Wayne Couzens sentenced for murder of Sarah Everard - what is a whole life order?

A former police officer who strangled Sarah Everard after kidnapping her under the guise of a fake arrest for breaking lockdown rules has been sentenced.

Thursday, 30th September 2021, 12:36 pm

Wayne Couzens, 48, was today handed a whole life order for the killing of the 33-year-old marketing executive which shocked and outraged the nation.

Sentencing him at the Old Bailey, Lord Justice Fulford described the circumstances of the murder as ‘grotesque’.

He said the seriousness of the case was so ‘exceptionally high’ that it warranted a whole life order.

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Sarah Everard was murdered by police officer Wayne Couzens (pic: Family Handout/CPS/PA Wire)

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He said: “The misuse of a police officer’s role such as occurred in this case in order to kidnap, rape and murder a lone victim is of equal seriousness as a murder for the purpose of advancing a political, religious ideological cause.”

Couzens shook in the dock as he was sent down to begin his sentence.

The court had heard how Couzens used his Metropolitan Police-issue warrant card and handcuffs to snatch Ms Everard as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, on the evening of March 3.

Former Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, has been handed a whole life order for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard (pic: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire)

The firearms officer, who had clocked off from a 12-hour shift at the American embassy that morning, drove to a secluded rural area near Dover in Kent, where he parked up and raped Ms Everard.

Ms Everard had been strangled with Couzens’ police issue belt by 2.30am the following morning.

Married Couzens then burned her body in a refrigerator in an area of woodland he owned near Ashford, before dumping the remains in a nearby pond.

After being arrested at his home in Deal, Kent, Couzens initially concocted a fake story that he had been ‘leant’ on by a gang which forced him to hand over ‘a girl’.

But he went on to plead guilty to Ms Everard’s kidnap, rape and murder and was sacked from the force in July.

Murder carries a mandatory life sentence but a whole life order is the most severe punishment available in the UK criminal justice system for those who commit the most serious crimes.

The Government states that ‘a whole life term means there’s no minimum term set by the judge, and the person is never considered for release’ unless there are exceptional compassionate grounds.

According to government figures at the end of June, there are 60 criminals serving whole life orders. If Couzens is handed one, he will become one of a number of criminals expected to die behind bars.

Serial killer and sex offender Levi Bellfield is thought to be the only criminal in UK legal history to be serving two whole life orders – for the murder of Milly Dowler, the killings of Marsha McDonnell and Amelie Delagrange, and the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy.

Other notorious criminals serving whole life orders include:

Gloucester serial killer Rose West

Michael Adebolajo, one of Fusilier Lee Rigby’s killers

Mark Bridger, who murdered five-year-old April Jones in Wales

Neo-Nazi Thomas Mair who killed MP Jo Cox

Grindr serial killer Stephen Port

Reading terror attacker Khairi Saadallah, who murdered three men in a park

Before they died, Moors murderer Ian Brady and his girlfriend Myra Hindley, Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, and doctor Harold Shipman – thought to be one of Britain’s most prolific serial killers – were also among those serving whole life orders.