An officer who strangled Sarah Everard with his police belt after kidnapping her under the guise of a fake arrest will die in jail.
Wayne Couzens, 48, was handed a whole life order for the “grotesque” killing of the 33-year-old marketing executive which shocked and outraged the nation.
Sentencing at the Old Bailey on Thursday, Lord Justice Fulford said the seriousness of the case was so “exceptionally high” 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.”
He described the murder as “devastating” and “tragic” and that Couzens went out “hunting a lone female to kidnap and rape”.
He said Ms Everard was “a wholly blameless victim of a grotesque series of circumstances that culminated in her death”.
The last moments of Sarah Everard’s life were “as bleak and agonising as it is possible to imagine”, he added.
Couzens shook in the dock as he was sent down to begin his sentence.
Lord Justice Fulford paid tribute to the dignity of Ms Everard’s family, whose statements in court revealed the human impact of Couzen’s “warped, selfish and brutal offending which was both sexual and homicidal”.
The court had heard how Couzens used his Metropolitan Police-issue warrant card and handcuffs to snatch Ms Everard as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, on the evening of 3 March.
The firearms officer, who had clocked off from a 12-hour shift at the American embassy that morning, drove to a secluded rural area near Dover in Kent, where he parked up and raped Ms Everard.
Ms Everard, who lived in Brixton, south London, had been strangled with Couzens’ police issue belt by 2.30am the following morning.
Married Couzens then burned 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 was arrested at his home in Deal, Kent, after police connected him to a hire car he used to abduct Ms Everard, whose remains were found by police dogs on 10 March.
In an emergency interview at his home, Couzens concocted a fake story that he had been “leant” on by a gang which forced him to hand over “a girl”.
He went on to plead guilty to Ms Everard’s kidnap, rape and murder and was sacked from the force in July.
On Wednesday, Ms Everard’s parents Jeremy and Susan and sister Katie asked Couzens to look at them, condemning him as a “monster” as he sat quaking in the dock with his head bowed.
Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick also attended court to hear how one of her own officers had abused his position to carry out his crimes.
Couzens’ defence barrister Jim Sturman QC urged the judge to hand him a lengthy life sentence, meaning he would be eligible for parole in his 80s.
Mr Sturman said: “The defendant was invited to look at the Everards. He could not, I am told.
“He is ashamed. 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.”