Jailed police officer Wayne Couzens, who has admitted guilt, is expected to be sentenced on Thursday.
A serving British police officer falsely accused Sarah Everard of breaking COVID-19 lockdown rules, then handcuffed and arrested her before kidnapping and murdering the 33-year-old, a court has heard.
Wayne Couzens, 48, abducted Everard on March 3 while she was walking home from a friend’s house in south London. He has admitted to her kidnapping, raping and murdering her and is in custody in the United Kingdom’s top security Belmarsh jail.
At the beginning of a two-day sentencing hearing on Wednesday at London’s Central Criminal Court, prosecutor Tom Little said Couzens targeted Everard on the evening of her disappearance.
Couzens, who was part of the London Metropolitan Police’s (MET) elite diplomatic protection unit at the time, kidnapped her in a “false arrest” by “handcuffing her and showing his warrant card”, Little said.
Couzens then put her into a rental car he had hired “to kidnap and rape a lone woman”, he added.
A couple in a passing car witnessed the kidnapping but mistook it for an arrest by an undercover officer, Little said.
Everard was the victim of “deception, kidnap, rape, strangulation and fire”, Little said.
Couzen burned Everard’s body after killing her.
‘Sickened, angered, devastated
Everard’s body was found in woodland in Ashford, Kent, about 60 miles (97 kilometres) southeast of London, a week after she went missing.
Her case gripped the UK, triggering a national conversation about women’s safety on the streets.
A former boyfriend had given evidence that Everard was “savvy and streetwise” and would not have entered a car with a stranger except “by force or manipulation”, Little said.
“The fact she had been to a friend’s house for dinner at the height of the early 2021 lockdown made her more vulnerable to and more likely to submit to an accusation that she had acted in breach of the COVID regulations in some way,” he told the court.
Couzens sat in the dock on Wednesday, watched by members of Everard’s family, as the judge considered whether to hand him a whole-life jail term. The sentence is due to be announced on Thursday.
Demonstrators outside the court held banners with slogans criticising the police such as “Met Police Blood On Your Hands” and let off smoke flares.
Before the court hearing, the Met said in a statement, “We are sickened, angered and devastated by this man’s crimes, which betray everything we stand for.”
The force has sacked Couzens and admitted his actions “raise many questions and concerns”, but said it would not comment further until after the sentencing.