A British police officer who falsely arrested a woman for breaking coronavirus restrictions, then kidnapped, raped and murdered her, was given a rare whole-life jail term on Thursday.
Judge Adrian Fulford told Wayne Couzens, 48, his offences were “grotesque”, after he snatched Sarah Everard off the streets of south London in March this year.
Everard’s disappearance sparked one of Britain’s most high-profile missing persons investigations and protests calling for better safety for women in public spaces.
But there has been widespread horror and revulsion at the involvement of a police officer, who exploited lockdown restrictions and abused his position of trust to kill.
Couzens, who served with the elite diplomatic protection unit of London’s Metropolitan Police, admitted kidnapping, rape and murder at a hearing in July and was sacked.
Sentencing him at the Old Bailey, in central London, Fulford called Couzens’ actions “devastating, tragic and wholly brutal” and said his victim was “wholly blameless”.
Couzens, who will die in jail, becomes the latest of only 60 criminals who will never be considered for release.
“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 for the purpose of advancing a political, religious ideological cause,” Fulford said.
Everard’s family was in court to see her killer jailed. On Wednesday, they gave emotional statements describing the harrowing impact of her death.
“No punishment that you receive will ever compare to the pain and torture that you have inflicted on us,” her father, Jeremy, told Couzens.
The high-profile case refocused attention on how the police handle complaints of violence against women and girls in Britain.
Questions have been raised about why previous complaints of indecent exposure against Couzens, said to have been a user of sex workers and violent pornography, were not dealt with.
The leader of Britain’s main opposition Labour party, Keir Starmer, a former chief prosecutor for England and Wales, said legislation needed to be tightened.
He also called for a review of how Couzens was able to “slip through the net”, despite a series of “warning signs”.
Starmer’s Labour colleague, Harriet Harman, a former women’s minister, called for the resignation of Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick.
“Women must be able to trust the police not fear them. Women’s confidence in police will have been shattered,” she said in a letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel and the Met.