A police officer has been jailed for life for abducting marketing executive Sarah Everard on a London street as she walked home from a friend's house then raping and murdering her in a case that shocked the United Kingdom and stirred protests over violence against women.
Wayne Couzens, 48, a serving London officer who had guarded diplomatic premises, had used his position to stop Everard, the Old Bailey court heard.
Couzens forced Everard, 33, into a hire car as she walked home after visiting a friend in south London on March 3.
Her body was found in woodland about 80km away in southeast England.
A post-mortem concluded she had died as a result of compression of the neck.
His whole life sentence means he has no chance of parole.
It is the first time the sentence has been handed out for a single murder of an adult not committed in the course of a terror attack.
“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 or ideological cause,” Judge Adrian Fulford said.
Everard's family welcomed the move in a statement.
"Nothing can make things better, nothing can bring Sarah back, but knowing he will be imprisoned forever brings some relief," they said.
"Wayne Couzens held a position of trust as a police officer and we are outraged and sickened that he abused this trust in order to lure Sarah to her death."
The murder prompted public rallies and outpourings of anger from women who have recounted their own experiences and fears of being out alone at night.
One witness saw Everard being handcuffed before her abduction and police investigating the case said he may have used COVID-19 protocols as an excuse to falsely arrest her before killing her.
Couzens had long planned assault, judge says
Fulford said Couzens had long planned a violent sexual assault on a yet-to-be-selected victim who he intended to coerce into his custody.
"I have not the slightest doubt that the defendant used his position as a police officer to coerce her on a wholly false pretext into the car he had hired for this purpose," Fulford said in sentencing remarks.
The Metropolitan Police Force, which investigated the murder and for whom Couzens worked, said it was "sickened, angered and devastated" by his crimes.
Commissioner Cressida Dick has apologised to Everard's family.
"Our police are there to protect us – and I know that officers will share in our shock and devastation at the total betrayal of this duty," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
"People must be able to walk on our streets without fear of harm and with full confidence that the police are there to keep them safe."
The UK's police watchdog is looking into police failures to investigate an indecent exposure incident linked to Couzens in 2015 and two further such allegations in February this year.
Opposition MP Harriet Harman called on Dick to resign.
"Sarah Everard was simply walking home. Women must be able to trust the police not fear them. Women's confidence in police will have been shattered," Harman said on Twitter.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org