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Sarah Everard was victim of ‘deception, kidnap, rape, strangulation, fire’

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Sarah Everard was the victim of “deception, kidnap, rape, strangulation, fire”, a court has heard at the start of her murderer’s sentencing.

Wayne Couzens, 48, was a serving Pc with the Metropolitan Police when he snatched Ms Everard as she walked home in Clapham, south London, on the evening of March 3.

The sexual predator, who had clocked off from a 12-hour shift that morning, went on to rape and strangle the 33-year-old marketing executive.

A week after she disappeared, Ms Everard’s body was found in a woodland stream in Ashford, Kent, just metres from land owned by Couzens.

Prosecutor Tom Little QC said: “The defendant’s plot of land is very close to, and in the same woods, that he was to burn Sarah Everard’s body after he had murdered her.

“He then moved her body in green bags that he had purchased specifically for that task to a pond deeper into the woods but which was only about 130 metres from his plot.”

Sarah Everard death
Pc Wayne Couzens has pleaded guilty to murdering Sarah Everard (Metropolitan Police/PA)

The firearms-trained parliamentary and diplomatic protection officer wiped his phone just minutes before he was arrested at his home in Deal, Kent, on March 9.

The killing prompted national outrage and sparked protests over the rate of violence against women.

In July, Couzens pleaded guilty to Ms Everard’s murder, kidnap and rape by video link from jail.

On Wednesday, he came face to face with his victim’s family when he was brought into the dock of the Old Bailey for the start of his sentencing.

Opening the facts, Mr Little said the disappearance of Ms Everard was one of the most widely publicised missing person investigations the country has ever seen.

After her body was discovered in woodland, it became summarised by the hashtag “she was just walking home”, he said.

But that did not completely describe what happened to Ms Everard, the court heard.

Mr Little said: “Whilst it is impossible to summarise what the defendant did to Sarah Everard in just five words, if it had to be done then it would be more appropriate to do so as deception, kidnap, rape, strangulation, fire.”

Ms Everard was described by a former long-term boyfriend as “extremely intelligent, savvy and streetwise” and “not a gullible person”, the court heard.

He said he could not envisage her getting into a car with someone she did not know “unless by force or manipulation”, said the prosecutor.

Mr Little said Couzens worked on Covid patrols in late January this year, enforcing coronavirus regulations, so would have known what language to use to those who may have breached them.

Couzens was said to be wearing his police belt with handcuffs and a rectangular black pouch, similar to a pepper spray holder, when he kidnapped Ms Everard.

Vigil for Sarah Everard
The murder led to protests over violence against women (PA)

Mr Little said he snatched Ms Everard in a “false arrest”, by “handcuffing her and showing his warrant card”.

The prosecutor said he must have taken her mobile phone from her and removed the sim card, which he tried to destroy.

Ahead of the start of the two-day sentencing, Scotland Yard released a statement which read: “We are sickened, angered and devastated by this man’s crimes which betray everything we stand for.

“Our thoughts are with Sarah’s family and her many friends. It is not possible for us to imagine what they are going through.

“We recognise his actions raise many questions and concerns but we will not be commenting further until the hearing is complete.”

Lord Justice Fulford will consider whether to hand down a whole life term before he sentences Couzens on Thursday.

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