'We could have saved Sarah': Wayne Couzens flashing victim's report went ignored

Rebecca Barry reports on Wayne Couzens latest appearance in court

A woman who was flashed by Wayne Couzens has said if the police had taken her reports of his indecent exposure seriously, Sarah Everard could have been saved.

The ex-Metropolitan Police officer was supposed to be on duty and working from home when he exposed himself to a female cyclist in a country lane in Kent in November 2020.

He went on to expose himself to two female attendants at a drive-through fast food restaurant in Kent, with the last incident recorded just days before he snatched 33-year-old Ms Everard in south London on March 3 2021.

The police apologised for not arresting Couzens sooner, saying his actions should make everyone in policing "hang their heads in shame."Detective Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy said: "I am deeply sorry for everything that the victims of Wayne Couzens have had to go through.

"The hurt and trauma that I’ve read in their victim impact statements and that came out in court is something that should make every single one of us in policing hang our heads in shame in terms of what they had to go through.

"We have made changes but I still believe there’s more that we can do because we need to take seriously all forms of violence against women and girls, and that does include exposure offences."

A attendant at a drive-through restaurant in Kent described to the court how Couzens’ indecent exposure made her concerned about walking home alone after a late shift.

She said she was "in shock" at finding out what Couzens had gone on to do, saying: "I could not believe that I had met someone who would go on to be a killer.

"The next thing I saw was a photo of Sarah Everard. Whether I looked for similarities between myself and Sarah, or whether they were really there, I was scared. I felt like that could have been me. I still think about this now.

"I should not have to be in fear of somebody attacking me and I should feel able to walk home while feeling safe.”

Even though the indecent exposure was reported, she was not contacted until after Ms Everard’s murder.

"If he had been held accountable when we had reported the crime, we could have saved Sarah,” she said.

Couzens, formerly from Deal in Kent, pleaded guilty to three charges of indecent exposure with three further counts to lie on court file.

At court, a cyclist Couzens exposed himself to said her “freedom” to enjoy country walks and cycling had been taken away by his “selfish, aggressive act”.

She said: “I remember vividly being concerned that somebody who could expose themselves to a stranger in such an intimidating way could go on to commit much more serious acts. This is what happened.”

She told Couzens: “Four months after you exposed yourself to me, you raped and murdered an innocent woman.

“There were opportunities to identify you and they were not taken. I did not feel that, when I reported your crime, it was taken as seriously as I felt that it should have been.

“The horror of what happened will remain with me for the rest of my life.”

Couzens, who appeared at the Old Bailey via video-link from Frankland Prison, gave no reaction as the statements were read in court.

In a televised sentencing, Mrs Justice May handed Couzens a 19-month jail term.

He is already serving a whole life jail sentence for the kidnap, rape and murder of Ms Everard in early March 2021.

Sarah Everard was killed after she was kidnapped while walking home from a friend’s flat Credit: Family handout/PA

Opening the facts of the indecent exposure charges, prosecutor Tom Little KC said Couzens had stood completely naked before a female cyclist in Ringwould Road near Dover on November 13 2020.

At the time, Couzens was on duty and was supposed to be working from home in Deal, the court was told.

The prosecutor said the incident happened on an isolated narrow rural lane running inland between Deal and Dover.

It is only a few miles from where the defendant took Ms Everard, having kidnapped her and after he had moved her from one vehicle to another in Dover.

Couzens stepped out of the woods and stood on a bank above the female cyclist as she rode uphill towards him.

Mr Little said the defendant was “totally naked” and performed a sex act as he looked at the woman.

He said: “She felt she had no choice but to continue cycling along that country lane.

“There were no words exchanged between them. She had a clear view of him and clearly remembered what he looked like.”

Around 50 metres further on, she cycled past a parked black car which looked “old” and “a little battered” but she was unable to recall the full number plate.

As she rode on, the cyclist came across two women and told them what she had seen.

One of them said she was a police officer and would keep a look out, the court heard.

When she reached a crossroads, the cyclist rang her husband and later reported the incident online to Kent Police, providing a description saying he was “middle-aged with a slight paunch”.

At the time, Couzens had a black Seat car in poor condition but, in the absence of a number plate match, the investigation stalled.

After Couzens’ arrest over the disappearance of Ms Everard, the cyclist recognised him from his picture.

Mr Little said: “As a result, she contacted the police again. She felt instant shock at seeing the picture and said she was 90% sure it was him who masturbated in front of her.

“Further inquiries have confirmed that the defendant was due to be working from home in Deal on 13 November 2020 between 8am and 4pm. It follows that he was on duty at the time of the offence but was not at home.”

Traffic cameras and cell site data located Couzens in his Seat in that country area at that time.

On March 25 2022, Couzens was interviewed about the incident and replied “no comment,” the court heard.

On the last occasion, staff took a registration number and identified the car from CCTV as a black Seat which was registered to Couzens.

A credit card in his name was used to pay, while ANPR and cell site data was used to track the defendant’s car in the area at the time of the incidents.

In March 2021, Couzens, then a serving officer, snatched marketing executive Ms Everard as she walked home in south London.

Following his murder conviction, Couzens was charged with six counts of indecent exposure.

In February, he pleaded guilty to three of the charges after a bid to get the case thrown out due to publicity around Ms Everard’s murder.

He had denied three other indecent exposure allegations in June 2015, one between January 22 and February 1 2021, and one between January 30 and February 6 2021.

An independent inquiry led by Dame Elish Angiolini will consider Couzens’ earlier sexual offending and whether opportunities were missed to stop him before he murdered Ms Everard.

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