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Everard killer ‘should never have been a police officer’

Former UK police officer Wayne Couzens, who murdered Sarah Everard in London almost three years ago, should never have been given the job and chances to stop the sexual predator were ignored and missed, an inquiry has found.

Detectives “repeatedly failed” to spot warning signs about Couzens’ “unsuitability for office”, the report concluded, amid fears that many more women and girls could have been his victims.

Publishing her findings, inquiry chair Elish Angiolini warned that without a radical overhaul of policing practices and culture, there is “nothing to stop another Couzens operating in plain sight”.

Three different police forces “could and should” have stopped him from getting a job as an officer, she said, as she identified a catalogue of failings in how he was recruited and vetted, and how allegations against him were investigated.

Responding, Ms Everard’s family said they believe the 33-year-old marketing executive died because her killer was a police officer, adding: “She would never have got into a stranger’s car”.

Describing Couzens as a “predatory sex offender and murderer”, the inquiry laid bare a history of alleged sexual offending dating back nearly 20 years before the off-duty armed Metropolitan Police officer abducted Ms Everard in Clapham, south London on 3 March 2021.

According to the report, over the last two years the inquiry uncovered evidence that he was accused of a string of other incidents of abuse, including a “very serious sexual assault of a child barely into her teens”.

The findings identified at least five incidents which were not reported to police, with the chair saying she believes there could be more victims.

Setting out a raft of recommendations to “make sure something like this can never happen again”, Ms Angiolini said “now is the time for change”.

“Wayne Couzens should never have been a police officer. Without a significant overhaul, there is nothing to stop another Couzens operating in plain sight,” she said.

Wayne Couzens will spend the rest of his life in prison

The inquiry chair urged “all those in authority in every police force in the country” to read the report and “take immediate action”.

Among the measures, she called for an urgent review of indecent exposure charges against serving officers and said reports of the crime need to be taken seriously.

She said it was “astonishing” that even after Couzens’ arrest and a review of his vetting clearance, the Metropolitan Police told the inquiry in 2022 that “they would still have recruited him if provided with the same information”.

Ms Everard’s mother Sue, father Jeremy, sister Katie and brother James said in a statement: “It is obvious that Wayne Couzens should never have been a police officer. Whilst holding a position of trust, in relative he was a serial sex offender.

“Warning signs were overlooked throughout his career and opportunities to confront him were missed.

“We believe that Sarah died because he was a police officer – she would never have got into a stranger’s car.”

Inquiry chair Elish Angiolini said: ‘Wayne Couzens should never have been a police officer’

British Home Secretary James Cleverly said Ms Everard was “failed in more ways than one by the people who were meant to keep her safe”, but stressed the actions of Couzens were “not a reflection on the majority of dedicated police officers”.

Meanwhile, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley described the findings as “an urgent call to action for all of us in policing” and said the service must “go further and faster” to gain back the trust of the public in the wake of the scandal.

National Police Chiefs’ Council Chairman Gavin Stephens said hearing the inquiry’s findings left him “aghast”, adding: “On behalf of policing I cannot adequately express to the Everard family how sorry we are to them and all those who loved Sarah.”

Couzens – who will never be released from prison – used his status as a police officer to trick Ms Everard into thinking he could arrest her for breaking lockdown rules in place during the Covid-19 pandemic.

After the murder, it emerged there had been concerns about his behaviour while he was a police officer, with reports he was nicknamed “the rapist”.

Couzens started his career at Kent Police as a special constable, became an officer with the Civil Nuclear Constabulary in 2011 and moved to the Metropolitan Police in 2018.

He indecently exposed himself on several occasions before the murder, including twice at a drive-through fast-food restaurant in Kent in the days prior to the killing.

Couzens was not caught despite driving his own car and using his own credit card at the time.

Then Metropolitan Police constable Samantha Lee was sacked and barred from being an officer after it was found she had not properly investigated the incidents.

Tributes left to Sarah Everard in the aftermath of her murder

Kent Police apologised for failing to properly investigate when Couzens was reported for indecent exposure in 2015, saying it accepted the inquiry was “flawed” because the officer tasked was “not a trained investigator”.

Couzens was also later revealed to have been part of a WhatsApp group with fellow officers that shared disturbing racist, homophobic and misogynist remarks.

The first phase of the inquiry considered evidence covering a 20-year period, reviewing more than 100,000 pages of documents and carrying out 144 interviews, prompting 76 conclusions and making 16 recommendations for improvement.

It continues in two parts, the first looking at the crimes of David Carrick who served in the Metropolitan Police’s Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command and was jailed for life last year after being unmasked as a serial rapist.

The second section is considering the wider problems within the police in the wake of both cases.

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