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Wayne Couzens handcuffed and arrested Sarah Everard before killing her, court hears

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Wayne Couzens handcuffed and arrested Sarah Everard before he raped and strangled her, a court has heard.

The then-Metropolitan Police officer may have used COVID-19 lockdown rules as an excuse to stop her as she walked home, lock her in the back of his hire car, and then drive her 80 miles to her death.

Wayne Couzens sentencing – follow live updates

Serving Met Police officer Wayne Couzens has pleaded guilty to the murder of Sarah Everard
Image: Former Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens has pleaded guilty to murder

Ms Everard, 33, had breached coronavirus regulations by visiting a friend for dinner during the third national lockdown in March.

She was a mile or so from her home, walking alone with her headphones in her ears, when Couzens confronted her.

A witness saw Couzens, an off-duty Met Police constable, cuff and arrest Ms Everard, and images of them standing together were caught on security cameras on two buses, a refuse lorry and a marked police car.

Sarah Everard was abducted by Wayne Couzens near Poynders Court in Clapham
Image: Ms Everard was abducted by near Poynders Court in Clapham

Simon Harding, a former senior detective who played a leading role in the investigation, told Sky News: “He could have used COVID as a reason to get her into the back of the car and said, ‘you’re breaching COVID rules’ and arrested her.”

At the time, the government was urging everyone to stay at home and all social mixing was banned. The Met Police had threatened to enforce the pandemic rules “robustly”, though breaches were routinely punished with fines.

Mr Harding said: “There were quite severe COVID restrictions in place and not many people were out and about. In fact, you weren’t really supposed to be out and weren’t supposed to be visiting friends.”

Sarah Everard's body was found in woodland in Ashford, Kent
Image: Ms Everard’s body was found in woodland in Ashford, Kent

Mr Harding said the security camera footage showed Couzens and Ms Everard, a marketing executive, standing by his car, which was parked on the pavement with its hazard lights on and doors open.

“You can see that the two of them were engaged in conversation. It’s difficult to tell from the footage, but what’s clear from the investigation… is that he had used his police authority, whether his police badge, whether part of his uniform, whatever he was doing, to make her stop,” he said.

“He had to get her into that car somehow, and the main way is to put her under arrest. And one of the witnesses who came forward said they saw Sarah being handcuffed.”

He added: “If a police officer arrested Sarah, she would obviously be confused, alarmed and upset, like anybody would, but she certainly wasn’t the sort of person who would then fight a police officer to get away.”

Police officers conduct searches after Sarah Everard's body was found in woodland in Ashford, Kent
Image: Police conduct searches after Ms Everard’s body was found in woodland in Ashford, Kent

The former detective chief inspector and I visited the scene of Ms Everard’s abduction, the main South Circular Road between Clapham Common and Brixton Hill.

He said: “It’s probably a route she knew well and felt was safe.

“Even as a man, you might think this was the safest route. It’s well-lit, plenty of properties around.

“Even if there were not many people on the streets, there may have been some looking out of their windows.”

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July: ‘Everyone in policing feels betrayed’

Mr Harding recalled the moment he and his team discovered Ms Everard’s abductor was a colleague of theirs.

“It is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. It upset a lot of officers, as you can imagine,” he said.

“It was heart-breaking… policing is not an easy job, we get bashed up a lot by the media and when those officers realised it was a police officer, some of those things you have in common in your family lives come into play.”

“When you tell your children or a friend that if you’re in trouble try and find a police officer… what he did that day has set that back to such a distance, you try and recover and say we are not like that.

“Thousands of police officers in this country sent in messages of support to the family, saying that’s not what we are about. Police officers do not view Wayne Couzens as a police officer, they view him as a murderer who happened to be a police officer.

“He doesn’t hold the same values as a police officer or has the same personality that we do. He’s a sick, very dangerous individual who should never have been near a uniform.”

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