Wayne Couzens joked about sexual assault in WhatsApp messages with other police officers

ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry reports on the police's apology after they failed to act on easily traceable reports of Wayne Couzens's indecent exposures

Wayne Couzens joked about sexual assault in a WhatsApp group chat with six other police officers before he kidnapped, raped and murdered Sarah Everard.

The former Metropolitan Police officer is currently serving a whole life sentence for the murder of the 33-year-old marketing executive in March 2021.

Couzens was handed an additional 19-month sentence on Monday after admitting to three offences of indecent exposure.

One of the women flashed by Couzens has said if the police had taken her reports of his indecent exposure seriously, Ms Everard could have been saved.

In the wake of the sentencing, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) released an exchange of messages made between Couzens and six other officers.

The policing watchdog investigated messages sent on a WhatsApp group titled "Bottle and Stoppers" between police officers from three forces, between March and October 2019, after Couzens' mobile phone was seized in March 2021.

The correspondence revealed the officers trading messages including racist and homophobic comments, and derogatory remarks aimed at domestic abuse victims, people with disabilities, and women.Two of the officers involved, Pc Joel Borders and Pc Jonathon Cobban, were jailed for "grossly offensive messages" last November.

Cobban was found guilty of three counts of sending grossly offensive messages on a public communications network, while Borders was convicted of five charges after a Westminster Magistrates’ Court trial.

The remaining four other serving or former officers faced gross misconduct proceedings in relation to the messages, resulting in them being barred from policing.

Joel Borders (left) and Jonathon Cobban (right) were jailed last November. Credit: PA

Listed below are the exchanges of messages involving Couzens, which the IOPC made public on Monday:

22 February 2019

Couzens: Messy one, lovely. Remember Forster, it's got to be consensual!

PC Matthew Forster: They've only got to say yes once.

21 March 2019

Messages replying to PC Jonathon Cobban describing his response to an unconscious woman who "drank herself into oblivion".

Couzens: Did you [perform a sexual act] on her to see if she was ok?

Cobban: I considered it. But she was a right old lump.

Cobban: So I just r**** a bystander instead.

29 June 2019

PC Joel Borders: You know when it's getting near to the end of night shift in Hounslow because you can hear the call to prayer.

Couzens: You can add Peckham to that list. I was on VCTF [Violent Crime Task Force] the other shift in Peckham, another Somalia village!!!!

21 July 2019

Couzens: Mate they aren't gonna ditch you with your skill sets, unless you [perform a sexual act] a DV [domestic violence] victim!

Couzens: Oh, Jon in that case you're probably f*****. [sic]

PC Jonathon Cobban: That's alright, DV victims love it… that's why they are repeat victims more than not.

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Last December, when the six officers lost their jobs, IOPC regional director Sal Naseem said of the content of the messagse: “The views expressed by these officers do not belong in a civilised society and as we have said before, social media cannot be a hiding place for them whether on a public platform or as part of a private group.

“Behaviour of this kind undermines public confidence in policing and the dismissal rulings by the panel today send out a strong message that it will not be tolerated.

“We will continue to ensure, along with police forces, that this type of behaviour is rooted out and those responsible are held to account for their actions.”

The IOPC's report released Monday said its findings had informed the watchdog's wider work on cultural issues within policing and the use of WhatsApp among officers.