Wayne Couzens ‘could have been stopped’ before killing Sarah Everard, say earlier victims
Victims of sexual predator Wayne Couzens have said he could have been stopped before he murdered York woman Sarah Everard, as he was finally brought to justice for three flashing offences.
The ex-Metropolitan Police officer 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 two female attendants at a drive-through fast food restaurant in Kent, with the last incident just days before he snatched 33-year-old Ms Everard in south London on March 3 2021.
Couzens, formerly from Deal in Kent, pleaded guilty to three charges of indecent exposure with three further counts to lie on court file.
As the 50-year-old was sentenced to 19 months in prison by an Old Bailey judge on Monday, the women described the impact of the incidents on them.
The cyclist said her “freedom” to enjoy country walks and cycling had been taken away by his “selfish, aggressive act”.
She said: “I remember vividly being concerned that somebody who could expose themselves to a stranger in such an intimidating way could go on to commit much more serious acts. This is what happened.”
She told Couzens: “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.”
‘We could have saved Sarah’
One of the women who was flashed at by Couzens at a drive-through restaurant was left “scared” at learning what he went on to do.
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 feelings of “survivor’s guilt”.
She said: “I could not help but feel relieved that it wasn’t me, or that it could have been me.”
On her view of police, she said: “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.”
Couzens, who appeared at the Old Bailey via video-link from Frankland Prison, gave no reaction as the statements were read in court.
He is already serving a whole life jail sentence for the kidnap, rape and murder of Ms Everard in early March 2021.
Brought up in York, Ms Everard went to Fulford School then studied geography at Durham University before moving to London.
She was kidnapped by Couzens on her way back to her Brixton home after visiting a friend.
‘No police came to find him’
In a televised hearing, Mrs Justice May said sentencing also serves as “public recognition” of the offences and the impact on the victims.
She said the personal statements of the three women spoke “justly of their shock and upset at this defendant’s selfish, sexually aggressive acts”.
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.
“One woman, after discovering who had done this and what he had gone on to do, speaks of a wholly understandable sense of survivor’s guilt.”
The senior judge added: “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.”
Opening the facts of the indecent exposure charges, prosecutor Tom Little KC said Couzens had stood completely naked before a female 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.
The prosecutor said the incident happened on an isolated narrow rural lane running inland between Deal and Dover.
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.
Couzens stepped out of the woods and stood on a bank above the cyclist as she rode uphill towards him.
Mr Little said the defendant was “totally naked” and masturbating as he looked at the woman.
He said: “She felt she had no choice but to continue cycling along that country lane.
“There were no words exchanged between them. She had a clear view of him and clearly remembered what he looked like.”
Around 50 metres further on, she cycled past a parked black car which looked “old” and “a little battered” but she was unable to recall the full number plate.
As she rode on, the cyclist came across two women and told them what she had seen.
One of them said she was a police officer and would keep a look out, the court heard.
When she reached a crossroads, the cyclist rang her husband and later reported the incident online to Kent Police, providing a description saying he was “middle-aged with a slight paunch”.
At the time, Couzens had a black Seat car in poor condition but, in the absence of a number plate match, the investigation stalled.
After Couzens’ arrest over the disappearance of Ms Everard, the cyclist recognised him from his picture.
Mr Little said: “As a result, she contacted the police again. 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.
On March 25 2022, Couzens was interviewed about the incident and replied “No comment”, the court heard.
A few months later, on different occasions on February 14 and 27 2021, Couzens exposed his genitals to staff at a drive-through fast food restaurant in Kent.
He sat in his car and looked straight at them as he showed his erect penis while handing over his card to pay for food.
The female staff affected were left “shaken, upset and angry”.
On the last occasion, 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.
In March 2021, Couzens, then a serving officer, snatched marketing executive Ms Everard as she walked home in south London.
In February, he pleaded guilty to three of the charges of indecent exposure after a bid to get the case thrown out due to publicity around Ms Everard’s murder.
He had denied three other indecent exposure allegations which were left on the court file.
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.