A former London police officer was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole Thursday for the kidnapping, rape and murder of a woman he tricked into his car using his police identification and COVID-19 laws.
Wayne Couzens, 48, was accused of falsely arresting 33-year-old Sarah Everard for violating lockdown restrictions as she walked home from visiting a friend in south London on March 3. Prosecutors said Couzens, who was on the Metropolitan Police force at the time, handcuffed Everard, drove her far outside the city, and then raped and killed her.
He had pleaded guilty to the charges.
In handing down the sentence, Justice Adrian Fulford described the details of the case as "devastating, tragic and wholly brutal." Couzens went "hunting a lone female to kidnap and rape," having planned the crime in "unspeakably" grim detail, the judge said."You have eroded the confidence that the public are entitled to have in the police forces of England and Wales," Fulford told the ex-officer, who had finished working an overnight shift at the U.S. Embassy on the day he kidnapped Everard.
The seriousness of the case was so "exceptionally high" that it warranted a whole life sentence, Fulford added. The sentence means that Couzens will die in prison with no chance of parole.
The body of Everard, a marketing executive, was found in woodland in Ashford, Kent, about 60 miles southeast of London, a week after she went missing. Prosecutors said Couzens strangled her with his police belt before setting fire to the body.
Couzens was arrested at his home in Deal in southeastern England after police connected him to a rental car he used to abduct Everard.
Everard's slaying and the officer's arrest prompted an outpouring of grief and anger across Britain, touching a nerve with women particularly because Everard was abducted while walking home along well-lit areas of Clapham and Brixton — urban, busy areas of the capital frequented by scores of women and girls every day.
After Couzens' arrest, it emerged that he had been accused of indecent exposure at least twice before he murdered Everard, and the police department is being investigated over whether the allegations were dealt with properly.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press.