Warning: This story contains details that may be disturbing to readers.
A serving London police officer was sentenced on Thursday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the kidnapping, rape and murder of a woman he tricked into his car using his police identity and COVID-19 laws.
Wayne Coozens, 48, was accused of falsely arresting 33-year-old Sarah Everard for violating lockdown restrictions as she walked home from visiting a friend in south London on March 3. Prosecutors said he handcuffed Everard, took her far from the city, and then raped and killed her.
Couzens had pleaded guilty to the charges.
Sentencing, Justice Adrian Fulford said that Cousins abused his role as a police officer and that the circumstances of the case were “devastating, tragic and utterly brutal”. The judge said that Cousins, who “hunted a single woman for kidnapping and rape,” planned the crime in “unspeakable” grim detail.
“You have eroded the trust that the public deserves in the police forces of England and Wales,” he said.
Fulford said the gravity of the case was so “extraordinarily high” that it carried a sentence of full life imprisonment. The sentence means that with no chance of parole, Couzens will die in prison.
The body of Everard, a marketing executive, was found in woodland in Ashford, Kent, about 60 miles (about 100 kilometers) south-east of London, a week after he went missing. Prosecutors said Cousins strangled her with his police belt before setting the body on fire.
Coozens was arrested at his home in Deal in south-east England after police linked him to a rental car they had used to kidnap Everard.
Couzens joined the Metropolitan Police in 2018 and had worked as part of a team guarding diplomatic locations in central London. On the day she abducted Everard, she worked an overnight shift at the US embassy.
Everhard’s murder and the officer’s arrest shook the nation and raised questions about trust in the police. London’s Metropolitan Police Department has said he was “sick, outraged and devastated” by how one of his own was responsible for the crime.
Following Everard’s murder, many questioned how police investigate its officers, while others criticized Scotland Yard for not doing enough to protect women and girls and deal with allegations of sexual violence.
After Coogens’ arrest, it emerged that he had been charged with indecent exposure at least twice prior to Everard’s murder, and police are investigating whether the charges were properly dealt with.
The case particularly touched a nerve with women because Everard was kidnapped in the well-lit areas of Clapham and Brixton, as well as in busy areas of the capital, where women and girls frequented every day. Was.
“No woman should be afraid of harassment or violence. We will do everything we can to stop these heinous crimes and keep our communities safe,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said after Thursday’s sentencing.
Labor legislator Harriet Herman renewed calls for Cressida Dick, the first female chief of the Metropolitan Police, to allow immediate reforms to be implemented, including the immediate suspension of officers accused of violence against women.
“Women need to be reassured that the police are there to make them safe, not put them at risk,” Herman said in a letter to Dick. “Women need to be able to trust the police, not be afraid of them.”
Also on Thursday, a suspect in a more recent murder case accused of the “pre-planned and violent” murder of a 28-year-old school teacher in southeast London appeared in court.
Kosi Selamaj, 36, is accused of assaulting Sabina Nessa as she went to visit a friend on September 17. His body was found a day later in a local park.