Killer cop Wayne Couzens has been jailed for the rest of his life for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard .
Couzens, 48, a firearms specialist, had finished his shift with an elite diplomatic protection unit hours before he pounced on the 33 -year-old marketing executive as she walked home from a friend’s flat in Clapham, south London.
He pretended to arrest her for breaching Covid regulations and bundled her into the a Vauxhall Crossland he had hired to hunt down women.
Sarah’s body was found a week later, more than 50 miles away, burned and then dumped in a pond inside two green builder’s bags in woodland in Ashford, Kent on March 10.
Couzens had raped Sarah before strangling her with his police belt, and then tried to dispose of her body by burning it in a fridge.
Passing a whole life sentence, Lord Justice Fulford said: ‘Sarah Everard was a wholly blameless victim of a grotesque series of offences that culminated in both her death and the disposal of her body. ‘
He said Couzens had been planning the crime for over a month in ‘unspeakably grim detail,’ the judge said.
Sarah’s ordeal would have been ‘as bleak and agonising as it is possible to imagine.’
He said Couzens was guilty of ‘warped, selfish and brutal offending which was both sexual and homicidal.’
Father-of-two Couzens who was was a firearms officer in the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command admitted murder, kidnap and rape.
The court has heard he was over £29,000 in debt at the time of the murder.
Prosecutor Tom Little said: ‘Sarah Everard’s disappearance on the evening of 3rd March 2021 led to one of the most widely publicised missing person investigations this country has seen.
‘In the days that followed and then after the discovery of her body in an area of woodland in Kent on 10th March 2021 -with the arrest of the defendant, a serving Police officer, the day Before – what had taken place became widely summarised on social media as #shewasonlywalkinghome.
‘That is true. Sarah Everard was only walking home when she was taken off the street from her family, friends and colleagues by the defendant on the evening of 3rd March 2021.
‘However, those five words do not fairly or completely begin to describe what happened to her and her body at the hands of the defendant in the hours and days that followed her kidnap.
‘Whilst it is impossible to summarise what the defendant did to Sarah Everard in just five words, if it had to be done then it would be appropriate to do so as deception, kidnap, rape, strangulation, fire’.
The court heard that a former boyfriend had described the Durham University graduate as ‘extremelly intelligent, savvy and streetwise’ and ‘not a gullible person’.
‘He could not envisage her getting into a vehicle with someone unless by force and manipulation,’ Mr Little said.
‘As the evidence reveals, that is precisely what happened,’ said the prosecutor.
Couzens joined the force in 2018, covering the Bromley area after he was transferred from the Civil Nuclear Constabulary at Dungeness nuclear power station.
Married to Ukrainian-British scientist Elena Couzens, he was a member of the Army Reserve, serving the 3rd battalion, the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment, for two years from 2002.
Sarah left a friend’s home in the Clapham Junction area on 3 March at around 9pm for a walk of two and a half miles to her flat.
She was reported missing at 8.10pm on 4 March after she failed to meet her boyfriend as arranged.
CCTV caught Everard with Sarah next to his white Vauxhall hire car, which was later tracked driving to Tilmanstone in Kent.
When police officers checked with Enterprise Car Hire they were horrified to find the man who had booked it out was Couzens, a serving police officer.
Sarah’s body was found 100 metres away from a piece of land owned by Couzens and his wife.
Initially Couzens claimed he had been forced to abduct Sarah by a gang of Eastern Europeans.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has served 12 notices for allegations of misconduct to police officers investigating matters against Couzens before Sarah’s murder.
The matters relate to failed investigations into Couzens allegedly exposing himself in a McDonald’s restaurant in south London on February 28, just three days before Sarah vanished, and a similar indecent exposure claim in Kent in 2015.
In January this year Couzens was working in ‘Covid patrols’ and was aware of coronavirus regulations and the language used on those who may have breached them.
The court heard that Couzens and his wife had bought a plot of woodland by Ashford, Kent.
‘The defendant’s plot of land is very close to and in the same woods, that he was to burn Sarah Everard’s body after he had murdered her,’ Mr Little said.
‘He then moved her body in green bags that he had purchased specifically for that task to a pond deeper into the woods but which was only about 130 metres from his plot.’
Members of the public had noticed Couzens wearing his police belt when not on duty, with a pair of handcuffs and black pepper spray holder.
‘This is the type of equipment that it can be inferred that the defendant was wearing when he kidnapped Sarah Everard,’ said Mr Little.
Couzens lied to his family that he was due to work when he was not and used a hire car to drive into London on the night of Ms Everard disappearance.
The court heard he was thought of as a ‘family man’ by his colleagues but would often take his work equipment home with him.
‘Two members of the public had independently noticed seeing the defendant when he was not on duty wearing his police belt with handcuffs and a rectangular black pouch (similar to a pepper spray holder) attached to it (whilst out in Deal walking his dog; and
when attending a local computer hardware repair shop in the town,’ Mr Little said.
Before he went to London in the Vauxhall hire car Couzens bought carpet tape and 30 litres of petrol, the court heard.
Sarah had worked from home that day and walked from her Brixton address to have dinner at a friend’s address in Clapham Junction.
On the night she was abducted she had bought a bottle of wine and gone to a friend’s house.
‘They ate, drank the wine and talked about various subjects. The fact she had been to a friend’s house for dinner at the height of the early 2021 lockdown made her more vulnerable and/or more likely to submit to an accusation that she had acted in breach of the Covid regulations in some way,’ Mr Little said.
‘Sarah Everard left her friend’s flat at about 9.10pm. She was in good spirits when she left. She walked along the A205.
As she walked home at 9:13pm Sarah Everard called her boyfriend, Josh Lowth. The call lasted 14 minutes and 52 seconds, ending at 9:28pm. He formed the impression that she was walking briskly as was her habit.
‘They made plans for the rest of the week. She sounded in good spirits but not intoxicated, and the conversation ended normally, as if Sarah was just going to continue walking home through South London, something she did routinely.’
The boyfriend raised the alarm when she failed to attend a client meeting the following day or meet him as they had arranged.
Couzens had pulled up alongside Sarah at 9.34pm.
‘Dashcam footage from a private vehicle belonging to Gilders Transport, show the Vauxhall Crossland pulled up and stationary on the north footway of Poynders Road,outside Poynders Court, facing in the same direction as the traffic, with hazard lights illuminated,’ Mr Little said.
‘Sarah Everard can be seen standing on the pavement, behind the car, facing the defendant, a few feet apart. In the final sequence the defendant appears to touch his belt and to be holding up his hand towards Sarah Everard, as if showing her something in it.’
It was his warrant card and he was pretending to arrest her.
A couple saw Couzens pretending to arrest Sarah in the street and putting handcuffs on her.
‘The woman on the pavement already had her left arm behind her back, and was in the
process of “giving her other arm behind her back” as the man (who was the defendant) placed the handcuff on her right arm.’ Mr Little said.
‘Sarah Everard was compliant, with her head down and did not appear to be arguing.’
Mr Little added: ‘Having handcuffed her to the rear she would not have been able to undo the seatbelt that the defendant must have placed over her.
‘That was the start of her lengthy ordeal including an 80 mile journey whilst detained which was to lead first to her rape and then her murder.
‘At some point fairly soon after driving from the pavement onto the South Circular and having not gone to a police station, Sarah Everard must have realised her fate.’
Couzens drove the hired Vauxhall to North Military Road in Dover where he parked and got into his own Seat with Sarah at 11.43pm.
‘In order to have done so and without her escaping or trying to escape or make a noise it can be inferred that he, at least, must have threatened her,’ Mr Little said.
He then drove to the villages of Shepherdswell and Eythorne, before heading back to Dover.
‘At 00:57am the Seat activated an ANPR camera on the southbound A256 in Whitfield (just north of Dover).
‘This and later cell site activity correlates with the known
movements of the Seat suggesting the mobile telephone was travelling with that vehicle and is consistent with the defendant returning with Sarah Everard to Dover having raped her,’ Mr Little said.
At 2:31am the Seat activated an ANPR camera on the A20 Limekiln Street in Dover.
‘It is by this point that Sarah Everard is likely to have been murdered.
‘That is because at 2:34am the defendant went to BP Dover South Services on Limekiln Street and bought two bottles of still water, an apple juice, a Lucozade Orange and a carrier bag (total £5.23) using his Mastercard.’ Mr Little said.
‘There is no CCTV from the petrol station at the relevant time due to a system upgrade having taken place, after which, inadvertently the system was left switched off for a period of time.
‘However, the defendant was not to have known that and to have left her alive even in the boot of the Seat would have been foolhardy.’
Cozens spent three hours in the area of Hoads Wood near Ashford where he had the plot of land, to dump Sarah’s body.
Mr Little added: At 8:14am the defendant, wearing the same clothing as the previous evening, went to Costa Coffee in Biggin Street, Dover, where he bought a hot chocolate with coconut milk and a Bakewell tart.’
On March 5 Couzens tried to incinerate the body using petrol he had bought earlier that day.
‘On March 5 2021, Peter Spiller left an area of land that he owns due west of Hoads Wood at about 12:45pm,’ Mr Little said.
‘ As he was driving along Fridd Lane towards Hothfield, just before the railway bridge, he caught a glimpse of a large orange and yellow flame in Hoads Wood, approximately 25m away from the road and about 10-15 metres from the main track.
‘He described a strong, intense flame, which was not particularly high (about 3-foot square), which did not have the appearance of a typical woodland fire.
‘This is consistent with the location where the defendant burnt
Sarah Everard’s body, clothing and possessions using the petrol he had purchased earlier that day.’
After setting the body on fire Couzens called Lakeview Vets to make an appointment for the family dog who was suffering
‘separation anxiety. ‘
Couzens explained that the dog ‘barks and howls’ when she is left alone.
After burning the body Cozens put two halves of it in green builders bags he had bought from B and Q and threw them in a pond nearby,
‘Ryan Rose was visting Hoads Wood with friends on Sunday 7 th March 2021,’ Mr Little said.
‘He saw the defendant walking away from his car. The defendant told Mr. Rose that he was down there with his wife and children, cleaning up a plot that had broken glass on it.
‘Mr. Rose could hear children’s voices in the wood although he did not see anyone else at this point.’
‘The defendant had taken his own family to the very location where he had attempted to dispose of the body, allowing his children to play in relatively close proximity to the pond where it was at least partially submerged.’
CCTV led police to Couzens, the court heard.
‘During the course of 9 March 2021, CCTV from the Route 157 bus was received by the police investigating Sarah Everard’s disappearance,’ Mr Little said.
‘Immediate analysis of that CCTV and ANPR records led the police to identify the Vauxhall Crossland FD70 KHF as the vehicle of interest seen on Poynders Road parked next to two figures, one of
which matched the description of Sarah Everard. This led them to make enquiries at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and to identify the defendant through the details held there.’
Police went to his home at 89 Freemans Way, Deal, at 5.45pm on March 9. They did not immediately enter as they wanted to be cautious.
Couzens deleted his phone history at 7.11pm, and officers went in at 7.45pm.
‘Whilst other officers spoke to Olena Couzens and took care of the children (who were also present in the house), between 7:51pm and 8:30pm, DI Harvey and DS Kerr conducted an urgent interview with the defendant in order to try and ascertain the whereabouts of Sarah Everard,’ Mr Little said.
‘The defendant was shown a photograph of Sarah Everard and asked if he knew her. At first, he said he did not know her, had not personally met her and only knew of her disappearance from what he had seen on the news. He said “no, why would I have personal interactions with her?”.
‘DI Harvey asked whether the defendant could tell them anything aboutwhere the police might be able to find her. The defendant paused and then said he was “in financial shit” and that he had been “leant on” by a gang to pick up girls and give them to them.
‘He had initially refused, but when they threatened to take his family and use them instead, he felt he had no choice but to comply.’
Couzens then gave an ‘entirely false’ statement claiming he had been forced to kidnap Sarah and hand her over to the gang.
‘The fact that he was off work “with stress” because he felt he needed to be present at home in order to protect his family,’ said Mr Little.
‘He asked a number of times what was going to happen his family if he was not there to protect them; and asserted that he had had “no choice” but to kidnap Sarah Everard and hand her over.’
‘When pressed as to where Sarah Everard was, he said repeatedly that he did not know where she was and that “if I could do something to get her back right this minute, I would”, but at the same time “I’ll do it again tomorrow if it meant saving my family
….. these guys meant business”.
When his home was searched a quantity of beige-coloured hairbands and a penis pump from a storage unit in the bedroom.
On the morning of 10 March a sniffer dogs at the Fridd Lane entrance to Hoads Wood began barking around the pond.
‘Initially, only the handles of a green builder’s bag were visible above the surface of the water,’ Mr Little said
‘Two of the dogs entered the water and indicated interest in the bag. As one of the dogs moved away, the bag appeared to come loose from
the floor of the pond, floating upwards and opening up.
‘One of the officers present reported that he could see what appeared to be a body in the bag
‘The dog-handling officers withdrew. Forensic officers attended and confirmed the presence of a very badly burnt human body.’
After extensive examinaton a pathologist concluded Sarah had been strangled.
‘It was likely that a fuel source such as an accelerant was used in an attempt to destroy forensic evidence, obscure injuries and / or destroy the body,’ Mr Little said.
‘The combination of damage to the hyoid bone and cricoid cartilage, petechial haemorrhage within the eyelids and bruising
within the neck is a pattern of injuries which would be consistent with pressure having been applied to the neck in the form of a manual or ligature strangulation,’
He added: ‘The defendant informed the psychiatrist that he strangled Sarah Everard using his belt.
‘Given all the circumstances this would be consistent with his police belt.
After killing her, Couzens burnt had burnt Sarah’s body in an old fridge which had been dumped nearby.
When scientists examined his Seat car they found bloodstains in the boot which matched Sarah, and semen stains which matched Couzens.
A number of women’s hairbands were found which he may have used to restrain her.
Ms Everard’s parents, Jeremy, a professor of electronics at the University of York, and her mother, Susan, had left the family home to join Sarah’s siblings in the search for her.
In an impact statement Susan Everard said: Sarah is gone and I am broken hearted. She was my precious little girl, our youngest child.
‘The feeling of loss is so great it is visceral. And with the sorrow come waves of panic at not being able to see her again. I can never talk to her, never hold her again, and never more be a part of
We have kept her dressing gown – it still smells of her and I hug that instead of her Sarah died in horrendous circumstances. I am tormented at the thought of what she endured.
I play it out in my mind. I go through the terrible sequence of events. I wonder when she realized she was in mortal danger; I wonder what her murderer said to her.
‘When he strangled her, for how long was she conscious, knowing she would die? It is torture to think of it. Sarah was handcuffed, unable to defend herself and there was no one to rescue her. She spent her last hours on this earth with the very worst of humanity.
‘She lost her life because Wayne Couzens wanted to satisfy his
‘It is a ridiculous reason, it is nonsensical; how could he value a human life so cheaply?
‘I cannot comprehend it. I am incandescent with rage at the thought of it. He treated my daughter as if she was nothing and disposed of her as if she was rubbish.
‘If Sarah had died because of an illness, she would have been cared for. We could have looked after her and been with her. If she had died because of an accident, people would have tried to
help – there would have been kindness.
‘But there is no comfort to be had, there is no consoling
thought in the way Sarah died. In her last hours she was faced with brutality and terror, alone with someone intent on doing her harm. The thought of it is unbearable. I am haunted by the
horror of it.
When Sarah went missing we suffered days of agony, not knowing where she was or what had happened to her.
‘Then, when Sarah’s burnt remains were found, we spent two terrible days waiting for tests to show how she had died, fearing she had been set alight before she was dead – the thought was appalling.
Burning her body was the final insult, it meant we could never again see her sweet face andand never say goodbye.
‘Our lives will never be the same. We should be a family of five, but now we are four. Her death leaves a yawning chasm in our lives that cannot be filled. I yearn for her.
‘She was a wonderful daughter. She was always there to listen, to advise, or simply to share with the minutiae of the day. And she was
also a strongly principled young woman who knew right from wrong and who lived by those values.
She was a good person. She had purpose to her life. My outlook on life has changed since Sarah died: I am more cautious; I worry more about our other children. I crave the familiarity and security of home; the wider world has lost its appeal.
‘It is too painful to contemplate a future without Sarah, so I just live in the here and now. I think of Sarah all the time, but the mornings and evenings are particularly painful. In the morning I wake
up to the awful reality that Sarah is gone.
In the evenings, at the time she was abducted, I let
out a silent scream: Don’t get in the car, Sarah. Don’t believe him. Run!
‘I am repulsed by the thought of Wayne Couzens and what he did to Sarah. I am outraged that he masqueraded as a policeman in order to get what he wanted.
Sarah wanted to get married and have children, now all that has gone. He took her life and stole her future and we will never
have the joy of sharing that future with her.
Each day dawns and I think, Sarah should be here, leading her life and embracing new experiences. She had so many years ahead of her.
‘I don’t know how anyone could be so cruel as to take my daughter’s life. What I do know is that Sarah will never be forgotten and is remembered with boundless love.
I cling on to memories of Sarah, I hold them tight to keep them safe. The other night, I dreamt that Sarah appeared at home. In my dream I held her and could feel her physically.
Jeremy was there, we were comforting her, saying “it’s alright Sarah, it’s alright”. I would give anything to hold her once more; I hope I dream that dream again.
Her father Jeremy said: ‘The impact of what you have done will never end. The horrendous murder of my daughter, Sarah, is
in my mind all the time and will be for the rest of my life.
‘A father wants to look after his children and fix everything and you have deliberately and with premeditation stopped my ability to do that.
‘Sarah was handcuffed and unable to defend herself. This preys on my mind all the time.
‘I can never forgive you for what you have done, for taking Sarah away from us.
‘You burnt our daughter’s body – you further tortured us – so that we could not see her again. We did not know whether you had burnt her alive or dead.
‘You stopped us seeing Sarah for one last time and stopped me from giving my daughter one last kiss goodbye.
‘Her body fell apart when she was moved. Her brain and neck bones were removed for months by the pathologist and her body was difficult to preserve so we had to use the services of a specialist
embalmer to enable a dignified burial.
‘All my family want is Sarah back with us. No punishment that you receive will ever compare to the pain and torture that you have inflicted on us.
‘You murdered our daughter and forever broke the hearts of her mother, father, brother, sister, family and her friends.
‘Sarah had so much to look forward to and because of YOU this is now gone forever. She was saving to buy a house and looking forward to marriage and children. We were looking forward to having grandchildren.
‘We loved being a part of Sarah’s world and expected her to have a full and happy life.
‘The closest we can get to her now is to visit her grave every day.
Sarah’s sister shouted: ‘Look at me!’ at Couzens who sat with his head bowed as she read her impact statement.
‘You treated Sarah as if she was nothing. Placed more emphasis on satisfying your sick disgusting perversions than on a life.
‘Her life. You disposed of my sister’s body like it was
rubbish. Fly-tipped her like she meant nothing. She meant everything. We couldn’t even see her, she was so badly burnt.
‘Her brain was removed from her skull to check for trauma and
cause of death – I still don’t know if they put her brain back in her head or whether it is lying next to her body in her coffin.
‘Shards of her kneecap were returned to us to be placed with her body – shards that you knocked when moving her burnt body from the fridge you had used to hide her and conceal the fire.
‘We are still missing her hyoid bone from her throat, which is being checked to see the force you used to strangle her, to determine how long she may have survived.
‘We know it was broken. Her burnt body still had her necklace and one earring in her ear – the other had fallen from her ear because it had burnt off.
‘You hear from the police that it takes around 2 minutes to strangle someone. And around 8- 10 seconds for them to lose consciousness.
‘At first there is a sense of relief at hearing that
your sister might only have been aware of what was happening for 8-10 seconds.
‘But have you put your hands around your neck and tried pushing hard? 8-10 seconds now seems a long time.
‘You used your warrant card to trick my sister into your car. She sat in a car handcuffed for hours.
‘What could she have thought she had done wrong? What lies did you tell her? When did she realise that she wasn’t going to survive the night?
‘I’m constantly replaying in my head – did you rape her, then kill her? Did you kill her while raping her?
‘You get small nuggets of information and the thought process starts again. Your semen and blood were found in your car. So this suggests you raped her in the car.
‘You find out you may have used a belt to strangle her. New horrendous images forming.
‘You stopped to get a Lucozade and water at a petrol station. Was she still alive at this point?
‘Bound in your car? I am horrified by your ability to flit between what you did and normal everyday actions.
‘Your casual demeanour on cctv was very upsetting and shocking to see. We had to go to the flat and pack up Sarah’s whole life – washing left hanging up, half sewn outfits, deliveries waiting to be returned, packages waiting at the door ready to be opened.
‘All signs of a life waiting to be lived – chores to be done, ready for her to return and continue when she got home. But she never
got home because a predator – you – was on the loose. Prowling the streets for hours looking for his prey.
‘You can’t comprehend what you are being told when it happened because it is so horrific. Some sort of sick waking nightmare. You can’t imagine anyone could do such a thing.
‘You are waiting to hear anything from the police. Every bit you get is different. You hear her body has been found. Then you find out she has been burnt. So badly burnt you can’t see
‘Can’t see her again to say goodbye. The first thought you have in your head after despair and shock is – was she dead before you burnt her? Imagine that even having to be a thought. You find out no soot was found in her lungs which suggests she was burnt after
you murdered her.
‘Imagine being relieved to hear your sister was dead before she was
‘I replay it continuously round in my head. What you may have said to her, what she may have said back, when she realised she was in grave danger and was not going to survive.
‘Hoping my sister was unconscious and drugged, but we know that was not the case – no drugs found in her body, no trauma to the head. Burst blood vessels in her brain from your
‘Which meant she was conscious when you were doing these unfathomable things to her.
‘My only hope is that she was in a state of shock and that she wasn’t aware of the disgusting things being done to her by a monster. When you forced yourself upon and raped her. When you put your hands around her neck and strangled her.
‘It disgusts me that you were the last person to touch her perfect body and violate her in the way you did. The last person to see her alive and speak to her.
‘How scared she must have been. The last moments of her life not with loved ones, but frightened and fighting for her
‘I hate to think of her being so scared and alone and that in her last moments she had no one with her. No kindness. I hate that I wasn’t there to save her. To stop you. I find it hard to believe she is not just living her own life and sick at the thought that her last moments on this earth alive were so horrific.
‘How dare you take her from me? Take away her hopes and dreams. Her life. Children that will never be born. Generations that will never exist. Her future no longer exists.
‘The future I was supposed to live with my sister no longer exists. You have ruined so many lives.
‘Sarah is the very best person with so many people who love and cherish her. I want to speak to her and hug her and hear her laugh and go out for dinners and drinks and dancing.
‘All those conversations we can never have. There were so many things I wanted to share with her – trips abroad, being each other’s bridesmaid, meeting her babies and being an
Aunty, growing old together and seeing who got the most wrinkles. We weren’t even halfway through our journey and you took it all away!
I feel like I live in a make-believe world. As if nothing is real. I have to pretend because the thought of not having Sarah forever is too hard to bear. A lifetime now seems a very long time.
I should never have to write a eulogy for or bury my little sister. There is no punishment that you could receive that will ever compare to the pain you have caused us.
‘We can never get Sarah back. The last moments of Sarah’s life play on my mind constantly. I am so disgusted and appalled. It terrifies me that you have such disregard for a person’s life.
‘You have taken from me the most precious person. And I can never get her back.’
The court heard Couzens colleagues knew he was ‘attracted to violent sexual pornography’ and a incident was reported in 2002.
Couzens hung his head as the judge told him: ‘A great deal has been said in court over the last two days, I emphasise wholly properly,
about the devastating, tragic and wholly brutal circumstances of the death of Sarah Everard; additionally, many details as to her demise, along with abundant observations as to what it symbolises, have been publicized by reporters, commentators and many others.
‘No doubt following the sentence that I am about to pass more will be said and written.
‘Given the singular nature of this case, that is entirely unsurprising. But in and amongst the words and the voices, two things must not be forgotten during this sentencing exercise.
‘First, the victim: who she was and what happened to her in early March. Her personal circumstances and the circumstances of her untimely death, coupled inevitably with the impact of what occurred on her family and those who were close to her, are a
‘And, second, notwithstanding that vital factor, the sentence that I
pass on the defendant must be just, in the all-important sense that the relevant statutory provisions are to be applied, along with the applicable case law and sentencing principles.
‘To discharge my function faithfully, it is vital, therefore, that I focus solely on the factors that are properly relevant to determining the correct sentence, and nothing else.
‘ The facts of this case, in all their painful detail, are essentially undisputed and they have been rehearsed most carefully and with great clarity by Mr Little Q.C., leading counsel for the Crown.
‘It would serve no useful purpose for me to repeat at length what has already been said. Instead, I intend simply to highlight those aspects of what occurred that are in my view of particular relevance to the issue of sentence.
‘First and foremost, Sarah Everard was a wholly blameless victim of a grotesquely executed series of offences that culminated in her death and the disposal of her body.
‘She was 33 years of age and had been working in marketing since graduating from Durham University, and she was simply walking home mid-evening having visited a friend during the COVID pandemic.
‘She was an intelligent, resourceful, talented and much-loved young woman, still in the early years of her life. I have not the slightest doubt that the defendant used his position as a police officer to coerce her on a wholly false pretext into the car he had hired for this
‘It is most likely that he suggested to Sarah Everard that she had breached the restrictions on movement that were being enforced during that stage of the pandemic.
‘Any explanation other than coercion fails to take into account her character and the evidence of the occupants of a passing vehicle who saw her being handcuffed.
‘It is to be emphasised that the defendant was long used to exercising this kind of authority given he had previously been a member of the Kent Special Constabulary, moving to the Civil
Nuclear Constabulary in 2011. He joined the Metropolitan Police in September 2018 and since February 2020 he had worked for the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command, as an authorised Firearms Officer.
‘He had participated in Covid patrols, to ensure that the regulations were enforced.
‘ The evidence against the defendant, painstakingly compiled by the police, was essentially unanswerable. The compelling CCTV compilation, the product of 1800 hours of footage,
along with the cell site evidence, revealed with absolute clarity the core essentials of what had occurred.
‘By the time that exercise was complete, there was, in my view, no credible innocent explanation for the evidence gathered against him, and this is relevant to the issue of whether he has expressed genuine remorse or regret.
‘Nonetheless, I need to stress that I have had regard to the defendant’s guilty plea to all the charges as one of the
mitigating features to be taken fully into account, along with his age (48), his hitherto good character and the fact that he is the father of two children..
‘The defendant spent at least a month travelling to London to research how best to commit these crimes (as the wholly unexplained visits to the capital on 23 January, 5 February
and 14 February).
‘The degree of preparation and the length of time over which it extended is to be stressed. He bought part of the wherewithal to handcuff his victim (a police standard issue handcuff key was purchased from Amazon on 10 February and was
found in the front of the Seat), self-adhesive carpet protector film was purchased on 28 February and delivered on 1 March and 14 hair bands were purchased in a shop on 3 March at 8 pm.
‘The protector film had been used but its precise purpose is unknown. The hairbands were either for use in order to maintain an erection or as a means of restraint.
‘This has not been disputed. He hired a car on 28 February which he drove to London on 3 March. He had parked the Seat motorcar in Dover in an area where there were no houses close by, with the result that it was less likely than otherwise would have been the case
that there would be witnesses to what occurred, including any signs of distress or resistance by Sarah Everard when she was transferred from the hire car to the Seat.
‘He used, therefore, the hire car, as opposed to his own vehicle, to kidnap Sarah Everard. He took some of his police kit with him to London, clearly in my view for use in this offending. He lied to his family about working a night shift on 3 March and although he
was in London that night, he avoided visiting the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command base in Lillie Road.
‘Instead, he covered extensive distances in the capital, beyond doubt, as suggested by Mr Little, hunting a lone young female to kidnap and rape.
‘It follows from this that the defendant had planned well in advance, in all its unspeakably grim detail, what was to occur and when he encountered Sarah Everard all that was missing up to that point was his victim.
‘ He stopped and handcuffed Sarah Everard on the roadside, and as I have already emphasised, he used his position as a police officer to enable this to happen.
‘Her state of mind and what she had to endure over a journey of 80 miles and during the final hours of her life, would have been as bleak and agonising as it is possible to imagine.
‘Ultimately, she was raped and strangled to death. The defendant would have needed to apply pressure to Sarah Everard’s neck for more than two minutes in order to kill her. He took her to a
remote area in the vicinity of the Sibertswold cell site, which was nonetheless close to roads which afforded easy access.
‘It is unknown precisely where or when he raped Sarah
Everard, although it was most likely to have occurred between midnight and quarter to one.
‘He then drove around the Dover area. Although it is equally impossible to say precisely when or where she was killed, it is highly likely that Sarah Everard had been murdered before 2.34 am when he left the Seat and bought some soft drinks at the BP
Dover South Services.
‘The evidence tends to demonstrate that he used Velcro straps to
restrain her, given the DNA analysis and where in the car they were found. His general movements in the early hours of the morning are known but precisely what he was doing at various stages, for instance when he travelled towards Ashford, is uncertain.
‘At 8.14 am he bought a hot chocolate and Bakewell tart in Dover.
6. There can be no doubt as to the increasing sense of desperation on the part of Sarah Everard’s family, her boyfriend and her other friends as it became increasingly clear that something untoward had happened to her.
‘Their lives will have been irredeemably blighted by the defendant’s crimes. Her parents and her sister Katie read their victim
personal statements with great dignity. Along with the other statements which Mr Little summarised in court, they starkly and movingly revealed the true human consequences of
this warped, selfish and brutal offending, which was both sexual and homicidal.
‘The defendant put considerable effort into trying to avoid detection, both before and after these offences. He took Sarah Everard’s mobile telephone from her and removed the Sim
‘He later disposed of the handset, driving a considerable distance to Sandwich on 4 March, simply to throw it in the river before immediately returning home, arriving at a time which would coincide with him having been on a normal night shift. He acted at
home and elsewhere entirely as normal, as evidenced by such prosaic details as booking dental appointments for his children.
‘During the morning of 5 March, the defendant
purchased petrol in a plastic container and burnt Sarah Everard’s body, along with her possessions and clothing, which had been placed in an abandoned refrigerator in Hoads Wood in Kent.
‘At about the same time he again purchased food and drink for himself, and it was at about this juncture that he calmly organised an appointment by telephone at a local veterinary practice for the family dog (the entire contents of the telephone call
were played during Mr Little’s opening).
‘Later during 5 March, he moved Sarah Everard’s body to a pond that was close by in Hoads Wood, where she was eventually
discovered, having used two bags purchased from B & Q in order to transport her remains.
‘On Saturday 6 March, the defendant invented an excuse in an email to his supervisor to avoid further firearms duties and to remain away from work.
‘ Within 3 days of the murder the defendant took his family on a trip to the woods, close by to where he had deposited, burnt, moved and hid the body of Sarah Everard, allowing his children to play in that area.
‘In due course he cleaned the exterior of his Seat
motorcar. He lied when arrested, and initially ran an entirely false account in which he pretended that for two or three weeks he had been acting under the coercion of a gang from one of the Balkan countries who compelled him to abduct girls who he then handed over.
‘He suggested he had delivered Sarah Everard, who was alive, to the gang. With apparent sincerity, the defendant gave the interviewing police officers a wholly false story in which he claimed he was a victim of threats which made him concerned for his family’s
‘His account on this issue was highly detailed and it was a complete fiction. CCTV checks rapidly demonstrated he had lied throughout his account to the police.
‘He attempted to erase any records from his telephone by way of a factory reset shortly before the police arrived. He falsely claimed he would do anything he could to help to secure Sarah Everard’s release from the gang.
‘ There are five principal issues that I need to resolve. First, was the defendant suffering from a mild depressive disorder at the time of these offences? Second, if so, what relevance is the diagnosis?
‘Third, even though not relied on by the prosecution or the
defence what is the significance, if any, of the account the defendant gave to the psychiatrist, Dr Latham? Fourth, did the defendant intend to kill Sarah Everard from the outset? Fifth, what are to be the terms of the life sentence that inevitably must be
‘ In considering those questions, Mr Sturman QC on behalf of the defendant, for whose restrained and focussed submissions I am grateful, reminds the court that it is undisputed that the appellant had been suffering from a depressive illness, the symptoms of which he has not tried to exaggerate. Mr Sturman urges the court to conclude that the defendant did not depart for London intending to kill his victim and that this intention was formed later.
It is suggested, furthermore, that he has done all he is able to demonstrate his contrition.
‘As to question five, Mr Sturman submits that a whole life tariff is an unusual, indeed exceptional form of sentence, that needs to be carefully and unambiguously justified, in that a borderline case should always be met with a determinate term.
‘The importance of the defendant’s guilty plea has been properly stressed. Mr Sturman emphasises the easewith which other accused might have advanced wholly false allegations as part of a
defence, some of which might have involved slurs on the character and reputation of the deceased.
‘All of that has been avoided by his acceptance of his guilt. He has no prior previous convictions and some of his colleagues have spoken supportively of him.
‘It is particularly stressed that insofar as counsel’s extensive researches indicate, there has never been a whole life term which does not come within the categories set out expressly
in the relevant provisions.
‘In all the circumstances, whilst it is accepted that the tariff
period will be in well in excess of 30 years, the court is urged not to impose a whole life order.
‘ The first question is relatively easy to answer. Dr Latham not only spoke to the defendant but also to his wife, who described the defendant’s concerns over problems he was experiencing with his life, and particularly his financial difficulties. He suffered from
lack of sleep and, on occasion, bad tinnitus. It seems likely that even though there is no documented history of depression or anxiety in Mr Couzen’s medical records, he may have suffered from episodes of mild depression.
‘However, as Dr Latham has observed – and this goes to answer the second question – there is no link between the depression and
these offences. At most, this diagnosis is simply part of the overall picture of the factors that contribute to an understanding of the kidnapping, rape and murder.
‘As to the third question, the significance of the account given by the defendant to Dr Latham, I accept this is not a verbatim account of what the defendant said, and it is only a summary for the purposes of the psychiatrist’s consideration of the defendant’s mental
‘Nonetheless, it is revealing and wholly implausible. He suggested he merely renteda car because he had problems with his own vehicle. There is no evidence of this suggested difficulty with the Seat and this explanation cannot survive the sequence of
events prior to the defendant’s departure for London and following his return with Sarah Everard, and particularly the manoeuvring of the vehicles.
‘I have no doubt that the defendant wished to use a motor car that was credible as a police vehicle, given the Seat was extremely untidy and given its appearance it was wholly improbable that it would
have been used by a police office on duty. Indeed, it was in such a poor state that it may well have alerted his victim that something was amiss with her purported arrest.
‘He also is likely to have wanted to avoid his own car being identified as having been in the relevant area when he kidnapped his victim. The defendant described to Dr Latham having driven around in confusion, but this is entirely at odds with the precise and careful preparatory steps which he had taken for these offences, along with the lengths he went to in the hope of avoiding detection.
‘These I have already described, and they included lying
to his family and purchasing the items I have set out, along with the various steps he took following the killing.
‘The vague state of mind that he suggested to Dr Latham is fatally
contradicted his proven calculated behaviour over the entire period, including buying food and drink, organising vet and dental appointments, and coolly taking his family on an outing very close to where he had left Sarah Everard’s body. I emphasise that during
the lengthy process of booking the appointment with the Vet, the defendant sound controlled and normal.
‘This is relevant to the issue of whether the defendant has at any
stage expressed any genuine contrition. Notwithstanding his guilty pleas for which he is entitled to the appropriate full credit as a mitigating factor, in my view the defendant has throughout sought to minimise his true responsibility for what occurred, something he
had done from the moment he first spoke to the police and lied about the Balkan people trafficking gang.
‘At no stage has he offered any kind of full explanation as to what
occurred.. As to the fourth question – did the defendant intend from the outset to murder Sarah Everard? – this is a difficult issue. On the one hand, it is almost inconceivable that the defendant did not realise that he would not be able to allow his victim to live, given he
had posed as a police officer, a revelation which would have greatly narrowed the range of potential suspects.
‘He had made no attempt, moreover, to disguise himself or to
prevent Sarah Everard from seeing the registration numbers or the make and models of both motorcars.
‘She would have been able to describe the locations to where she had been driven, having seen the town and street signs en route. His identification based on information from Sarah Everard was inevitable.
‘On the other hand, he did not purchase the petrol until after the murder. I have concluded that given the planning and the thought
that went into the kidnapping and rape of his victim, the defendant must have realised that he may well need to kill the woman he intended to abduct and rape, but this did not become a definite outcome until the events had started to unfold and he had got the
measure, as it were, of the person he had attacked.
‘The fifth question is the most difficult. The prosecution submits that this case of murder (and the associated offences of kidnap and rape) is one of such exceptional seriousness that it justifies the imposition of a whole life order in accordance with paragraph 2 of
Schedule 21 of the Sentencing Act 2020 because it was committed by a serving police constable when acting as if on duty, and there are particular aggravating features, to which I will turn in a moment.
‘By statute, cases that have a starting point of a whole life order are those when the seriousness of the offence (or the combination of the offence and one or more offences associated with it) is exceptionally high. Paragraph 2(2) of the Schedule provides a list of
cases that would normally fall in this category, namely those, first, involving the murderof two or more persons, where each murder involves a substantial degree of premeditation or planning, the abduction of the victim, or sexual or sadistic conduct;
second, the murder of a child if involving the abduction of the child or sexual or sadistic motivation; third, the murder of a police officer or prison officer in the course of his or her duty; fourth, a murder done for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial
or ideological cause, or, fifth, a murder by an offender previously convicted of murder.
‘It is clear from the language of the schedule that this is not a closed list of cases. The use of the words “cases that would normally fall” into this category makes this clear.
‘The decisions of the Court of Appeal reveal that even when a mandatory life sentence is required, a whole life order is very rarely made. Such a sentence is reserved for the few exceptionally serious offences in which, after reflecting on all the features of aggravation
and mitigation, the judge is satisfied that the element of just punishment and retributionrequires the imposition of a whole life order. Nothing less will suffice.
‘The Schedule clearly has the objective of identifying the types or categories of cases which, as a matter of principle, are in themselves so serious that a whole life order ought to be the starting point. I anticipate that only very rarely will situations arise which merit
this starting point but which were not included in paragraph 2(2).
‘But the legislators would not have been able to describe every situation that might arise when an offender palpably needs to be treated in the same way as those expressly included in paragraph
‘I would stress, therefore, that I have adopted the approach that a judge should only pass a whole life term in a case such as the present if he or she is confronted with a new category of exceptionally serious case that plainly calls to be treated in this way and the decision is, therefore, not a borderline one. Otherwise, a lengthy minimum term will suffice.
‘ The most important question in this sentencing exercise, therefore, revolves around a question of principle: if a police officer uses his office to kidnap, rape and murder a victim, is the seriousness of the offence exceptionally high, such that it ought to be treated in the same way as the other examples set out in paragraph 2(2). In my judgmentthe police are in a unique position, which is essentially different from any other public
‘They have powers of coercion and control that are in an exceptional category. In this country it is expected that the police will act in the public interest; indeed, the authority of the police is to a truly significant extent dependent on the public’s consent,
and the power of officers to detain, arrest and otherwise control important aspects of our lives is only effective because of the critical trust that we repose in the constabulary, that they will act lawfully and in the best interests of society. If that is undermined, one of the
enduring safeguards of law and order in this country is inevitably jeopardised.
‘In my judgment, 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 carried out for
the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause.
‘All of these situations attack different aspects of the fundamental underpinnings of our democratic way of life. It is this vital factor which in my view makes the seriousness of this case
‘Self-evidently, it would need for the police officer to have used his
role as a constable in a critical way to facilitate the commission of the offence; if his professional occupation was of little or no relevance to the offending, then these considerations clearly would not apply.
‘Added to this, the aggravating features in the case are extensive. As I have already rehearsed, there was significant planning and premeditation; the victim was abducted; there was the most serious sexual conduct; the defendant was responsible for significant
mental and physical suffering which he inflicted on the victim before her death; and thedefendant concealed and attempted to destroy Sarah Everard’s body.
‘There is no doubt but that these three offences are inextricably linked and in considering the correct sentence for murder I have taken into account the kidnapping and the rape, in order to
pass a single sentence.
‘ I have borne in mind the fact that the defendant pleaded guilty in deciding whether it is appropriate to make a whole life order. This has saved the Everard family and Sarah Everard’s friends from enduring a trial.
‘That said, having determined, as I have, that there should be a whole life order, given the misuse of the defendant’s role as a police
officer and the serious aggravating features, self-evidently there can be no reduction for the defendant’s guilty pleas.
‘Will the defendant please stand.
‘Wayne Couzens, you kidnapped, raped and murdered Sarah Everard, having long planned a violent sexual assault on a yet-to-be-selected victim who you intended to coerce into your custody.
‘You have irretrievably damaged the lives of Sarah Everard’s
family and friends, in the ways to which I have, at least in part, referred. Mrs Everard devastatingly referred to how the wider world has now lost its appeal for her and, I would add, no doubt for many others who cared for your victim, and Sarah Everard’s sister
referred to the inescapable reality of the many lives you have ruined.
‘You have eroded the confidence that the public are entitled to have in the police forces of England and Wales. It is critical that every subject in this country can trust police officers when they
encounter them and submit to their authority, which they are entitled to believe is beingexercised in good faith
‘You have utterly betrayed your family. Your wife and children,
who on all the evidence, are entirely blameless will have to live with the ignominy of your dreadful crimes for the rest of their lives.
‘You have very considerably added to the sense of insecurity that many have living in our cities, perhaps particularly women, when
travelling by themselves and especially at night.
‘During the period before your arrest, there was never a moment when you gave the slightest indication of regret, following
perhaps the realisation of the enormity of the dreadful crimes you had committed.
‘Instead, you simultaneously attended to the inconsequential details of family life whilst grimly covering your tracks, with all the appearance of a man acting with quiet and unconcerned determination.
‘The substantial CCTV footage and similar material does not
give the slightest hint of someone in trauma, who has started to have second thoughts in the cold light of day about what they have done.
‘Notwithstanding your guilty pleas, therefore, I have seen no evidence of genuine contrition on your part as opposed to
evident self-pity and attempts by you to avoid or minimise the proper consequences of what you have done.
‘Those consequences are that on the count of murder you will be imprisoned for life and the tariff is a whole life order. I have taken into account the offences of kidnapping and rape in reaching that decision and on those counts I impose no separate penalty.
‘Take him down.’
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has served 12 notices for allegations of misconduct to police officers investigating matters against Couzens before Sarah’s murder.
The matters relate to failed investigations into Couzens allegedly exposing himself in a McDonald’s restaurant in south London on February 28, just three days before the murder and a similar indecent exposure claim in Kent in 2015.
Three officers have been served with gross misconduct notices while the IOPC investigate claims a probationary MPS officer shared an inappropriate graphic on social media before manning the cordon around the scene of the search for Ms Everard.
There is also an ongoing investigation into police officers in multiple forces allegedly sharing inappropriate messages related to Couzens’s prosecution.
One officer has been served with a gross misconduct notice, while six other officers have been served with misconduct notices.