An officer who strangled Sarah Everard with his police belt after kidnapping her under the guise of a fake arrest for breaking lockdown rules will die in jail.
Wayne Couzens, 48, was handed a whole life order for the “groseque” killing of the 33-year-old marketing executive which shocked and outraged the nation.
Sentencing at the Old Bailey on Thursday, Lord Justice Fulford described the circumstances of the murder as “grotesque”.
“Warped, selfish and brutal offending”
He said the seriousness of the case was so “exceptionally high” that it warranted a whole life order.
He said: “The misuse of a police officer’s role such as occurred in this case in order to kidnap, rape and murder a lone victim is of equal seriousness as a murder for the purpose of advancing a political, religious ideological cause.”
He paid tribute to the dignity of Ms Everard’s family, whose statements in court revealed the human impact of Couzen’s “warped, selfish and brutal offending which was both sexual and homicidal”.
Couzens shook in the dock as he was sent down to begin his sentence.
The court had heard how Couzens used his Metropolitan Police-issue warrant card and handcuffs to snatch 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 clocked off from a 12-hour shift at the American embassy that morning, drove to a secluded rural area near Dover in Kent, where he parked up and raped Ms Everard.
Ms Everard, who lived in Brixton, south London, had been strangled with Couzens’ police issue belt by 2.30am the following morning.
Married Couzens then burned her body in a refrigerator in an area of woodland he owned in Hoads Wood, near Ashford, before dumping the remains in a nearby pond.
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.
Police waited for two hours before moving in to detain the officer, giving him the chance to wipe his mobile phone beforehand.
In an emergency interview at his home, Couzens concocted a fake story that he had been “learnt” on by a gang which forced him to hand over “a girl”.
He went on to plead guilty to Ms Everard’s kidnap, rape and murder and was sacked from the force in July.
On Wednesday, Ms Everard’s parents Jeremy and Susan and sister Katie asked Couzens to look at them, condemning him as a “monster” as he sat quaking in the dock with his head bowed.
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.
Prosecutor Tom Little QC suggested the case was so exceptional and unprecedented that it could warrant a whole life order, meaning Couzens would die in jail.
Couzens’ defence barrister Jim Sturman QC urged the judge to hand him a lengthy life sentence, meaning he would be eligible for parole in his 80s.
Mr Sturman said: “The defendant was invited to look at the Everards. He could not, I am told.
“He is ashamed. What he has done is terrible. He deserves a very lengthy finite term, but he did all he could after he was arrested to minimise the wicked harm that he did.”