The Met Police are facing criticism for failing to prevent Sarah Everard’s murder, as Wayne Couzens is finally brought to justice for a series of earlier flashing incidents
The Metropolitan Police have faced criticism for failing to prevent Sarah Everard’s murder, as Wayne Couzens was finally brought to justice for a series of earlier flashing incidents.
Ex-officer Couzens, 50, 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 female attendants at a McDonald’s drive-through in Swanley, Kent, twice in February 2021 – the last incident just days before he snatched Ms Everard, 33, in south London.
Couzens pleaded guilty to three charges of indecent exposure, with three further counts to lie on court file.
On Monday, Ms Everard’s mother Susan attended court by video-link as Couzens, who is already serving a whole-life sentence, was handed 19 months for the sexual offences.
During the Old Bailey hearing, Couzens’ victims questioned whether Ms Everard could have been saved if police had arrested him for indecent exposure sooner.
The female cyclist said: “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.”
A member of staff at McDonald’s said she became scared after learning what Couzens went on to do after he flashed at her.
She said: “I felt like that could have been me. I still think about this now.
“If he had been held accountable when we had reported the crime, we could have saved Sarah.”
Another victim wept in court as she described feeling “survivor’s guilt”, saying: “I could not help but feel relieved that it wasn’t me, or that it could have been me.
“I do not like to tar everyone with the same brush but it has been difficult not to do so after knowing what he did for a living and knowing I could have come across him in uniform and not known what he was capable of.”
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy, who leads the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards, apologised.
He said: “I have read the victim impact statements and it is clear to me the hurt and trauma that he inflicted on them.
“It is their courage that has been crucial in bringing him to justice and I am sorry for what they have gone through.
“Like so many, I wish he had been arrested for these offences before he went on to kidnap, rape and murder Sarah Everard and I am sorry that he wasn’t.”
Couzens, who appeared at the Old Bailey via video-link from Frankland Prison, gave no reaction as the victims’ statements were read in court.
In a televised sentencing, Mrs Justice May said it served as “public recognition” of the offences and the impact on the victims.
She said: “All have spoken of their sense of freedom and security taken from them, of feeling vulnerable and fearful for themselves and others going about their ordinary lives.
“The fact that no police came to find him or his black car, to question him about these incidents, can only have served to confirm and strengthen, in the defendant’s mind, a dangerous belief in his invincibility, in his power sexually to dominate and abuse women without being stopped.”
Prosecutor Tom Little KC described how Couzens had stood completely naked and was pleasuring himself while looking at a 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.
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.
After the cyclist rode on, she told two other women what had just happened and one of them, a police officer, said she would keep a look out.
The cyclist later reported the incident online to Kent Police, providing a description of the perpetrator who was “middle-aged with a slight paunch”.
At the time, Couzens had a black Seat car in poor condition like the one seen parked nearby, but without a number plate match the investigation stalled.
After Couzens’ arrest over the disappearance of Ms Everard, the cyclist recognised him from his picture and contacted police again.
Mr Little said: “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.
Couzens went on to expose himself to female staff on late shifts at a McDonald’s restaurant in Swanley, Kent on two occasions on February 14 and 27 2021.
On Valentine’s Day, Couzens had been on a rest day and had no known reason for taking the journey similar to the one he took on the night of Ms Everard’s kidnap.
On the second occasion, just four days before the abduction, Couzens, who worked in the Diplomatic Production Group Unit, was returning home from a day shift in London
Afterwards, 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.
On March 3 2021, Couzens snatched marketing executive Ms Everard as she walked home in south London.
In February last year he pleaded guilty to the charges of indecent exposure after a failed bid to get the case thrown out due to publicity around Ms Everard’s murder.
An Independent Office for Police Conduct investigation concluded that a police constable should face a gross misconduct hearing. That officer has since resigned and left the Met Police in 2022.
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.
Published: 06/03/2023 by Radio NewsHub