking coronavirus restrictions, earlier than raping and murdering her, a court docket was informed on Wednesday.
The disappearance of Sarah Everard throughout a nationwide lockdown in March was one in all Britain’s most high-profile lacking particular person investigations and sparked protests and a debate about ladies’s security on the streets.
Wayne Couzens, 48, who served with the elite diplomatic safety unit of London’s Metropolitan Police, admitted her kidnapping, rape and homicide in July.
Everard, who had been visiting a pal in Clapham, south London, was strangled then set on fireplace, together with her stays present in woodland every week after she was snatched.
At a two-day sentencing listening to, prosecutor Tom Little mentioned Couzens focused the 33-year-old advertising government on March 3, and accused her of breaking coronavirus guidelines.
Couzens, who was off-duty however carrying his police belt, kidnapped Everard in a “false arrest”, by “handcuffing her and showing his warrant card”, he added.
Safety digicam footage confirmed him holding up his warrant card after which handcuffing Everard earlier than placing her right into a automobile he had employed “to kidnap and rape a lone woman”, he mentioned.
A pair driving previous in a automobile additionally witnessed this, and assumed an undercover police officer was making an arrest, the lawyer added.
However he mentioned Couzens exploited his information and expertise of police patrols implementing lockdown restrictions and knew what language to make use of.
– ‘Susceptible’ –
A former boyfriend had given proof that Everard was “savvy and streetwise” and wouldn’t have gotten right into a automobile with a stranger besides “by force or manipulation”, he added.
“The fact she had been to a friend’s house for dinner at the height of the early 2021 lockdown made her more vulnerable to and more likely to submit to an accusation that she had acted in breach of the Covid regulations in some way,” the lawyer informed the court docket.
Couzens sat within the dock at London’s Outdated Bailey together with his head bowed, watched by members of Everard’s household, because the choose thought of whether or not handy him a whole-life jail time period.
The sentence was on account of be introduced on Thursday.
Earlier than the listening to, the Metropolitan Police mentioned in an announcement: “We are sickened, angered and devastated by this man’s crimes, which betray everything we stand for.”
The power has sacked the officer and mentioned his actions “raise many questions and concerns” however it could not remark additional till after the sentencing.
Demonstrators exterior the court docket held banners with slogans criticising the police corresponding to “Met Police Blood On Your Hands” and let off smoke flares.
The federal government has pledged to enhance laws after Everard’s homicide sparked widespread anger at ladies’s lack of security in public areas.
In July, the inside ministry mentioned it could improve the at present low numbers of perpetrators delivered to justice for offences together with rape, home abuse, stalking and sexual harassment and work with police to “more effectively respond to street harassment”.