LONDON – A police officer who pleaded guilty to the murder of Sarah Everard in London earlier this year used the false pretext that she was violating Covid-19 regulations to kidnap her before raping and killing her, has a prosecutor said at a London courtroom on Wednesday.
Her kidnapping and murder in March galvanized a national movement demanding better protections for women, but the heartbreaking details of how the officer, Wayne Couzens, used his credentials, gear, and police training to commit the crime were first detailed publicly during his sentencing hearing.
The prosecution described Mr. Couzens’ actions as an attack of “deception, kidnapping, rape, strangulation, arson”.
When Ms Everard was kidnapped on March 3, Britain was in the midst of a nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Movement of people was restricted and regulations were often enforced by local police.
Tom Little, a prosecutor, described in court how Mr Couzens confronted Ms Everard in south London as she was on her way home from a friend’s house and made a “false arrest” for breaking laws. locking instructions, to get Mrs. Everard into her car.
Mr. Couzens, who was a diplomatic protection officer with the metropolitan police, used his warrant card – a kind of police identity card – before holding her in handcuffs and then fleeing, according to the prosecutor. .
His remains were discovered seven days later in a wooded area near Ashford in Kent, about 60 miles from London.
Mr Couzens had worked on Covid patrols a few months earlier, the prosecutor told the court, giving him an understanding of the protocols regarding potential lockdown violations.
A witness passing in a vehicle saw what was going on and noted that it looked abnormal, but thought it was simply a police officer detaining a woman “who had done something wrong”, said the prosecutor in court.
CCTV footage showed Ms Everard complied with Mr Couzens’ request to get into the car as she most likely believed she was being arrested.
Rights groups have reacted indignantly to the new information.
The Women’s Equality Party said the kidnapping in this manner was “a disgusting abuse of power” and called for an independent investigation into sexism in the Metropolitan Police and violence against women. and girls be treated as a national threat.
“Women cannot be expected to trust the police when we have to live with the fear of it,” the party said in a statement. “Misogyny is ingrained in our institutions.
Many have criticized the failure of the police to investigate allegations of other sexual offenses committed by Mr Couzens before Ms Everard’s murder, including reports that he exposed himself in public in the days leading up to the attack .
The London Metropolitan Police on Wednesday released a statement ahead of the sentencing hearing acknowledging that “Mr Couzens’ actions raise many concerns.
“We are sickened, angry and devastated by the crimes of this man who betray everything we stand for,” police said in a statement.
Ms Everard was reported missing by her boyfriend the day after her kidnapping, when she failed to return home, and soon a missing persons poster spread on social media.
The urgency of his disappearance quickly turned to grief and then anger after the discovery of his body.
The crime sparked a nationwide movement as women shared their own stories of street harassment and tales of sexual violence, calling for action to address the issue of women’s safety.
This sparked street protests amid the lockdown, with protesters calling for systemic changes in the way police deal with crimes against women.
The fact that Mr Couzens was a police officer only heightened public anger over Ms Everard’s death. He could face life in prison for his crimes.
In July, following the murder of Ms Everard and other cases of deadly violence against women, the UK government announced a new strategy to tackle this type of violence. The measures included tougher penalties proposed for offenders and increased policing of public spaces.
After Ms Everard’s death and subsequent protests against the police, Home Secretary Priti Patel commissioned a report from an independent watchdog to examine the police response to violence against women and girls.
The report, released this month, called for a “radical change in approach across the system involving the police, the criminal justice system, local authorities, health and education.”