Wayne Couzens was a possible sex offender and risk to women before he abducted and murdered Sarah Everard, yet police ignored numerous opportunities to identify him as such.
Despite witnesses recording either full or partial registration details of the vehicles he used, Couzens was not held accountable by the police for exposing himself three times. This allowed him to remain a serving Metropolitan police officer with access to a gun.
On February 27, 2021, just six days prior to Everard’s abduction, rape, and murder, Couzens once again exposed himself at a fast-food drive-through restaurant located on the London and Kent border.
Following the incident, staff at the drive-through restaurant reported it to the Metropolitan Police, providing them with full car registration details and information on the credit card used for payment. The car, a black Seat, was registered to Couzens. Despite such checks being considered basic and easily accessible through a computer linked to the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency, police did not visit the restaurant until March 3, the same day Couzens abducted Everard.
After being convicted of Everard’s murder, Couzens was charged with several counts of indecent exposure, with court proceedings subject to strict reporting restrictions to ensure a fair trial.
Wayne Couzens pleads guilty to three counts indecent exposure
Wayne Couzens surprisingly entered a plea of guilty to three counts of indecent exposure on Monday, February 13, 2023, leaving the remaining charges on file. As a result, there are no longer any constraints on reporting, and information about the lost chances can now be shared.
Two Police officers face charges
According to the IOPC (Independent Office for Police Conduct ), the police watchdog, a constable from the Metropolitan Police Department will face a gross misconduct hearing and a sergeant from the Kent Police Department will face a misconduct meeting.
The IOPC has investigated how the Metropolitan Police dealt with two separate reports of indecent exposure by the former officer, Couzens. The constable will now face allegations of breaching police standards of professional behaviour for duties and for not adequately pursuing the inquiries into the two incidents that occurred in February 2021.
History of offences committed by Wayne Couzens
According to the earliest known possible lost opportunity, a couple out with their two-year-old kid along London road in Dover in June 2015 witnessed a guy exposing himself. The pair reported the incident to Kent police, who were given complete information of a car that Couzens was allegedly operating. The police did not take any action.
Another instance occurred in November 2020 in Deal, Kent, four months before Couzens kidnapped Everard, lulling her into a false feeling of security by using his police warrant card. A woman was riding her bike on a narrow country lane uphill, passing through a wooded area when a man suddenly appeared in front of her. The man was completely naked, standing close to her and masturbating while staring directly at her.
The woman was frightened and shook, but had no choice but to quickly cycle past him. She later noticed a black car parked 50 metres away and remembered some of the number plate. After an investigation, it was discovered that Couzens’ phone and car were in the area at the time, through automatic number plate recognition and cell site analysis. Couzens pleaded guilty to this charge on Monday Feb 13, 2023.
The Met got a report of possible exposure at Swanley, Kent, on February 28 of that year (2021). A local law enforcement official was informed of the recording and given the information to look into the matter.
As of 3 March 2021, when Sarah Everard was abducted, neither the investigation nor Couzens’ profession had been determined.
Admissions of guilt
During the Old Bailey hearing on Monday February 13, 2023, Couzens’ legal team was expected to file an application to dismiss the charges against him. However, Jim Sturman KC, his defence lawyer, informed the court that no such application would be made. Instead, Couzens pleaded guilty to three counts of indecent exposure, spanning from November 2020 to February 2021.
While dressed in a grey sweatshirt issued by the prison, the 50-year-old made the pleas via video link from Frankland high-security prison in County Durham.
Couzens admitted to exposing himself on two occasions at a Kent drive-through restaurant on February 14 and 27, just days before he kidnapped Everard. He also pleaded guilty to exposing himself to a cyclist in woodland in Deal on November 13, 2020.
Couzens had previously pleaded not guilty to three other charges, including driving with the lower half of his body exposed in Dover on June 9, 2015, and two charges of indecent exposure at the same drive-through restaurant in Kent between January 22 and February 6, 2021.
How did Wayne Couzens plan the murder of Sarah Everard?
Ms. Everard was kidnapped at around 21:30 GMT on March 3, 2021 from the street as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London.
Although the Couzens’ victim selection was haphazard, the attack itself was deliberate. To plan his criminal actions, Couzens spent at least a month in London, a distance of at least 30 miles from his home in Deal, Kent.
He planned ahead for the kidnapping by reserving a rental car and purchasing a roll of self-adhesive film marketed as a carpet protector from Amazon a few days before the incident.
The prosecution alleges that after working a 12-hour shift at the US embassy that morning, parliamentary and diplomatic protection officer Couzens went “shopping” for a young woman to abduct and rape.
The 48-year-old cop, who had been on the force since 2002, arrested her and bundled her into the vehicle.
A couple driving by saw the kidnapping take place, but they thought they saw an undercover cop making a real arrest, so they did nothing to stop it.
It took less than five minutes to carry out the kidnapping.Couzens then travelled to Dover, Kent, where he switched Ms. Everard to his own vehicle before continuing on to an isolated rural region nearby.
There, he raped and strangled Wayne Couzens victim with his police belt before committing a rape. Then, he dumped her body.
Arrest of Wayne Couzens
Couzens made two visits to the location where he had dumped Ms. Everard’s body, leaving before dawn. On March 4, 2021, as the search for her intensified, he bought petrol that he used to set her body, which was inside a fridge, on fire. Additionally, he purchased two green rubble bags that he used to dispose of the remains in a pond close to a wooded area he owned in Hoads Wood, Ashford.
Despite efforts to conceal his heinous crime, Ms. Everard’s remains were found a week after her disappearance in a woodland stream that was just a few metres away from land owned by Couzens.
Couzens went back to living a routine life, doing things like phoning the vet for his dog.
He even brought his wife and two kids on a family outing to the woods where he had set his victim’s body on fire a few days later.
Yet on March 8, the day he was supposed to start back at work, he called in ill.
He was taken into custody at his Deal home the next day.
Are police going to take non-contact sexual crimes seriously? Hopefully, the previous perspectives on indecent exposure are changing.
When it was understood that very low-level, non-contact sex crime might frequently escalate into something lethal, it used to be far too simple to consider indecent exposure as nothing significant.
Many people used to refer to it as “flashing,” and it is still a startling event that left some victims traumatised. Others brushed it off as pitiful and repulsive but ultimately unimportant.
It’s understandable that indecent exposure wasn’t given a high priority in a police force that has lately been exposed for having a macho and sexist mentality.
It should have been discovered far sooner than it was that PC Wayne Couzens was engaging in predatory criminal behaviour; it is blindingly clear.
His coworkers in Kent and at the Metropolitan Police might have been able to catch Couzens as a sex offender before he killed Sarah Everard if they had acted more quickly.
Both police don’t appear to have conducted the indecent exposure investigations as professionally as they should have.
Everyone would like to believe that any such behaviour on the part of a police officer—or anybody else—would today result in prompt and severe punishment