BREAKING: Wayne Couzens Pleads Guilty To The Murder Of Sarah Everard
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Warning: distressing content
Wayne Couzens has pleaded guilty to murdering Sarah Everard, in a case that sent shockwaves around the country and prompted a nationwide debate on the safety of women.
The Metropolitan Police officer, 48, kidnapped Sarah in a hire car as she walked home alone from a friend's house in Clapham, south London, on the evening of 3rd March. He previously pleaded guilty to her rape and kidnap.
Couzens, who had clocked off from a 12-hour shift that morning, went on to rape and strangle the 33-year-old marketing executive.
Police launched an urgent inquiry after Sarah was reported missing by her boyfriend Josh Lowth.
Couzens, a firearms-trained parliamentary and diplomatic protection officer, wiped his phone just minutes before he was arrested at his home in Deal, Kent, on 9th March.
The following day - a week after she disappeared - Sarah's body was found in a woodland stream in Ashford, Kent, just metres from land owned by Couzens.
The killing has sparked protests at the rate of violence against women.
Police were criticised over the manhandling of women at a vigil for Sarah attended by the Duchess of Cambridge.
On Friday, Couzens pleaded guilty to Sarah's murder when he appeared at the Old Bailey by video link from Belmarsh high security jail.
It can now be reported that Couzens, who joined the Met Police in 2018, had booked the hire of a Vauxhall Astra and bought a roll of self-adhesive film days before the murder.
At around 9pm on 3rd March, Sarah set off on foot for the two-and-a-half mile journey home, chatting with her boyfriend by mobile phone on the way.
A camera attached to a passing marked police car captured her walking alone at 9.32pm.
Just three minutes later, a bus camera appeared to capture the moment she was intercepted by Couzens in Balham, south London.
Two figures could be seen standing by the hire car, which was parked on the pavement with its hazard lights flashing.
After snatching Ms Everard, Couzens drove out of London, arriving in the area of Tilmanstone, near Deal, at 1am.
Investigators tracked the route of the car using CCTV and ANPR cameras and identified the driver as a serving officer through the car hire firm.
Couzens had used his personal details and bank card to make the booking, picking up the Vauxhall Astra on the afternoon of the abduction and returning it the next morning.
In the days that followed, Couzens reported that he was suffering from stress and did not want to carry a firearm any more, according to a case summary.
On 8th March, the day he was due on duty, he reported in sick. The next day, police arrested Couzens at 7.50pm - 39 minutes after he wiped the data from his mobile phone.
In a police interview, Couzens concocted an elaborate story and claimed to be having financial problems.
Phone data led officers to the site and at 4.45pm a body was found some 100 metres outside the property boundary.
Further inquiries revealed that on the same day that Couzens booked the hire car, he bought a roll of self-adhesive film on Amazon.
Two days after Sarah was last seen, Couzens was caught on CCTV buying two green rubble bags at B&Q in Dover.
He went on to order tarpaulin and a bungee cargo net for delivery on 7th March.
Even though Couzens' phone had been wiped, cell site data linked him to the abduction and the area where Ms Everard was eventually found.
Not only was his device located there in the early hours of 4th March but also in the days leading up to his arrest.
The defendant went on to make no comment in formal interview and was charged on 12th March.
During an earlier hearing, prosecutor Tom Little QC had outlined "significant" risks of Couzens reoffending if bailed.
He cited an alleged incident of indecent exposure on 28th February - days before the murder.
As part of a string of referrals in the case, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said it was investigating whether Met Police officers responded appropriately to a report of indecent exposure at a fast food restaurant in south London.