Following a painstaking wait of close to eight months, justice has finally come to Sarah Everhard's family. Former Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens pleaded guilty to all the charges of rape, abduction, and murder of Sarah Everhard and had been sentenced to a whole life in prison by the UK Criminal Court on September 30, 2021. In his judgment, Judge Fulford LJ said, “I emphasize wholly properly, about the devastating, tragic and wholly brutal circumstances of the death of Sarah Everard”.
It was the evening of March 3, 2021, when Sarah Everhard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, was walking home. She was pulled over for questioning by Wayne Couzens who thereafter arrested her under the pretext of breaching COVID-19 guidelines and placed her in the backseat of his car.
Social media platforms were flooded with messages and posts enquiring any information as to the whereabouts of the victim. Social networking sites across the UK were flooded with posts by women detailing their public abuse and harassment experiences as the case developed.
Unfortunately, the horrific remains of Sarah Everhard were found six days later in a swamp near Dover. Forensic reports revealed that Sarah's body was burnt after she was tormented for many hours.
CCTV footage provided ground-breaking evidence which facilitated the investigation to track down Wayne Couzens as a possible prima facie in the case. Nevertheless, Wayne pleaded guilty to the charges of abduction and rape upon questioning but accused a gang of forcing him to commit such an act. Moreover, he blamed the gang for the victim's rape and murder.
However, the morning after the incident, CCTV footage from a supermarket and a gas station revealed Wayne purchasing body bags and a can of petrol which is believed to have been used to burn the victim’s body. Police records also revealed that the accused had previously been reported for indecent exposure at a fast-food outlet. Wayne even took his family to the same swamp where had committed the gruesome acts to create an alibi.
All evidence zeroed in on Wayne Couzens being the sole culprit behind the gruesome and horrifying crime. On July 9, Wayne was taken into custody and upon further interrogation, confessed to the charges of murder of Sarah Everhard. The inquiry reports also suggest that the attack had been pre-planned, months before its execution. The accused rented a car pretending to be an officer on duty and was looking out for vulnerable women whom he could prey on.
The horrifying case of Sarah Everhard raised a national outcry over violence against women. Candlelight marches and vigils were held in remembrance of the victim across the entire nation. The actions of Wayne Couzens was responsible for the shame and disrespect of the entire police force of the UK. Senior detective Simon Harding thinks that the citizens have lost their belief in the law enforcement system. It would be awfully difficult to restore trust and confidence, he added.
“Our police are there to protect us – and I know that officers will share in our stock and devastation at the total betrayal of this duty”, added Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Commissioner Cressida Dick of the Metropolitan Police Force extended a public apology to the family of Sarah Everhard on behalf of the entire police force, who had been angered and disgusted by Wayne Couzens' acts.
Although his lawyer failed to convince the court that his punishment was undeserving given his mental illness, the family of Sarah Everhard feels satisfied with the judgment and punishment awarded to their daughter's killer. A whole life sentence awarded to Couzens is exceedingly rare in UK legal history. Couzens might never see the outside world again. He will remain in prison until his death with absolutely no chance of parole.
Sarah Everhard’s story will forever remain a grim reminder of how the people entrusted with the power to uphold the law go against their duty and values
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