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Rabu, 29 September 2021

Sarah Everard's killer falsely arrested and handcuffed her for breaching COVID restrictions, London court hears - ABC News

The killer of London woman Sarah Everard falsely arrested her for breaching COVID restrictions before handcuffing her and putting her in a car, a court has heard.

Former police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, appeared in London's Old Bailey court on Wednesday after pleading guilty to the kidnapping, rape and murder of the 33-year-old in July.

Warning: This story contains graphic content that may disturb some readers.

Ms Everard had been walking home from a friend's house in Clapham in south London on the evening of March 3 when police officer Couzens pulled over the rental car he was driving and stopped her.

Couzens sat in court with his head bowed as members of Ms Everard's family listened to prosecutor Tom Little QC open his case.

Mr Little said Couzens wore his police belt with handcuffs and used his police identification when he detained Ms Everard "by fraud".

There was "no credible alternative explanation for his need to hire a car other than to use that car to kidnap and rape a lone woman," Mr Little said.

Couzens joined the Metropolitan Police in 2018 and had worked as part of a team protecting diplomatic locations in central London.

He had worked an overnight shift at the US embassy on the day he kidnapped Ms Everard.

A screenshot of a woman in a beanie, face mask and green coat walking while speaking on the phone
CCTV vision captured some of Sarah Everard's walk home from her friend's house on the night she was kidnapped.(

Supplied: London Metropolitan Police

)

As a police officer, Couzens also had worked on COVID-19 patrols, enforcing coronavirus regulations, Mr Little said.

Ms Everard was walking home after going to a friend's house for dinner while England remained under lockdown, which made her more vulnerable to the officer's claim that she had breached pandemic rules, according to the prosecutor.

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A passenger in a passing car witnessed Ms Everard's kidnapping, but mistook it for an arrest by an undercover officer, he added.

Mr Little said pathologists could not determine Ms Everard's time of death, but said Couzens had strangled her with his police belt by the time he stopped at a service station for drinks and snacks at 2:30am on March 4.

Couzens later burned her body and her clothes inside an old refrigerator before putting her remains inside builders' bags and dumping them.

Her body was found in woodland in Ashford, Kent, about 100 kilometres south-east of London, a week after she went missing.

Family 'tormented' by Sarah's death

sarah everard smiles and holds a medal.
Sarah Everard's family told the court they could never forgive her killer.(

Supplied: Metropolitan Police

)

Ms Everard's parents and sister demanded Couzens face them as they read out harrowing victim impact statements to the court.

"Sarah died in horrendous circumstances," Sarah's mother, Susan Everard, told the court.

"I am tormented at the thought of what she endured.

"The thought of it is unbearable – I am haunted by the horror of it."

Sarah's father Jeremy said he could never forgive Couzens for what he had done.

"The horrendous murder of my daughter, Sarah, is in my mind all the time and will be for the rest of my life," he said.

"Sarah was handcuffed and unable to defend herself. This preys on my mind all the time.

Before the sentencing hearing began, Metropolitan Police released a statement saying the force was "sickened, angered and devastated" by his crimes and that he betrayed "everything we stand for".

A court sketch of a bald man with pale eyebrows and beard
Wayne Couzens is set to be sentenced for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard.(

AP: Elizabeth Cook

)

"Our thoughts are with Sarah's family and her many friends. It is not possible for us to imagine what they are going through," the statement said.

"We recognise his actions raise many questions and concerns but we will not be commenting further until the hearing is complete."

Couzens will be sentenced on Thursday.

Teacher's murder puts women's safety back in spotlight

Ms Everard's disappearance led to one of the most widely publicised missing person investigations the UK has ever seen, Mr Little said.

The case also sparked national outrage and triggered large protests denouncing violence against women.

The UK government said in the wake of Ms Everard’s killing that it would invest millions of pounds more in its "Safer Streets" fund to put more officers on the streets and improve street lighting and closed-circuit television facilities to protect women and girls.

Outside the court on Wednesday demonstrators held banners accusing the Metropolitan Police of having blood on its hands and chanted slogans alleging the police are able to abuse their powers without recourse.

The killing of 28-year-old primary school teacher Sabina Nessa, who was found dead in a London park earlier this month, has put renewed focus on the safety of women in London.

Vigils were held in London and around Britain to remember Ms Nessa.

ABC/AP

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2021-09-29 18:11:07Z
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