Met Police officer Wayne Couzens who murdered Sarah Everard sentenced to life behind bars

ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry describes the reaction in court when Couzens was handed a rare whole-life sentence

Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens has been sentenced to life behind bars for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard.

After the judge told Couzens, 48, he would die behind bars and would not be considered for release, Ms Everard's grieving family said "the world is a safer place with him imprisoned".

Couzens used his Met Police warrant card and handcuffs to kidnap 33-year-old Ms Everard as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, on the evening of March 3.

The firearms officer, who had worked on Covid-19 patrols earlier in the year, falsely accused Ms Everard of breaching lockdown rules and pretended to arrest her.

Sentencing Couzens, Lord Justice Fulford said the circumstances of the case are “devastating, tragic and wholly brutal”, as he described Ms Everard as “a wholly blameless victim of a grotesquely executed” crime.

An appeal against Couzens' whole life sentence was submitted, it was confirmed in October. Credit: Metropolitan Police/PA

Couzens went “hunting a lone female to kidnap and rape” after having planned the offences in “unspeakably” grim detail, the judge said, and what Ms Everard had to endure would have been “as bleak and agonising as is possible to imagine".

The judge said the evidence gathered against Couzens was “unanswerable” with “no credible innocent explanation” for it, with the officer attempting to “minimise his true responsibility” when he was questioned by police colleagues.

Ms Everard's family, who faced their daughter's killer in the court room, said Couzens' sentence does not "bring Sarah back but knowing he will be imprisoned forever brings some relief".

The Met was rocked by the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving armed officer Credit: Family handout/CPS/PA

They said they were "sickened" a police officer abused his position of trust to "needlessly and cruelly" steal the "years of life she had yet to enjoy".

The family, who said they were "immensely grateful" to police and lawyers who brought Couzens to justice, said the pain of losing Ms Everard has been "overwhelming".

"We miss her all the time. She was a beautiful young woman in looks and character and our lives are the poorer without her," they said in a statement."We remember all the lovely things about Sarah - her compassion and kindness, her intelligence, her strong social conscience. But we especially like to remember her laughing and dancing and enjoying life. We hold her safe in our hearts."

Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said she recognised “the precious bond of trust has been damaged” following Ms Everard at the hands of Couzens, who had “brought shame on the Met”.

Could the Met police have done more to prevent Couzens' actions? ITV News' Rebecca Barry explores

Speaking outside the Old Bailey, Dame Cressida said: "I am absolutely horrified that this man used his position of trust to deceive and coerce Sarah and I know you all are too.

"His actions were a gross betrayal of everything policing stands for, what he did was unthinkable and appalling, he showed himself to be the coward he is through his lies and seeking to minimise his true responsibility for his crimes."

She added: "This man has brought shame on the Met. Speaking frankly, as an organisation we have been rocked.

"There are no words that can fully express the fury and overwhelming sadness that we all feel about what happened to Sarah. I am so sorry."

Dame Cressida Dick speaks of her horror of Couzens using his position of power to deceive Ms Everard

The Police Federation said “predator” Couzens was “an absolute disgrace to the police service”.

John Apter, National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “This predator is an absolute disgrace to the police service, and I am totally ashamed that he was ever a police officer.

“I am proud to carry a warrant card, but this vile individual’s abuse of that authority has cast a shadow on all those who work within policing. He has brought disgrace to our uniform.

“The way he took advantage of Sarah’s trust makes me feel sick to the stomach."

CCTV of Couzens being questioned by Met Police on March 9 - when he lied saying he "didn't know" where Ms Everard was Credit: PA/Met Police

  • ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry reports from the Old Bailey.

Wayne Couzens stood in the dock with his head bowed, eyes closed, shaking slightly - as he was told he will never be released from prison. 

From the side of the courtroom, Sarah Everard’s family looked at him, then each other with clear relief. Afterwards they hugged and smiled.

Couzens’ defence barrister had argued that he is “filled with self-loathing and abject shame” and has “genuine remorse” for his horrific crimes.

But the judge said he’d seen no evidence of “genuine contrition”.

Sentencing him, he said not only had he “irretrievably damaged the lives of Ms Everard’s family and friends”, but he had exploited his “unique position” as police officer, whom he said had “powers of coercion and control that are in an exceptional category”.

He told Couzens: “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.”

On Wednesday, Ms Everard’s family said no punishment could “compare to the pain and torture” he’d inflicted on them.

That’s painfully true.

With his sickening act of deception, this one-time police officer subverted law and order.

Today, at least, law and order caught up with him.

Following the sentencing, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there are "no words that adequately express the horror of Sarah’s murder".

"Like the rest of the country I have been sickened by what we have heard over the course of this sentencing and the pain and suffering endured by her family and friends is truly unimaginable," he tweeted.

On the morning of March 3, Couzens clocked off from a 12-hour shift at the American embassy having prepared in advance for the crimes he would commit that night.

His preparations included renting a car, taking some of his police kit with him, and lying to his family about working on the night of the murder, the Old Bailey heard.

After falsely arresting Ms Everard, Couzens drove to a secluded rural area near Dover in Kent, where he parked up and raped her.

Footage from that night shows Couzens falsely arresting Ms Everard on her walk home

The marketing executive, who lived in Brixton, south London, had been strangled with Couzens’ police belt by 2.30am the following morning.

Married Couzens burned her body in a refrigerator in an area of woodland he owned in Hoads Wood, near Ashford, before dumping her remains in a nearby pond.

(Left to right) A police vest found in Couzens' work locker, a handcuff key found in his car, and a belt and handcuffs found in the locker Credit: Met Police/PA

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 March 10.

When questioned by police, Couzens initially claimed saying he had "never personally met" Ms Everard and didn't know where she was, before lying that he handed her over to a gang who he owed money to.

Couzens' police interview after his arrest:

Couzens was sacked from the force after he pleaded guilty in July to her kidnap, rape and murder.

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

On Wednesday, Ms Everard’s parents and sister condemned her killer as a “monster” as he sat quaking in the dock of the Old Bailey with his head bowed for the start of his sentencing.

In her impact statement to the court, Susan Everard said: "Sarah died in horrendous circumstances. I am tormented at the thought of what she endured.

"I play it out in my mind. I go through the terrible sequence of events. I wonder when she realised she was in mortal danger; I wonder what her murderer said to her.

A vigil held for Sarah Everard Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

"When he strangled her, for how long was she conscious, knowing she would die? It is torture to think of it."

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, which shocked the nation.

Ms Everard's murder sparked a wave of protests and public outcry calling for the government and police to do more to tackle violence against women and girls.