Multiple chances police missed to stop killer cop
FLASHING 1 – A male motorist reported a man who was identified as Wayne Couzens – then working for the Civil Nuclear Constabulary – for driving naked from the waist down in 2015. An IOPC inquiry is underway over Kent Police’s alleged failure to investigate the report. The force has not yet revealed if it knew Couzens was the suspect at the time.
FLASHING 2 – Couzens was accused of flashing two members of staff at a McDonald’s in south London three days before he killed Miss Everard. The Met is being investigated by the IOPC for allegedly failing to probe these two separate incidents, despite apparently being provided with CCTV. It is unclear if the force knew Couzens was the suspect or simply failed to investigate reports of a flashing by a then-unnamed man.
PASSED VETTING FOR ELITE MET ARMED UNIT
The Met is also facing questions about how its vetting process failed to pick up concerns around Couzens before he was made an armed officer in its elite Diplomatic Protection Group, which involved him guarding embassies, VIPs and members of the Royal Family. There were numerous clues about Couzens’ bad character, including:
- Couzens’ colleagues believed he was ‘attracted to violent pornography’ and an ‘incident’ was reported in 2002, the Old Bailey heard yesterday;
- He was disturbingly nicknamed ‘The Rapist’ by colleagues in the Civil Nuclear Constabulary – where he was involved in protecting nuclear power stations – because of his inappropriate behaviour around women;
- He used prostitutes and had a fake Match.com dating profile despite being married with two children, his trial heard;
- In 2018, it has been claimed that he was reported to bosses for slapping a female police officer’s bottom at Bromley police station but it appears no action was taken, a source claimed;
- While at Bromley, it is also alleged he became the subject of gossip for only stopping female motorists – before taking their details so he could watch their homes – and parking outside schools to leer at mothers and sixth formers.
Harriet Harman today demanded under-fire Met chief Cressida Dick resign, as the force faced questions over how killer cop Wayne Couzens – nicknamed ‘The Rapist’ – was able to ‘slip through the net’ after a raft of missed opportunities.
The Met is being investigated by the police watchdog for its alleged failure to investigate two flashings attributed to Couzens at a McDonald’s in south London three days before he kidnapped and murdered the 33-year-old.
Dame Cressida is also facing questions how the rapist, who used escorts, passed vetting to become an armed parliamentary and diplomatic protection officer despite numerous rumours of his bad character, including claims he was addicted to violent pornography and had mistreated women.
The 48-year-old used his warrant card to perform a fake arrest under Covid laws to force Miss Everard into his car before handcuffing the marketing executive and using his police belt to strangle her.
Miss Harman said today: ‘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. Urgent action needed. Met Commissioner must resign.’
Meanwhile, Labour leader Keir Starmer told LBC: ‘There were obviously warning signs, so how did he get through get the net? That is the crucial question that the Met must now answer.’
Couzens – who will die in prison – was accused of flashing two members of staff at a McDonald’s in south London three days before he killed Miss Everard. Both incidents happened at the same branch on the same day.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IOPC) is investigating the Met for allegedly failing to probe these two incidents, despite apparently being provided with CCTV. It is unclear if the force knew Couzens was the suspect or simply failed to investigate reports of a flashing by a then-unnamed man.
The IOPC is also looking into Kent Police – where Couzens used to work as a volunteer – after it was accused of not investigating reports of indecent exposure by the officer in 2015. A male motorist said he saw a man who was identified as Couzens driving naked from the waist down.
The Met is also facing questions about how its vetting process failed to pick up concerns around Couzens before he was made an armed officer in its elite Diplomatic Protection Group, which saw him guarding embassies, VIPs and members of the Royal Family.
The Old Bailey heard yesterday that Couzens’ colleagues believed he was ‘attracted to violent pornography’ and an ‘incident’ was reported in 2002. He was disturbingly nicknamed ‘The Rapist’ by colleagues in the Civil Nuclear Constabulary – where he was involved in protecting nuclear power stations – because he behaved inappropriately around women.
His trial heard that he used prostitutes, had a fake Match.com dating profile despite being married with two children. In 2018, it has been claimed that he was reported to bosses for slapping a female police officer’s bottom at Bromley police station but it appears no action was taken, a source told The Sun.
While at Bromley, it is also claimed he became the subject of gossip for only stopping female motorists – before taking their details so he could watch their homes – and parking outside schools to leer at mothers and sixth formers.
Under-fire Met commissioner Cressida Dick faced calls to answer how killer policeman Wayne Couzens ‘slipped through the net’.
Couzens (left, in his uniform with his police belt circled; and right, in a court sketch) kidnapped, raped and murdered Sarah Everard in depraved crimes after he had finished his shift
Miss Everard’s disappearance sparked a huge manhunt and led to an outpouring of anger about the safety of women on the streets
Chequered history of first female chief
Cressida Dick’s reign as Metropolitan Police commissioner has been overshadowed by controversy over bungled operations and investigations:
1983: She joins the Met as a constable after a brief foray into accountancy.
1993: Becomes a tutor on the accelerated promotion course at Bramshill Police College before transferring to Thames Valley Police as a superintendent.
2000: Completes strategic command course.
2001: Joins Met as a commander and heads Operation Trident investigating gun crime in London’s black communities.
July 22, 2005: She is the gold commander of an armed terror operation in wake of London bombings which mistakenly shot dead Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes in Stockwell Tube station. Met guilty of errors including an ‘utterly chaotic’ control room. She is exonerated.
2008: Sir Ian Blair, her mentor, sacked by London mayor Boris Johnson after a string of cock-ups.
2010: Receives the Queen’s Police Medal.
2015: Awarded a CBE for services to policing. A damehood follows four years later.
April 2017: Appointed as first female Metropolitan Police commissioner with a brief to modernise the force and keep it out of the headlines.
July 2017: Close ally Helen Ball is appointed as an assistant commissioner.
October 2018: Sir Stephen House, a former boss, appointed deputy commissioner and another chain in the Teflon shield being built around her.
April 2019: Extinction Rebellion protesters bring London to a standstill over several days with the Met powerless to prevent the chaos. Dame Cressida says the numbers involved were far greater than expected and used new tactics but she admits police should have responded quicker.
September 2019: Her role in setting up of shambolic probe into alleged VIP child sex abuse and murder is revealed but she declines to answer questions.
2020: Official report into Operation Midland said Met was more interested in covering up mistakes than learning from them.
February 2021: Lady Brittan condemns the culture of ‘cover up and flick away’ in the Met and the lack of a moral compass among senior officers.
- The same month a freedom of information request reveals an extraordinary spin campaign to ensure Dame Cressida was not ‘pulled into’ the scandal over the Carl Beech debacle.
March: Criticised for Met handling of a vigil for Sarah Everard, where officers arrested four attendees.
- In the first six months of the year, London was on course for its worst year for teenage deaths – 30 – with knives being responsible for 19 out of the 22 killed so far. The youngest was 14-year-old Fares Matou, cut down with a Samurai sword. Dame Cressida had told LBC radio in May her top priority was tackling violent crime.
June: A £20million report into the Daniel Morgan murder brands the Met ‘institutionally corrupt’ and accuses her of trying to block the inquiry. Dame Cressida rejects its findings.
July: Police watchdog reveals three Met officers being probed over alleged racism and dishonesty.
- The same month the Yard boss is at the centre of another storm after it emerged she was secretly referred to the police watchdog over comments she made about the stop and search of Team GB sprinter Bianca Williams. Dame Cressida is accused of pre-empting the outcome of an independent investigation.
- Also in July she finds herself under fire over her woeful security operation at the Euro 2020 final at Wembley where fans without tickets stormed the stadium and others used stolen steward vests and ID lanyards to gain access.
August: Dame Cressida facing a potential misconduct probe over her open support for Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Horne who could stand trial over alleged data breaches.
September: Fresh questions about how Met failed to hold Couzens to account for his sexual depravity before he went on to murder Miss Everard.
Miss Harman, Labour MP for Camberwell and Peckham, said women’s confidence in the police had been ‘shattered’.
She told Dame Cressida in an open letter: ‘I think it is not possible for you to lead these necessary actions for the Metropolitan Police.
‘I am sure that you must recognise this, and I ask you to resign to enable these changes to be taken through and for women to be able to have justified confidence in the police.’
Sir Keir, a former director of public prosecutions, said a review is needed to establish how Couzens was able to ‘slip through the net’ despite a series of ‘warning signs’.
He told LBC radio: ‘That is the key issue – how did he slip through the net? There were obviously warning signs, so how did he get through?
‘I know that thousands upon thousands of police officers doing a fantastic job are absolutely sickened by this.
‘How on earth did he get through the net is the critical question that has got to be answered.’
However he rejected calls for Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick to be replaced in the wake of the case.
He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘I have worked with Cressida Dick over many years in relation to some very serious operations when I was director of public prosecutions.
‘I was pleased that her contract was extended and I support her.’
There has been widespread anger over the failure of police to hold Couzens to account for his sick behaviour before he went on to abduct, rape and murder Miss Everard.
Patsy Stevenson, a women’s rights campaigner who was famously arrested at the vigil for Miss Everard on Clapham Common, called on Dame Cressida to resign
She told Sky News: ‘There’s a complete lack of accountability within the police. I’m disappointed in Cressida Dick. I don’t know how she can still have the job when so many things have happened.
‘Why was he allowed to remain a police officer when he indecently exposed himself a few days before? I’m shocked she got a two year contract extension.’
The scandal heaps more pressure on Dame Cressida, who this month had her contract at Met commissioner extended by two months despite a huge outcry.
The officer has been at the centre of a series of scandals before and after being appointed as the Met’s first female commissioner in 2017.
In July 2005 she was in overall charge of the operation which saw electrician Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, shot dead on a Tube train in south London.
Mr de Menezes, a Brazilian working in the capital, was blasted in the head seven times by police at Stockwell station after being followed by officers from his home nearby.
In 2014 Dame Cressida sanctioned the creation of Operation Midland – the Met’s investigation into spurious VIP child sex abuse allegations.
Innocent men, including the late Lord Brittan and former Tory MP Harvey Proctor, were pursued by the force.
The Met’s star witness ‘Nick’ was later revealed to be serial liar Carl Beech.
In 2017 Dame Cressida was criticised for her choice of words after she said the victims of the London Bridge terror attack demonstrated London’s ‘diversity’.
The officer added: ‘We believe, of course, that that’s what makes our city so great. It’s a place where the vast majority of time it’s incredibly integrated and that diversity gives us strength.’
Critics said the remarks were ill-considered.
In 2019 the Met under Dame Cressida’s leadership was widely criticised for its ‘light-touch’ policing of Extinction Rebellion protests.
The environmental demonstrators were allowed to blockade key areas of the capital for days, including Westminster Bridge and Oxford Circus.
In total a dozen officers from across the constabularies are under investigation by the IOPC over offences related to the Couzens case.
One gross misconduct notice and six misconduct notices relate to a probe into allegations officers from ‘a number of forces’ breached standards of professional behaviour by sharing information linked to the prosecution of Couzens via a messaging app.
Others have been served to three officers over an investigation into a probationary Met Police constable who allegedly shared an inappropriate graphic relating to the Sarah Everard case with officers over social media before subsequently manning the cordon at the scene of the search for her.
An investigation into how Wayne Couzens sustained head injuries while in custody on both March 10 and March 12 following his arrest has almost concluded, the IOPC said, with all officers involved treated as witnesses.
Kent Assistant Chief Constable Tom Richards said: ‘In May 2021 Kent Police made a referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct in relation to its investigation into an alleged indecent exposure in Dover, in June 2015.
‘It was reported at the time that a man unknown to the complainant, who was also a man, had been spotted driving a car whilst naked from the waist down. No arrests were made.
‘It would be inappropriate to comment further whilst the IOPC continues to carry out its independent investigation.’
Yesterday, the Old Bailey heard how Couzens spent two hours driving through central and south London – prowling Kensington, Lavender Hill and Earls Court for a lone young woman to abduct – before stalking Miss Everard and stopping next to her.
The twisted Met Protection Officer could be seen producing his warrant card as he claimed Miss Everard had breached Covid restrictions.
Pictured: Couzens’ equipment recovered from his police locker
Pictured: Handcuffs recovered from Wayne Couzens’ work locker following the murder of Sarah Everard
Couzens then cuffed her hands behind her back, leaving her incapable of undoing the seatbelt he strapped around her after ordering her into the back of his rental car.
As the depraved killer watched in the Old Bailey with his head bowed, Miss Everard’s family heard in horrific detail how Miss Everard spent her final hours before the serving Metropolitan Police officer raped and murdered her, and then burned her body in a pre-meditated attack that was weeks in the planning.
Her mother Susan told the Old Bailey: ‘Sarah died in horrendous circumstances. I am tormented at the thought of what she endured.
‘I play it out in my mind. I go through the terrible sequence of events. I wonder when she realized she was in mortal danger; I wonder what her murderer said to her. When he strangled her, for how long was she conscious, knowing she would die? It is torture to think of it. Sarah was handcuffed.’
Her father Jeremy added: ‘Sarah was handcuffed and unable to defend herself. This preys on my mind all the time.
It coincided with a string of increasingly sick behaviour which saw the married father-of-two flashing two women in McDonald’s across two separate incidents.
Witnesses later described how Miss Everard – who had spent the evening at a friend’s house sharing a bottle of wine – appeared ‘compliant’ with her ‘head down’ as the ‘confident-looking’ officer made what seemed to be a late-night arrest at the height of lockdown in March.
CCTV footage captured by a passing bus showed Miss Everard in the back seat of Couzens’ hire car after she was falsely ‘arrested’.
The disappearance of Sarah Everard and Wayne Couzens’ arrest
– 2019: Wayne Couzens and his wife buy a small area of woodland off Fridd Lane in Ashford, Kent.
– February 28 2021: Couzens books a white Vauxhall Astra from a car hire firm in Dover, Kent, using his personal details and bank card.
He also purchases a roll of self-adhesive film advertised as a carpet protector on Amazon.
– March 2: 7pm – Couzens, who is employed in the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Group, starts a 12-hour shift at his base in West Brompton, west London.
– March 3: On the day of her disappearance, Sarah Everard visits a friend in the Clapham Junction area and uses her bank card to buy a bottle of wine in Sainsbury’s in Brixton Hill, south London, on her way.
4.45pm – Couzens collects the hire car.
9pm – Ms Everard leaves to walk home, some 2.5 miles away.
9.13pm – She calls her boyfriend for a little over 14 minutes.
9.15pm – Ms Everard is captured alone on CCTV at the junction of Bowood Road and the South Circular.
9.28pm – The next sighting is on Cavendish Road and she is still alone.
9.32pm – Ms Everard is caught on the camera on a marked police car.
9.35pm – A bus camera captures two figures on Poynders Road standing beside a white Vauxhall Astra parked on the pavement with hazard lights flashing.
9.38pm – Another bus camera captures the same vehicle with the two front car doors open.
– March 4: 1am – Having travelled out of London, the car is in the Tilmanstone area of Kent.
8.30am – Couzens returns the hire car used in the abduction.
8.10pm – Ms Everard is reported missing by her boyfriend, Josh Lowth.
– March 5: The case is escalated and the Specialist Crime Unit becomes involved.
– Couzens, who is due to be off until March 8, reports to work that he was suffering with stress.
2pm – He buys two green rubble bags for £9.94 at B&Q in Dover.
– March 6: Couzens emails his supervisor that he no longer wanted to carry a firearm.
He orders a tarpaulin and a bungee cargo net on Amazon which are shipped to him the next day.
– March 8: The officer reports in sick on the day he is due to return to work.
– March 9: 7.11pm – Couzens’ phone is wiped of all data.
7.50pm – Couzens is arrested at his home address in Deal, Kent.
– In a brief interview, he tells a story about being threatened by an Eastern European gang.
– March 10: At around 4.45pm, a body is discovered in a wooded area in Ashford, Kent, and later formally identified by dental records. It is around 100 metres from land owned by Couzens.
– March 11: Couzens answers ‘no comment’ in formal interviews.
– March 12: 8.45pm: Couzens is charged.
– July 9: Couzens pleads guilty to murder when he appears at the Old Bailey by video link from Belmarsh high security jail.
– September 29 – Two-day sentencing of Couzens begins at the Old Bailey watched by Ms Everard’s family.
– September 30 – He is sentenced to a whole life term.