'Warped' killer Wayne Couzens argued for shorter jail term 'as he tried to minimise Sarah Everard's family's suffering'

·4 min read

Sarah Everard's "warped" killer Wayne Couzens argued he should not have to spend the rest of his life behind bars because he tried to "minimise" the pain suffered by her family after he was arrested.

Couzens, who was a Met Police officer when he murdered Ms Everard, pleaded guilty in July to her kidnap, rape and murder and was given a full life order on Thursday – the first police officer to receive such a sentence.

Whole life orders are the most severe punishment available in the UK criminal justice system for those who commit the most serious crimes and Couzens should now expect to die in prison.

Undated family handout photo of Sarah Everard issued by the Crown Prosecution Service. Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, has been handed a whole life order at the Old Bailey for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah. Issue date: Thursday September 30, 2021.
Sarah Everard was walking home when she was kidnapped and later raped and murdered by Wayne Couzens. (PA)

During the hearing, Couzens' defence barrister, Jim Sturman QC, urged the judge to impose a determinate sentence, which would mean he would be eligible for release in his 80s.

"What he has done is terrible. He deserves a very lengthy finite term but he did all he could after he was arrested to minimise the wicked harm that he did."

The barrister told the court that Couzens’s guilty pleas had saved the Everards "the terror" of what the verdicts would be.

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Susan Everard (right), the mother of Sarah Everard, reading a victim impact statement as former Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens (left), 48, sits in the dock with his head bowed. (PA)
Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Susan Everard (right), the mother of Sarah Everard, reading a victim impact statement as former Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens (left), 48, sits in the dock with his head bowed. (PA)

At another point during the hearing, Couzens refused to look at her distraught family in court before being sentenced, because he was "too ashamed".

Ms Everard’s parents and sister asked the former Met Police officer, 48, to look at them as they read their victim impact statements describing the effect his horrific crime had had on them.

Couzens' barrister said: "He was invited to look at the Everards. He could not I am told. He is ashamed."

Read more: ‘Absolutely terrifying’: Women react to revelation Wayne Couzens ‘falsely arrested’ Sarah Everard

At his sentencing hearing at the Old Bailey, the court heard that Couzens used his Metropolitan Police-issue warrant card and handcuffs to snatch Ms Everard, 33, in a fake arrest as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, on the evening of 3 March.

He then drove her to a secluded area near Dover in Kent where he parked up and raped the marketing executive before burning her body in a refrigerator in an area of woodland he owned in Hoads Wood, near Ashford, before dumping the remains in a nearby pond.

He said his family struggled to reconcile how "the man they loved" who had given "no indication of violence towards the person" could have "behaved in this way".

Mr Sturman added: "He appeared to be living a life as a law-abiding man with a loving family and his colleagues described him as calm and friendly.

"Nothing I say today is at all intended to minimise the horror of what the defendant did that night and after.

File photo dated 08/06/2021 of Jeremy Everard (left), the father of Sarah Everard, outside the Old Bailey, central London, with other family members. Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, has pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey in London to the murder of Sarah Everard. Issue date: Friday July 9, 2021.
Jeremy Everard (left), the father of Sarah Everard, outside the Old Bailey, central London, with other family members at an earlier hearing. (PA)

"He makes no excuses for his actions, he accepts he will receive, and he deserves, a severe punishment.

"No right-minded person… can feel anything other than revulsion for what he did.

"He does not seek to make excuses for anything that he did and he is filled with self-loathing and abject shame. And he should be."

But the judge said the seriousness of the case was so “exceptionally high” that it warranted a whole life order.

“The misuse of a police officer’s role such as occurred in this case in order to kidnap, rape and murder a lone victim is of equal seriousness as a murder for the purpose of advancing a political, religious ideological cause,” said the judge.

“You have eroded the confidence that the public are entitled to have in the police forces of England and Wales.

“It is critical that every subject in this country can trust police officers when they encounter them and submit to their authority, which they are entitled to believe is being exercised in good faith.

He went on: “You have utterly betrayed your family. Your wife and children, who on all the evidence, are entirely blameless will have to live with the ignominy of your dreadful crimes for the rest of their lives.

“You have very considerably added to the sense of insecurity that many have living in our cities, perhaps particularly women, when travelling by themselves and especially at night.”

The judge also paid tribute to the dignity of Ms Everard’s family, whose statements in court on Wednesday revealed the human impact of Couzens’ “warped, selfish and brutal offending which was both sexual and homicidal”.

Watch: CCTV shows moments before Sarah Everard's kidnapping

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