LONDON – A British police officer was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday without parole for the kidnapping, rape and murder of a young woman in a case that has sparked national outrage and protests against the violence masculine.
Wayne Couzens, 48, used his post as a serving London police officer and the pretext of Covid-19 restrictions to kidnap Sarah Everard from a street in the UK capital earlier this year, prosecutors said.
Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, disappeared as she walked home to a friend on March 3. A major police investigation led to Couzens’ arrest, and he pleaded guilty to the charges in July.
The revelations from the two-day sentencing hearing sparked further uproar over women’s safety and their ability to trust law enforcement.
In condemning Couzens, Lord Justice Fulford said he deserved the rare life sentence for the nature of the crime, but also for showing no evidence of genuine remorse.
A life sentence means there is no minimum time set by the judge and the person is never considered for release. It is reserved for particularly serious offenses.
In details first heard on Wednesday, prosecutors told London’s Old Bailey Court that Couzens used his police identity and coronavirus restrictions to handcuff Everard in a “false arrest.”
He then drove to a secluded area in a rental car where he raped and murdered Everard, prosecutor Tom Little said, before burning his body and clothes.
The body was found a week after it went missing in a forest in Kent County, more than 50 miles south-east of London.
Little said that Couzens was on a “hunt” for a lonely young woman before meeting Everard.
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In emotional statements read in court, Everard’s parents criticized Couzens for taking their daughter and treating her “like she was nothing.”
“I am going through the terrible sequence of events,” said Susan Everard, Sarah’s mother. “I wonder when she realized she was in danger of death.
Defense lawyer Jim Sturman said Thursday that Couzens was filled with self-loathing and shame.
Sturman pleaded for leniency in a submission that took about 20 minutes, noting that Couzens had spared the Everard family “the agony of waiting for a verdict” by pleading guilty.
Couzens joined the London Metropolitan Police in 2018 and recently served in an armed unit tasked with guarding embassies in the capital and Parliament.
He had worked nights at the US Embassy the day he kidnapped Everard.
Metropolitan Police said on Wednesday they were “disgusted, angry and devastated by the crimes of this man who betray everything we stand for.”
Couzens was forcibly sacked in July, a week after pleading guilty to Everard’s murder.
But revelations that Couzens abused his power to fraudulently detain Everard has led many social media to question how they can trust the police again without fundamental reform.
Zoe Billingham, an official responsible for independently evaluating the effectiveness of the police, told the BBC on Thursday that the case was a “watershed moment” that struck a hammer on the legitimacy of the police in the country, adding that it was not a “unique”.
Lord Justice Fulford also said Couzens’ actions had eroded public confidence in police forces across the country.
Prosecutors called Everard’s case “one of the most high-profile missing persons investigations this country has ever seen”, with his disappearance and death gripping the UK and sparking a national conversation about violence in the country. towards women.
In the wake of her murder, thousands of women shared stories about the harassment they suffered, security concerns, and the failure of the criminal justice system to prosecute crimes against women.
The UK government has since revised its strategy to tackle violence against women and girls, and a government-commissioned report released earlier this month recommended that the police address the issue equally emergency than terrorism.
But women’s rights activists continue to sound the alarm bells at the disproportionate levels of violence affecting women and girls, especially those from marginalized communities.
The latest case to spark a resumption of national conversation is the death of 28-year-old teacher Sabina Nessa, killed as she walked through a public park on her way to a south-east London pub earlier this month .
The case has also sparked debate over whether incidents involving women of color are not receiving the same level of public and media attention.
A man was charged with his death earlier this week.