Wednesday, March 22, 2023

    UK police officer pleads guilty to Sarah Everard’s murder

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    A British police officer on Friday admitted murdering Sarah Everard, whose killing sparked anger, protests and soul-searching across the country about what the authorities and society could do to stop male violence against women.

    Wayne Couzens, 48, a serving London officer who guarded diplomatic premises, had previously admitted rape and kidnap.

    He abducted Everard, 33, into a hire car as she walked home from a friend’s house in south London on March 3 and her body was later found in woodland around 50 miles (80 km) away in southeast England. A post-mortem last month concluded she had died as a result of compression of the neck.

    Appearing by videolink from prison for a hearing at London’s Old Bailey Court, Couzens, bearded and wearing a blue sweatshirt, sat with his head bowed and said “guilty ma’am” when asked how he pleaded to the charge of murder.

    Prosecutor Tom Little said the officer had never met Everard prior to kidnapping her from London’s South Circular road and they were “total strangers”.

    Judge Adrian Fulford said Couzens had previously only given an entirely false account of events, an elaborate story involving an eastern European gang.

    London Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, Britain’s most senior officer, told reporters outside court she had personally apologized to Everard’s family.

    Britain’s police watchdog said it was looking into police failures to investigate an indecent exposure incident linked to Couzens in 2015, and two further such allegations in February this year.

    Everard’s murder provoked outpourings of anger from women who have recounted their own experiences and fears of walking the streets on their own at night, prompting Prime Minister Boris Johnson to promise action including money for better street lighting.

    Couzens’ lawyer, James Sturman, said his client’s pleas represented “truly genuine guilt and remorse for what he did”.

    A two-day sentencing hearing, which will consider psychiatric reports, will begin on Sept. 29.

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