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A missing poster for Sarah Everard
Image: Sarah Everard went missing in March 2021 | Anna Watson / Alamy Stock Photo

Sarah Everard

An in-depth look at a terrible crime carried out by a serving police officer, which sent shockwaves through the nation in 2021.


3rd/4th March 2021


Wayne Couzens


Brixton Hill, London

The Crime

A fateful walk home

It was on the evening of 3rd March 2021 that a young woman started to walk home from a friend’s house in south London. It was a journey she’d made countless times before – an entirely familiar walk which should have taken less than an hour.

But Sarah Everard never made it home. Her inexplicable disappearance made the 33-year-old marketing executive, described by her family as ‘caring and dependable’, and ‘a shining example to us all’, a household name. Thanks to endlessly circulated photos – Sarah smiling after a race, Sarah posing for a professional shot in a sleek grey top – her face became as well-known as that of a friend or relative to millions across the country.

The awful truth of what had happened, and who was behind the vanishing, triggered a national reckoning on the safety of women in modern Britain.

The fake arrest

Sarah began the walk at around 9pm that night, stepping out of her friend’s place on Leathwaite Road, Clapham. Her destination was her own home in Brixton Hill, around 2.5 miles away. Other than a brief section by Clapham Common, her journey took her through bustling streets with houses all around and cars driving past. Indeed, some of her movements were captured by doorbell and dashcam footage.

Sarah spent some of the walk chatting to her boyfriend on the phone, arranging to meet up the next day. Then, just over half an hour into the walk, a passing bus cam caught Sarah standing in Poynders Road, speaking to someone close to a Vauxhall which was parked up with its hazard lights flashing.

That someone was Wayne Couzens, a serving officer with the Metropolitan Police. A passing witness saw Sarah being handcuffed, so the assumption is that he arrested her under a false pretext – most likely saying she had broken Covid lockdown rules. As the prosecutor later said in court, ‘Sarah Everard was compliant, with her head down and did not appear to be arguing.’

Having ordered Sarah into the back of his Vauxhall, which was a rental vehicle, Couzens began his drive – not to a police station, as Sarah presumably expected, but all the way to Kent. In the words of the trial judge, ‘Her state of mind and what she had to endure over a journey of 80 miles and during the final hours of her life, would have been as bleak and agonising as it is possible to imagine.’

The murder

Once they reached Dover, Couzens transferred Sarah from the Vauxhall to his own vehicle, a Seat. During his trial, the prosecution noted that Couzens had probably decided to use a hire car for the initial ‘arrest’ because his own Seat, being ‘filthy and messy’, would have ‘set off alarm bells’ for not looking like the car of a legitimate undercover police officer.

It was now the early hours of 4th March and Couzens was able to carry out the final, horrifying part of his plan: the rape and murder of a woman he had taken completely at random from the streets of London. After committing the sexual attack, he strangled Sarah with his police belt, exerting pressure for two minutes in order to end her life.

Shortly afterwards, he calmly went to a BP garage for water, apple juice and a sports drink. Later on, he switched back to the Vauxhall and stopped off at a Costa Coffee in Dover to have a hot chocolate and a bakewall tart before returning the vehicle to the car hire depot.

All that was left to do was cover his tracks, which Couzens attempted to do by moving her body to Hoad’s Wood in Kent, where he crammed it inside a refrigerator and set it alight using petrol he purchased from a garage. Her remains were then put in a bag and dumped in a pond.


Sarah Everard’s boyfriend, Josh Lowth, raised the alarm with police after she failed to meet him as planned on the day after the abduction. A major investigation was launched, with missing person posters being put up, and appeals made for help.

Sarah’s distraught family put out a statement saying, ‘With every day that goes by we are getting more worried about Sarah. She is always in regular contact with us and with her friends and it is totally out of character for her to disappear like this. We long to see her and want nothing more than for her to be found safe and well.’

Painstaking searches by specialist officers were carried out, including a search of ponds in Clapham Common. However, the crucial clues came courtesy of CCTV and dashcam footage recorded during Sarah’s walk.

Thanks to the images of Sarah and her abductor on Poynders Road, detectives were able to identify the number plate of the Vauxhall hire car. They were then able to use the CCTV network, automatic number plate recognition cameras and mobile phone data to piece together the movements of the car that night. All of this information was enough to lead them to the door of Wayne Couzens, and to recover Sarah’s remains, which were identified using dental records.


Arrested at his home in Deal, Kent, on 9th March, Couzens initially denied ever meeting Sarah. He then gave officers a bizarre and elaborate explanation for what had taken place. Sitting meekly on his sofa, his hands cuffed, Couzens told the arresting officers that he was in financial ‘sh*t’ and that he had been ‘leant on’ by a shady Romanian gang to abduct girls on their behalf.

According to Couzens, he had tried to ‘rip off’ an escort working for the gang, and in retaliation they told him if he didn’t procure a girl for them, they would take his wife and two kids. He described driving the girl – Sarah – to a spot in Maidstone where the gang had allegedly turned up and bundled her into their van.

‘I don’t know whether my family’s going to be all right still,’ he told the officers. ‘They threatened to take my family away from me… I’m doing what I can to protect my family, that’s it.’

Conveniently, this gang didn’t call or text Couzens to give their orders, meaning there was no tangible proof of their existence. Instead, they were apparently staking his house out and turning up at his door to threaten and coerce him. Unsurprisingly, detectives were quick to debunk this unlikely yarn.

Trial and Sentencing

In the months that followed, Couzens pled guilty to the kidnapping, rape and murder of Sarah Everard.  

There was a national sense of shock and revulsion, not just over the fact that the perpetrator of such a heinous crime was a Metropolitan Police officer, but also that he’d utilised his position in the commission of the crime – showing Sarah his warrant card, tricking her into thinking she was in trouble, and exploiting the trust she had placed in him as a police officer. Cressida Dick, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said she felt ‘sickened, angered and devastated’ by the crimes of the killer in her own force.  

The details of just how meticulously he had planned the crime were similarly chilling. This was as premeditated as any murder could have been, with Couzens laying the groundwork by booking the Vauxhall hire car on 28th February and telling his family he had to work a shift on the night of the attack. He had then driven around the roads of London, scanning the pavements for potential targets. 

He had demonstrated a similar cold disregard for the horrors of what he had done in the immediate aftermath of the killing, as he went about the mundane tasks of making vet and dental appointments. He even took his kids to play near the spot where he’d dumped Sarah’s body.  

During the sentencing hearing on 30th September 2021, the judge did not mince his words, condemning Couzens not just for the savagery of his crime, but for having ‘very considerably added to the sense of insecurity that many have living in our cities, perhaps particularly women, when travelling by themselves and especially at night’.  

The case was also aggravated by the killer’s ‘misuse of a police officer’s role’, which the judge compared to an act of terrorism. As a consequence, Couzens was handed a whole life tariff, meaning he will die behind bars.  


The Sarah Everard case sparked a new national conversation about male violence, misogyny, sexual harassment, and the dangers that women and girls have to face while doing such innocuous everyday things.

A vigil held in Sarah’s memory in March 2021 sparked controversy when women were filmed being forcibly manhandled by police, whose show of force was seen as particularly egregious in the wake of the revelation that Sarah’s killer was a serving officer.

Widespread antipathy towards the police was intensified after it was revealed that Couzens had once been nicknamed ‘The Rapist’ by colleagues, and that Kent police had missed a chance to identify him as a sex offender in 2015 when a man – very likely Couzens – was reported driving a car in Dover while naked from the waist down. No action was taken, and Couzens went on to commit more acts of indecent exposure, including flashing a woman at a drive-thru McDonald’s just days before he abducted and killed Sarah.

The culture of casual misogyny within the police force was also widely criticised in the wake of the case, with details of a WhatsApp group chat between Couzens and fellow officers being revealed to the media. It showed Couzens joking about raping drunk women and domestic violence victims, amid casually racist and ableist messages.

The echoing outcry over what happened to Sarah, and the righteous rage over the attitudes of those in power towards misogyny and sexual violence, make up the lasting legacy of one terrible night in 2021.

Key Figures

Sarah Everard

Josh Lowth

Sarah’s boyfriend 

Cressida Dick

Then-Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police 

Wayne Couzens

Rapist and murderer 


Wayne Couzens books a car from Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Dover
28th February 2021
Couzens uses the hire car to carry out the abduction of Sarah Everard
3rd/4th March 2021
Couzens burns Sarah’s body in wooded area
5th March 2021
Couzens is arrested
9th March 2021
Couzens pleads guilty to murder
9th July 2021
Couzens is given a whole life order, meaning he will never be released
30th September 2021