Senior officer says Couzens’ flashing crimes ‘brings shame on all of us’ as former constable sentenced to 19 months in prison for three incidents of indecent exposure before he raped and murdered Sarah Everard
Wayne Couzens has been sentenced to 19 months in prison for three incidents of flashing, as one of the victims said police had chances to save Sarah Everard from the killer police officer.
The former Metropolitan Police officer, 50, is already serving a whole life jail sentence for the kidnap, rape, and murder of Ms Everard, 33, in March 2021.
Couzens abducted the marketing executive on the edge of the South Circular as she walked home alone, using police Covid
powers to carry out a bogus arrest.
The officer has now admitted three incidents of indecent exposure prior to the murder, including one on February 27, 2021 – days before Ms Everard was taken.
At the Old Bailey on Monday, Couzens was sentenced to 19 months in prison for the exposure charges, to run alongside his whole life prison term.
Mrs Justice May said the fact Couzens was not caught or even questioned over the incidents had “confirmed and strengthened in (his) mind the dangerous belief in his invincibility and power to sexually dominate women without being stopped.”
Following the sentencing hearing, the Met Police released CCTV footage of Couzens’ car at a drive-through fast food restaurant in Kent, where he exposed himself to female attendants.
In a statement, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy, who leads the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards, said: “It is clear to me the hurt and trauma that he inflicted on them. It is their courage that has been crucial in bringing him to justice and I am sorry for what they have gone through.
“Like so many, I wish he had been arrested for these offences before he went on to kidnap, rape and murder Sarah Everard and I am sorry that he wasn’t.
“The Met’s response to these crimes has been independently investigated. One officer is due to face a misconduct hearing and the events surrounding the death of Sarah Everard will be examined by the Coroner.
“The fact he did this whilst serving as a police officer has brought shame on all us who swore to protect the communities we serve.”
In powerful victim impact statements, one of the flashing victims set out how evidence against Couzens was available but police were slow to act.
“This indecent exposure incident was reported on the Sunday”, she said. “I had no one contact me or ask for a statement.
“It was only after Sarah’s murder that I became involved.
“If he had been held accountable when we had reported the crime, we could have saved Sarah.”
Couzens, a former member of the Met’s Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command, stared at the table throughout Monday’s sentencing hearing, as he appeared via videolink from HMP Frankland.
Ms Everard’s mother Susan also attended the court hearing via videolink.
The first flashing incident happened in November 2020, when Couzens stood naked and masturbating as a woman cycled along a quiet country lane in Deal, Kent.
Couzens was supposed to be on duty and working from home at the time, but spent hours of his shift loitering around the nearby woodland.
Prosecutor Tom Little KC said the incident, in the middle of the day, happened close to the area when Ms Everard was taken by Couzens after being kidnapped.
The cyclist “felt she had no choice but to continue cycling along that country lane”, said the prosecutor, telling the court: “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.
“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”, the woman said, in her impact statement.
“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.
She said the incident left her feeling “vulnerable and afraid”, adding: “The crime you perpetrated has left a dark stain on my daily life. I saw you, now known globally as a convicted murderer and rapist, in the act of masturbating whilst completely naked. Your intention was to cause distress and alarm.
“The pleasures of being able to take a walk on my own, or to cycle to the railway station, without fear, are now denied to me.”
Couzens struck again at a drive-through restaurant in Kent, where staff dubbed him “the penis guy” because of multiple incidents of flashing.
On Valentine’s Day, 2021, Couzens had been driving around London in a journey that was “not dissimilar to the night on which he kidnapped Sarah Everard”, said Mr Little.
On his way home, he pulled into the restaurant and exposed himself while collecting his food. His car was caught on CCTV but the incident was not immediately reported to the police. However the footage was made available after the second incidence of flashing on February 27.
“My perspective of the police has been altered significantly”, said one of the female takeaway staff who fell victim to Couzens.
“Prior to this I did not have a firm opinion of the police as I have been fortunate enough not to require them.
“However now while I know the police have a duty of care, my trust in the police to treat me well has been diminished.
“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.”
After Ms Everard’s murder, Couzens was identified as the flasher thanks to his credit card details used to pay for takeaway food, traffic camera evidence showing his whereabouts on those nights, and CCTV footage. The female cyclist also positively identified Couzens as the naked man by the roadside.
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.