Killer cop to die behind bars: Sarah Everard's parents say the world is a 'safer place'

30 September 2021, 12:07 | Updated: 30 September 2021, 16:05

Wayne Couzens has been jailed for the murder of Sarah Everard
Wayne Couzens has been jailed for the murder of Sarah Everard. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

A Met police officer who abused his powers to kidnap, rape and murder Sarah Everard will die behind bars after he was handed a whole life sentence by the judge.

Sarah's family said she "lost her life needlessly and cruelly" and her future was stolen by killer Pc Wayne Couzens.

"We are very pleased that Wayne Couzens has received a full life sentence and will spend the rest of his life in jail," they said

"Nothing can make things better, nothing can bring Sarah back, but knowing he will be imprisoned forever brings some relief.

"The world is a safer place with him imprisoned."

Sentencing Couzens, Lord Justice Fulford said Sarah Everard was a "wholly blameless victim of a grotesquely executed series of circumstances that culminated in her death and the disposal of her body".

"She was simply walking home," he said.

"Sarah Everard’s state of mind, and what she had to endure would have been as bleak and agonising as it is possible to imagine."

Read more: Sarah Everard's mother tells killer he is 'the worst of humanity' ahead of sentencing

Read more: Met officer used Covid laws to handcuff and 'arrest' Sarah Everard before murdering her

Lord Justice Fulford added: “Notwithstanding his guilty pleas, in my view the defendant throughout sought to minimise his true responsibility for what occurred. At no stage has he offered any kind of full explanation as to what occurred in the fateful few hours.

“I have concluded that in the planning and thought that went into the kidnap and rape the defendant must have realised he may well need to kill the woman he intended to kidnap and rape.”

The judge said whole life sentences should only be used for exceptional cases - and this, he says, is one.

“In my judgement the misuse of a police officer’s role is of equal seriousness as a murder carried out for the purpose of committing a murder for an ideological cause.”

Just 60 criminals are currently serving a life sentence in the UK, according to government statistics.

Sarah's father Jeremy, mother Susan, sister Katie and brother James arrive at the Old Bailey at a previous hearing
Sarah's father Jeremy, mother Susan, sister Katie and brother James arrive at the Old Bailey at a previous hearing. Picture: Alamy

Sarah Everard's parents Jeremy and Susan clasped hands and hugged police officers after Couzens shuffled out of the dock to be taken down to the cells.

"We are very pleased that Wayne Couzens has received a full life sentence and will spend the rest of his life in jail. Nothing can make things better, nothing can bring Sarah back, but knowing he will be imprisoned forever brings some relief," they said in a statement following the sentencing.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the pain endured by her family and friends is "truly unimaginable".

"Like the rest of the country I have been sickened by what we have heard over the course of this sentencing...People must be able to walk on our streets without fear of harm and with full confidence that the police are there to keep them safe."

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "What we heard today is sickening to everyone and there are no words, no words at all, that can describe the appalling tragedy around Sarah Everard's murder.

"All our thoughts and our sympathy are with her family and she is constantly in my thoughts as well.

"In terms of the monster that has been convicted today, it is right that he has been given a whole life tariff and with that he can never walk the streets of our country again.

"Alongside that of course, it is right that we constantly hold the police to account for what has happened."

The Home Secretary said there are "serious questions that need to be answered by the Metropolitan Police" about the Sarah Everard case.

Couzens, who was a serving officer in London, handcuffed the 33-year-old in a "false arrest" before abducting Sarah in Clapham on the evening of March 3.

Two witnesses saw him detain Sarah on the street and assumed he was acting legitimately, the Old Bailey heard in a two-day sentencing.

Ms Everard was abducted at the height of the Covid-19 lockdown and was more likely to submit to the accusation she broke Covid-19 rules, prosecutors said.

The firearms officer had clocked off from a 12-hour shift at the American embassy that morning and drove to a secluded rural area near Dover in Kent, where he parked up and raped Ms Everard.

The Brixton marketing executive had been strangled with Couzens' police belt by 2.30am the following morning.

The court heard how Couzens, a married man, burned Ms Everard's body in a refrigerator in an area of woodland he owned in Hoads Wood, near Ashford, before dumping her remains in a nearby pond.

Couzens pleaded guilty in July to Ms Everard's kidnap, rape and murder, and was sacked from the Met Police.

Nick Price of the Crown Prosecution Service said the murder of Ms Everard was "a truly evil thing to do".

He said: "Wayne Couzens treated her with vile depravity.

"We all feel betrayed that Couzens abused his position as a police officer to commit such abhorrent crimes.

"All of us should be free to walk our streets safely."

Meanwhile, the Police Federation said "predator" Couzens has brought disgrace to the uniform.

"He doesn't deserve to have another single day of freedom and I hope every day he spends in prison is a long one."

The incident sparked outcry worldwide, with thousands attending vigils and demanding an end to violence against women on the streets.

Speaking in court on Wednesday, Ms Everard's family condemned Couzens as a "monster" as he sat with his head bowed at the start of the two-day sentencing.

Her mother Susan said her daughter died in "horrendous circumstances" and said she is "tormented" at the thought of what she endured.

She told the court: "Sarah was handcuffed, unable to defend herself, and there was no one to rescue her. She spent the last hours on this earth with the very worst of humanity.

Sarah Everard was raped and murdered by police officer Wayne Couzens.
Sarah Everard was raped and murdered by police officer Wayne Couzens. Picture: Facebook

"She lost her life because Wayne Couzens wanted to satisfy his perverted desires. It is a ridiculous reason. It is nonsensical. How could he value a human life so cheaply?

"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.

"She added: "I can never talk to her, never hold her again, and never more be a part of her life.

"We have kept her dressing gown - it still smells of her and I hug that instead of her."

Couzens could not look at Sarah Everard's family as they read out their statements in court and his barrister said he is "ashamed" after kidnapping, raping and murdering her.

Couzens' lawyer's told the court on Thursday that he "makes no excuses" and is "filled with self-loathing".

Read more: Starmer tells LBC Met Police must answer how Everard's killer 'slipped through the net'

They said on the facts of the case there is little to say. Except that: “Whilst the evidence provides ample suggestion that he travelled to London with kidnap and rape in mind, there is little evidence he travelled with murder on his mind.”

There was ample opportunity, Couzens’ lawyer says, for him to purchase the materials he needed to burn and dispose of Sarah’s body in advance. He did not.

“That is inconsistent with a plan to murder," his lawyer said.

“It’s not right to sentence him on the basis of a premeditated plan to murder."

Read more: 'The worst of humanity': Sarah Everard's killer to be sentenced

Read more: Men shouldn't be asked to stay inside to keep women safe, David Lammy tells LBC

The Old Bailey was shown CCTV footage of Ms Everard and Couzens talking on the pavement moments before she was abducted.

Sarah's father told Couzens in court "there can be no redemption" for what he has done.

Mr Everard told Couzens: "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."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told LBC this morning the Met Police must answer questions over how Couzens managed to "slip through the net".

Nick asked the Labour leader whether there needs to be a review of the Met and other police forces, due to the opportunities for Couzens to be caught in both Kent and London over reports of indecent exposure.

Mr Starmer replied: "Nick, that is the key issue, which is how did he slip through the net?

"There were obviously warning signs, so how did he slip through?"

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has pledged to do everything within his power to ensure women and girls are safe - and feel safe - on the streets of London.

He said: “The details that have come out over the last few days have been utterly harrowing, leaving a nation in shock. Sarah Everard simply set out to walk home. Tragically she never made it back. A life with so much more to give callously cut short under the worst possible circumstances.

“All my thoughts today are with Sarah’s parents, her siblings, her loved ones and everyone who knew her. They have had to endure the most appalling experience imaginable.

“The sentence that has been handed down today is the right one – Wayne Couzens should spend the rest of his life in prison. But no sentence could ever make up for the terrible loss felt by Sarah’s loved ones.

“The fact this heinous crime was committed by a serving police officer makes it even more disturbing. There are some serious questions that need to be answered about how we ensure something like this never happens again, and I’m determined that the lessons are not only learned by the police, but acted upon.

“As Mayor, I will continue to do everything within my power to ensure that women and girls feel safe and are safe in London.”

What are whole-life orders and how common are they?

Whole-life orders are the most severe punishment available in the UK criminal justice system for those who commit the most serious crimes.

There are 60 criminals serving whole-life orders, according to government figures to the end of June.

They will never be considered for release, unless there are exceptional compassionate grounds to warrant it.

In the past, home secretaries could issue whole-life tariffs and these are now determined by judges.

Notorious criminals serving whole-life orders include Milly Dowler's killer, Levi Bellfield; Gloucester serial killer Rose West; Michael Adebolajo, one of Fusilier Lee Rigby's killers; Mark Bridger, who murdered five-year-old April Jones in Wales; neo-Nazi Thomas Mair, who killed MP Jo Cox; Grindr serial killer Stephen Port; and most recently the Reading terror attacker Khairi Saadallah, who murdered three men in a park.