2021-09-29 14:52:50 Sarah Everard Case: Killer Falsely Arrested Her
Sarah Everard Case: Killer Falsely Arrested Her
LONDON: A prosecutor told a London courtroom on Wednesday that a police officer found guilty of the murder of Sarah Everard earlier this year used the false pretense that she was violating Covid-19 regulations to abduct her before raped and killing her.
Her kidnapping and murder in March sparked a national outpouring of support for better women’s rights, but the harrowing details of how the officer, Wayne Couzens, used his official police credentials, equipment, and training to commit the crime were revealed publicly for the first time during his sentencing hearing.
The prosecution described Mr. Couzens’ actions as “deception, kidnap, rape, strangulation, and fire.”
Ms. Everard was kidnapped on March 3 while Britain was under a state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic. The movement of people was restricted, and the regulations were frequently enforced by the local police.
A prosecutor, Tom Little, described in court how Mr. Couzens confronted Ms. Everard as she walked home from a friend’s house in South London and conducted “a false arrest” for violating lockdown guidelines in order to get Ms. Everard into his car.
According to the prosecutor, Mr. Couzens, a diplomatic protection officer with the Metropolitan Police, used his warrant card — a type of police identification card — before handcuffing her and driving away.
Seven days later, her remains were discovered in a wooded area near Ashford, Kent, about 60 miles from London.
Sarah Everard’s formal name is Sarah Everard. The crime sparked a national movement in which women shared their own experiences with street harassment. Photographer:…-/Agence France-Presse, via Metropolitan Police/Afp courtesy of Getty Images
The prosecutor told the court that Mr. Couzens had worked on Covid patrols a few months before, giving him an understanding of the protocols regarding potential lockdown breaches.
A witness passing by in a vehicle noticed what was going on and thought it was strange, but assumed it was just a police officer detaining a woman “who had done something wrong,” the prosecutor told the court.
Ms. Everard complied with Mr. Couzens’ demand to get into the car, according to surveillance footage, because she most likely thought she was being arrested.
The new information sparked outrage among human rights organizations.
The Women’s Equality Party called the abduction a “disgusting abuse of power” and demanded an independent investigation into sexism in the Metropolitan Police force, as well as the treatment of violence against women and girls as a national threat.
“Women cannot be expected to trust the police if we are forced to live in fear of this,” the party said in a statement. “Misogyny is deeply embedded in our institutions.”
Many have criticized the police for failing to investigate allegations of other sexual offenses by Mr. Couzens prior to Ms. Everard’s murder, including reports that he exposed himself in public days before the attack.
The Metropolitan Police in London issued a statement ahead of the sentencing hearing on Wednesday, acknowledging that Mr. Couzens’ “actions raise many concerns.”
“We are sickened, enraged, and devastated by this man’s crimes, which betray everything we stand for,” said the police in a statement.
Ms. Everard’s boyfriend reported her missing the day after she was abducted after she failed to return home, and a missing persons poster quickly spread on social media.
After her body was discovered, the urgency surrounding her disappearance gave way to grief and then to anger.
The crime sparked a national movement in which women shared their own stories of street harassment and sexual violence, calling for action to address the issue of women’s safety.
During the lockdown, it sparked street protests, with demonstrators calling for systemic changes in how police handle crimes against women.
The fact that Mr. Couzens was a police officer heightened public outrage over Ms. Everard’s death. For his crimes, he could face up to life in prison.
Following Ms. Everard’s murder and other cases of fatal violence against women, the British government announced a new strategy to combat this type of violence in July. The proposed measures included harsher penalties for offenders as well as increased policing of public spaces.
Priti Patel, the home secretary, commissioned a report from an independent watchdog group to review the policing response to violence against women and girls in the aftermath of Ms. Everard’s death and subsequent protests against policing.
The report, which was released earlier this month, called for a “radical shift in approach across the entire system, involving the police, criminal justice system, local governments, health, and education.”