LONDON — The former police officer who raped and murdered a young woman may have handcuffed and arrested her under the false pretense of her breaching Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, a London court heard Wednesday.
Sarah Everard, whose death sparked a nationwide outcry about violence against women in the U.K., went missing as she was walking home from her friend’s house last March, the Old Bailey was told.
Wayne Couzens, who was a serving member of London's Metropolitan Police at the time, pled guilty in July to murdering the 33-year-old marketing executive.
At the two-day sentencing hearing that began Wednesday, prosecutor Tom Little told the court that Couzens’ movements before Everard's abduction were "consistent with the defendant hunting for a lone young female to kidnap and rape."
Everard, he said, had been to a friend's house for dinner at the height of the lockdown and would have been "more vulnerable to and/or more likely to submit to an accusation" that she had broken Covid-19 rules at the time Couzens performed "a false arrest."
That was the start of her lengthy ordeal, including an 80-mile journey while detained, Little said. When he did not take her to a police station, Everard "must have realized her fate," he added.
Everard's body was found a week after she went missing in a woodland in the county of Kent, more than 50 miles southeast of London.
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The court was told that Couzens burned Everard’s body, clothes and possessions after killing her, but Little said a broken fragment of a SIM card from Everard's phone was found in Couzens’ car.
He added that Couzens took a call about his children's' dental appointments, and called a veterinarian to consult on his dog having separation anxiety shortly after Everard's murder.
Everard's family gave emotional statements to the court. Her mother, Susan Everard, said in a statement that Couzens had treated her daughter "as if she was nothing and disposed of her as if she was rubbish."
"I go through the terrible sequence of events. I wonder when she realized she was in mortal danger," she said.
After asking for his daughter's picture to be displayed in the courtroom, Everard’s father, Jeremy, asked Couzens to face him as he addressed him directly.
Murder of London woman sparks worldwide outrageMarch 14, 202101:44
"Sarah was handcuffed and unable to defend herself," he said. "This preys on my mind all the time."
Before the hearing, the Metropolitan Police said in a statement that it was "sickened, angered and devastated by this man's crimes which betray everything we stand for."
Couzens joined the force in 2018 and had most recently served in the parliamentary and diplomatic protection command, an armed unit responsible for guarding embassies in the capital and Parliament.
His sentencing is scheduled for Thursday.