Police Commissioner’s statement following Sarah Everard case

A former Metropolitan Police Service officer was sentenced to a whole-life prison term today for the murder of Sarah Everard.

Wayne Couzens, 48, appeared at the Old Bailey on the 29 and 30 September where the court heard how he kidnapped, raped and murdered Sarah.

He pleaded guilty to murder on Friday, 9 July. The previous month he admitted kidnapping and raping Sarah.

They were not known to each other.

Couzens was arrested on Tuesday, 9 March, over the disappearance of Sarah in Clapham, south west London.

Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell said, “The details which have emerged over the last two days about the murder of Sarah Everard are utterly heart-breaking and devastating.

“My heart goes out to Sarah’s family, friends and everyone who knew and loved her.

“The details of how she spent her final hours are gut-wrenching and it is absolutely right, given the horrendous betrayal of trust, that her killer received a whole life sentence today.

“The police officers and staff that I have spoken to are utterly appalled at the circumstances of this case and are deeply concerned at the impact this will have on the confidence women and girls have in the police.

“People join the police to protect the public, to serve their communities and to support victims.

“Sadly, the actions of this barbaric individual will reverberate across policing. And it is only right that Chief Constables and all of us in positions of leadership use this moment to deliver genuine change.

“I have made tackling violence against women and girls an absolute priority in my Police and Crime Plan and I know the Chief Constable shares that commitment.

“In the weeks between Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa’s tragic murders, 82 more women were killed.

“Their names are not known. Their pictures are not all over the media. Their cases are not in the public spotlight.

“That’s because they died behind closed doors and because violence against women and girls is still not taken as seriously as other forms of serious violence.

“This has to change.

“Violence against Women and Girls is a societal issue which needs addressing urgently.

“We must demand radical systemic reform backed by legislation and genuine investment. It must start with early education and it must run through all sectors.

“Due to the trust invested in our police service – and the vulnerability of those who turn to it in their time of need – the police must strive to lead the way and be at the forefront of change.

“Both within its own ranks and in the way it responds to the public.

“There are serious questions to answer and there must be a robust investigation to ensure this can never happen again. 

“I have spoken to the Chief Constable here in Merseyside and she is unequivocal in her determination to root out any inappropriate behaviour and embed the right culture across the organisation.

“I will continue to support and thoroughly scrutinise the work she does to ensure Merseyside Police is at the forefront of tackling the misogynistic mindsets that allows abuse of women to fester.

“Today is a heart-breaking day. It is a day to think of Sarah and her family. I hope it will also be a day that triggers real change to end violence against women and girls.”

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