Scotland Yard has been criticised for failing to confront the fact that a serving police officer kidnapped, raped and murdered Sarah Everard.
On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Police said it is “sickened, angered and devastated” at the killing at the hands of Wayne Couzens – who used his force-issue warrant card and handcuffs to snatch Sarah as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, on the evening of March 3.
At the beginning of the two-day sentencing hearing, the Old Bailey heard how Couzens captured the 33-year-old in a “false arrest” before murdering her. He is due to learn his fate on Thursday.
Critics have questioned the force’s apparent attempts to distance itself from Couzens, particularly since the watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, is investigating whether previous allegations against him were properly dealt with.
Couzens was accused of indecent exposure in the days before the killing, and he had been accused of the same crime in Kent in 2015, while working as an officer for the Civil Nuclear Constabulary. According to The Sun newspaper, he was nicknamed “the rapist” by colleagues there.
The Old Bailey heard on Wednesday that his colleagues knew he was “attracted to violent sexual pornography” and an “incident” was reported in 2002.
A backlash was prompted by a senior investigator on Sarah’s case saying that police officers “do not view” Couzens as one of their own, and he “should never have been near a uniform”.
Former DCI Simon Harding told Sky News: “Police officers do not view Wayne Couzens as a police officer. They view him as a murderer who happened to be a police officer – rather than the other way around, a police officer who is a murderer. And it’s a really important thing.
“He doesn’t hold the same values as a police officer. He doesn’t have the same personality as we do. He’s a very sick, dangerous individual who should never have been near a uniform.”
The sentiment was echoed in Met Police tweet stating Couzens’ crimes “betray everything we stand for”.
The Spectator’s Isabel Hardman said the Met’s emphasis on Couzens being an “ex” police officer is “pretty sickening”.
She added: “He was a police officer when he murdered Sarah Everard. More than that, he used that as a key part of his crime.”
Others argued the Met “doesn’t get to distance themselves from him”, and that the move was “even more horrendous given the failure to address violence against women in their own ranks”.
Couzens, 48, drove to a secluded rural area near Dover in Kent, where he parked up and raped Sarah.
The marketing executive, who lived in Brixton, south London, had been strangled with Couzens’ police belt by 2.30am the following morning.
Married Couzens burned her body in a refrigerator in an area of woodland he owned in Hoads Wood, near Ashford, Kent, before dumping the remains in a nearby pond.
Just days later, amid extensive publicity about Sarah’s disappearance, he took his family on a day out to the woods, allowing his two children to play close by.
Couzens concocted a story about being threatened by a gang when he was arrested at his Deal home on March 9 but later pleaded guilty to Sarah’s kidnap, rape and murder.