Sarah Everard’s killer Wayne Couzens ‘should never have been a police officer’, inquiry finds

Wayne Couzens, the police officer who abducted, raped and murdered Sarah Everard in 2021, was wholly unsuitable for his position on the force, an inquiry has found. 

A former armed protection officer with the Metropolitan Police, Couzens swapped homophobic, sexist and racist messages with other officers in a private WhatsApp group in 2019.

The three-part inquiry, led by lawyer Lady Elish Angiolini, concluded yesterday (29 February) that Couzens should never have been allowed to become a police officer, and that opportunities were missed by others in the force to stop him. 

Wayne Couzens is serving a whole life sentence for the murder of Sarah Everard three years ago. (Met Police)

Couzens’ alleged criminal history before the murder of 33-year-old Everard – including accusations of rape, sexual assault and indecent exposure – was revealed in Angiolini’s report. 

The alleged offences date back almost 20 years before Everard’s murder and included two rapes, the sexual assault of a child and several cases of indecent exposure, one of which is believed to have taken place just days before off-duty Couzens murdered marketing executive Everard. 

The report also alleged that Couzens possessed indecent images of children. 

In 2021, he was investigated for allegedly sexually assaulting a drag queen in a bar. The unnamed performer said she encountered Couzens in a pub near the officer’s home in Deal, Kent, in 2018 – three years before he attacked Everard.

Recalling the incident, they told The Mirror: “I was wearing a turquoise and ­silver leotard with beads showing off my legs, and the same colour feather boa. I was getting served and this man said to me: ‘Are you having a good night?’ I went, ‘Yes, thank you’, and thought no more about it.

“Then he went round to my groin and I went: ‘Oi, stop that. My partner’s over there’. He went, ‘Do you know who I am?’ and I went, ‘Do you know who I f**king am?’

“I told him my drag stage name and he said: ‘I’m a policeman.’ I said to him, ‘I don’t give a f**k who you are, you do not touch me’.”

Cressida Dick, who was the Met Police commissioner at the time, makes a statement outside the Old Bailey following the sentencing of Wayne Couzens. (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)

Police were found to have “repeatedly failed” to look at warning signs about his “unsuitability” to be a police officer, according to the inquiry.

The report also found at least five incidents which were not reported to the police.

Couzens, now 51, joined Kent Police as a special constable in 2002 and became an officer with the Civil Nuclear Constabulary in 2011. He transferred to the Met in 2018, and was on armed protection duties in parliament between February and July 2020. 

He also worked as an armed officer at other high-profile buildings, and finished a shift at the US Embassy in London before he abducted and killed Everard. 

Lady Angiolini believes that a murder like this could happen again. “Without a significant overhaul, there is nothing to stop another Couzens operating in plain sight,” she wrote.

“Repeated failures in recruitment and vetting meant that Couzens could enjoy the powers and privileges that accompany the role of a police officer. He went on to use his knowledge of police powers to falsely arrest Sarah Everard.

“Even after Couzens’ arrest and a review of his vetting clearance, the Met told the inquiry in 2022 that they would still have recruited him if provided with the same information. I found this astonishing.

“Now is the time for change,” she added in her report, urging “all those in authority in every police force in the country to read this report and take immediate action”.

Messages and flowers were left on Clapham Common in memory of Sarah Everard who had lived nearby. (Leon Neal/Getty)

Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley called the report “an urgent call to action for all of us in policing”.

In a statement, Everard’s parents and siblings Sue, Jeremy, Katie and James, said: “It is obvious that Wayne Couzens should never have been a police officer… while holding a position of trust, in reality, he was a serial sex offender.

“We believe that Sarah died because he was a police officer. She would never have got into a stranger’s car.”

Home secretary James Cleverly said Everard was “failed in more ways than one by the people who were meant to keep her safe”.

Couzens pleaded guilty to murder when he appeared at the Old Bailey in July 2021. Two months later he was given a whole life sentence, with Lord Justice Fulford justifying the punishment because the use of his position as a police officer to detain Everard was the “vital factor”.

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