‘Red flags’ about Sarah Everard’s killer should have seen him kicked out of police, Sadiq Khan tells LBC

29 February 2024, 11:00 | Updated: 29 February 2024, 11:56

Sadiq Khan said there were failings across multiple police forces to identify red flags about Sarah Everard's killer Wayne Couzens
Sadiq Khan said there were failings across multiple police forces to identify red flags about Sarah Everard's killer Wayne Couzens. Picture: LBC/Police

By Asher McShane

Sadiq Khan has told LBC that police forces across the country suffer from ‘systemic and cultural’ issues that can lead to dangerous individuals entering service.

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After a report found Sarah Everard’s killer ‘abused women long before he joined police,” Mr Khan warned that multiple police forces could have taken action against Wayne Couzens but failed to do so - eventually leading up to Sarah’s abduction, rape and murder.

Mr Khan said: “What’s quite clear from his track record is… a number of forces could have taken action to stop him being a police officer, or kick him out - and didn’t.”

"There were red flags, that should have brought him to the attention of those in positions of power and influence and kicked him out."

He said there would have been "people in the police service who knew this man was 'dodgy' but no action was taken."

Mr Khan added that it's "far too easy to become a police officer" and "far too difficult" to kick them out.

Mayor Sadiq Khan as a report condemns police for ‘repeated failures’ to stop Sarah Everard’s killer

A public inquiry into Sarah's kidnap, rape and murder raised ‘extreme concerns’ at failed opportunities to stop Wayne Couzens.

The then-serving PC had served in three police forces before he attacked the 33-year-old from South London, moving from Kent Police to the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC) before joining the Metropolitan Police.

Lady Elish Angiolini has described the culture in policing as doing ‘nothing to discourage his misogynistic views’ meaning his ‘deviant behaviour could flourish’.

She said: “The evidence seen by the Inquiry has shown that failures in recruitment and vetting meant Couzens was able to continue a policing career which should have been denied to him.

Read more: 'She died because he was a police officer': Sarah Everard's family welcome findings of Couzens inquiry

“Failures in investigations into allegations of indecent exposure meant opportunities to disrupt Couzens’ offending and bring his policing career to a halt were missed.

“Three separate forces allowed him the privilege of being a police officer when they could and should have stopped him.”

Read more: How rapist cop who was recruited to the Met after a failed investigation went on to attack women at knifepoint

Read more: Former Met Police officer found guilty of multiple rapes and kidnap while serving in ‘sickening’ case

Casey report says Met Police may have more officers like Couzens and Carrick

The first report from the Angiolini Inquiry also hit out at ‘lethargic and inadequate’ investigations into indecent exposure offences, calling for an overhaul to how seriously they’re looked at.

It’s after Couzens was reported for driving while naked and erect in 2015 with the call handler marking it ‘low risk’ and the investigation being closed within nine days, with no further action taken.

This was marked by the inquiry as ‘a red flag and a missed opportunity to disrupt or prevent Couzens’ offending and allowed him to continue working as a police officer’.

Lady Elish also reported that she was ‘extremely concerned’ that current national guidance for police forces on investigating sexual offences does not appear to include indecent exposure, “supporting a view that it is not a serious offence.”

She said: “I am calling for a step change in the way police respond to indecent exposure cases. More research is needed to understand the link between this offence and the likely trajectory towards serious contact offending.

“Even without that trajectory, victims deserve to have their cases investigated properly.”

Police officer: 'Special place in hell' for Carrick and Couzens

Wayne Couzens was reported to police four times before his arrest following Sarah Everard’s murder – the final time, just days before he abducted her – but he wasn’t charged for any of them until after his conviction for murder.

The 347-page report also revealed that Couzens, while serving as a voluntary Special Constable at Kent Police, had failed vetting to become a regular PC in 2008, but was allowed to continue in his voluntary role.

In 2011, Couzens applied to join the Civil Nuclear Constabulary with his force-level vetting done by Thames Valley Police.

They recommended he should not be approved because of his financial difficulties but the CNC proceeded to put him forward for national vetting, awarding him a higher level of clearance than Counter Terrorism officers get.

In 2018, when he moved to the Met, he wasn’t re-vetted because of that clearance, despite him being reported for indecent exposure three years earlier.

The report said it is a ‘deeply significant failing’ that even if he had been re-vetted, at the time, clearance would have still been recommended.

It also criticised the Met’s reliance on previous vetting when considering the risk assessment of arming officers, saying it should be ‘more robust’.

“Those assessing Couzens’ risk to be an authorised firearms officer were not able to access information about the 2015 indecent exposure allegation,” it said, adding, “If they had, it is likely his application would have been rejected.”

Lady Angiolini described it as a ‘significant gap’ that national security vetting does not have access to the Police National Database which not only records crimes but also intelligence and allegations that have been made.

The inquiry has made 16 recommendations including for a specialist national policy to be established for investigating all sexual offences – including non-contact – by September 2024.

Lady Angiolini has also said police forces should build on their recent work to clear ranks of offending officers by reviewing all allegations of sexual offences against serving officers.

A picture of Sarah Everard sits amongst flowers left at the bandstand, Clapham Common where floral tributes were laid after her murder
A picture of Sarah Everard sits amongst flowers left at the bandstand, Clapham Common where floral tributes were laid after her murder. Picture: Alamy

Sarah Everard’s family have welcomed the recommendations, saying: “The Inquiry has raised many important issues and will undoubtedly help to establish changes that will improve the safety of women and girls.

“As a family, the Inquiry has helped us, not just because of its significant findings, but because its implementation made us feel that Sarah’s life was valued and her memory honoured. Her death has not been dismissed as a tragic event to be acknowledged with sympathy and then forgotten.

“It is obvious that Wayne Couzens should never have been a police officer. Whilst holding a position of trust, in reality he was a serial sex offender. Warning signs were overlooked throughout his career and opportunities to confront him were missed. We believe that Sarah died because he was a police officer – she would never have got into a stranger’s car.”