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Evil policeman Wayne Couzens faces dying behind bars after pleading guilty to the murder of Sarah Everard as members of her family looked on in court.
Couzens had already admitted kidnaping and raping the 33-year-old marketing manager, who he snatched from the street in Clapham, South London, earlier this year.
He lied to police during the investigation, claiming an Eastern European gang had forced him to kidnap Sarah, and has refused to tell detectives why he killed her.
England's police watchdog is probing claims that Kent Police failed to investigate an incident of indecent exposure in 2015, as well as allegations the Met Police failed to probe two claims of indecent exposure days before Sarah was killed.
Couzens, a 48-year-old sexual predator from Deal, Kent, may face a whole life prison sentence after he entered his guilty plea to her murder with his head bowed and spoke in a whisper.
A police mugshot of killer and rapist Wayne Couzens, 48, who has pleaded guilty to murder
He appeared at the Old Bailey by video link from Belmarsh jail wearing a light blue sweater and khaki trousers, as five of Sarah's family members attended the brief hearing in packed court 12.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick was also present in the courtroom and later confirmed she apologised to Sarah's family on Friday.
Prosecutor Tom Little QC told the court: “Before the defendant kidnapped Sarah Everard on the South Circular on March 3 this year, he had not previously met her, he did not know her and had no direct or indirect contact with her.
“They were total strangers to each other.”
The court heard that investigators are still analysing scientific evidence relating to Couzens’ own car, into which he transferred Sarah from the hire car he used to kidnap her.
“That may seek to establish where it was that Sarah Everard was raped and where she was murdered," said Mr Little.
Sarah Everard's parents previously paid tribute to her as a "wonderful" daughter" who had "brought so much joy to our lives"
Jim Sturman QC, defending, said: “His pleas today represents a truly guilty plea and remorse for what he did and, as he put it to us this morning, he will bear the burden for the rest of his life – his words: ‘as I deserve’.”
Speaking of the probe into the murder, Lord Justice Fulford said: “This has been a mammoth investigation which has produced some very significant results in terms of being able to understand what happened.”
He set a two-day sentencing from September 29 for a murder that caused shock and outrage across the UK.
Before adjourning the case, the judge discussed legal precedents for whole life sentences.
Couzens, who had clocked off from a 12-hour shift, abducted Sarah in a hire car as she walked home from a friend's house in Clapham at around 9pm on March 3.
She spent time chatting with her boyfriend, Josh Lowth, by mobile phone on the way. He reported her missing the following day after she failed to return to her home in Brixton.
Couzens appeared at the Old Bailey by video link from Belmarsh jail
After snatching Sarah off the street, Couzens went on to rape and strangle her, and dump her body in a builder's bag 70 miles from Clapham.
It can now be reported that the firearms-trained parliamentary and diplomatic protection officer made several trips to the area in the days after the murder.
He had made a number of purchases on Amazon after the killing including a roll of self adhesive plastic, a tarpaulin and a bungee cargo net.
Couzens, who joined the Met Police in 2018, was also seen at B&Q two days after the murder buying two rubble sacks.
Prosecutor Zoe Martin told Westminster Magistrates' Court in March how Sarah left her friend at approximately 9pm to walk home to Brixton, around two and a half miles away.
Following a fifteen minute call to her boyfriend that finished at 21.28 there was no further activity on her phone which had not been recovered, Ms Martin said.
Ms Everard caught on camera before she disappeared
Sarah was reported missing when she failed to meet her boyfriend as arranged the day after she set off on her two-and-a-half mile journey home.
Police soon established that she was captured on CCTV at a junction with the A205, South Circular at 9.15pm on March 3. At that point she was alone and there was no evidence that she was being followed.
A camera attached to a passing marked police car captured her walking alone at 9.32pm, just moments before she was approached by Couzens.
At 9.35pm a bus camera caught two figures on Poynders Road standing beside a white Vauxhall Astra which was parked on the pavement with its hazard lights flashing.
One person, thought to be Sarah, was wearing light clothing and the other, believed to be Couzens, wore a dark outfit.
At 9.38pm another bus camera captured the same vehicle but this time the two front car doors were open.
The Astra was tracked using CCTV and ANPR cameras heading out of London and into Kent.
At 1am it was seen in the Tilmanstone area, a few miles from his home in Deal.
Couzens had hired the Vauxhall Astra from an Enterprise car hire in Dover the previous Sunday using his name, address and two different mobile numbers.
He paid a deposit using his bank card and collected the Astra on the Wednesday afternoon. He had also bought a roll of self-adhesive film days before the murder.
On the day he abducted Sarah, he had just come off a 12-hour night shift.
He then began a period of leave and was not due back at work until Monday March 8.
Police carry out an investigation in a woodland in Ashford, Kent, after Sarah's body was found
Two days after the murder he told bosses that he was suffering from stress.
The next day he emailed his supervisor saying that he no longer wanted to carry a firearm and he later reported in sick. On March 8, the day he was due on duty, he reported in sick.
Couzens was arrested at his home in Deal two days later – and 39 minutes after he wiped data from his mobile phone – after police viewed the dash cam footage of the Astra and traced it to him.
In a police interview, Couzens concocted an elaborate story and claimed to be having financial problems.
He said he had got into trouble with a gang of Eastern Europeans who threatened him and his family.
A gang demanded he deliver “another girl” after underpaying a prostitute a few weeks before, he said.
A forensics officer carries out an investigation at Couzens' home in Deal, Kent
(Image: Phil Harris)
He kidnapped Sarah, drove out of London and handed her over to three Eastern European men in a van in a layby in Kent, still alive and uninjured, Couzens claimed.
Detectives later discovered that Couzens and his wife had purchased land in 2019 near Ashford in Kent.
This, together with phone data, led to the area being designated as a crime scene.
At about 4.45pm on March 10 a body was discovered approximately 100 metres away from the plot owned by Couzens.
The remains dumped in a stream inside a large green builders’ bag were identified as Sarah’s by dental records.
He answered no comment to questions when interviewed formally and was charged on March 12.
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Even though Couzens’ phone had been wiped, cell site data linked him to the abduction and the area where Sarah was eventually found.
Not only was his device located there in the early hours of March 4 but also in the days leading up to his arrest.
The killing has sparked protests at the rate of violence against women, and led to the group Reclaim These Streets being formed.
Police were criticised over the manhandling of women at a Clapham Common vigil for Sarah, which was attended by the Duchess of Cambridge. Dame Cressida resisted calls to resign.
Speaking following Friday's hearing, she confirmed she had apologised to Sarah's family earlier in the day, telling them “how very sorry I’m am for their loss, for their pain and their suffering”.
After the murder, Sarah's parents Jeremy, 67, and Sue, 64, paid tribute to a "wonderful" daughter" who had "brought so much joy to our lives".
Ms Everard's death prompted outrage across the country
Dame Cressida said the Metropolitan Police was “sickened, angered and devastated" by Couzens' crimes.
She added: “Sarah was a fantastic, talented young women with her whole life ahead of her and that has been snatched away. She was hugely loved and she will be sorely missed by so many people."
The Met said a review confirmed Couzens passed vetting processes and there was no information available to the force at the time that would have changed the vetting decision when he transferred to the force from the Civil Nuclear Constabulary in September 2018.
Couzens was not subject to any misconduct proceedings when he was a member of the force, a statement added.
His first posting was with a Safer Neighbourhood Team in the South Area before joining a response team covering Bromley in February 2019.
He then moved to the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command in February 2020 where his primary role was to patrol diplomatic premises, mainly embassies, the Met said.
Police used dogs to search land in Ashford near to where Sarah's body was found
A spokesperson said: "Couzens stopped being paid as a police officer immediately following his earlier guilty pleas. This was as soon as legally possible. Internal misconduct procedures are now being progressed."
England's police watchdog is probing claims that two police forces had failed to investigate allegations of indecent exposure involving Couzens, including one in 2015 and two just days before Sarah was murdered.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said on Friday it had served 12 officers from several forces with gross misconduct or misconduct notices with multiple investigations ongoing.
One gross misconduct notice and six misconduct notices relate to a probe into allegations officers from “a number of forces” breached standards of professional behaviour by sharing information linked to the prosecution of Couzens via a messaging app.
Gross misconduct notices have been served to three officers over an investigation into a probationary Met Police constable who allegedly shared an inappropriate graphic relating to the Sarah Everard case with officers over social media before subsequently manning the cordon at the scene of the search for her.
Hundreds of people turned on their phone torches as they attended a vigil for Ms Everard
A probe into the Metropolitan Police’s alleged failure to investigate two allegations of indecent exposure linked to Couzens in February 2021, just days before the abduction and murder of Sarah, continues with two officers being investigated for possible breaches of professional standards that may amount to misconduct.
A separate investigation is also ongoing into claims Kent Police failed to investigate an incident of indecent exposure in 2015, but no notices have been served by the IOPC to officers over this.
An investigation into how Couzens sustained head injuries while in custody on both March 10 and March 12 following his arrest has almost concluded, the IOPC said, with all officers involved treated as witnesses.
The IOPC said the serving of misconduct notices does not necessarily mean that disciplinary proceedings will follow.
Speaking after Friday's hearing, Carolyn Oakley, CPS Specialist Prosecutor, said: "Today Wayne Couzens pleaded guilty to the murder of Sarah Everard.
A sea of flowers left in memory of Sarah at the Clapham Common bandstand
(Image: Steve Reigate)
"This plea is as a result of a great deal of hard work by the prosecution team. The police should be commended for their thorough and tireless investigation into Sarah’s disappearance.
“Couzens lied to the police when he was arrested and to date, he has refused to comment. We still do not know what drove him to commit this appalling crime against a stranger.
“Today is not the day for hearing the facts about what happened to Sarah. Today is a day to remember Sarah and our thoughts remain with her family and friends.”
Reclaim These Streets tweeted: "Whilst we are relieved that Sarah's friends and family have been spared the ordeal of a trial, nothing will ever bring her back.
"It is maddening that if women get any justice at all it is only when they have already been taken away from us.
"We will never stop campaigning until we live in a society where women's safety is more of a priority than protecting statues and limiting our right to protest."