Sarah Everard murder investigation: Body found in Kent woodland confirmed as missing 33-year-old

Published: 12 March 2021, 2:53 PM

Post Desk : The body found in Kent woodland by officers investigating the disappearance of Sarah Everard has been formally identified as the missing marketing executive, Scotland Yard said today.

Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave made the announcement in a brief statement on Friday afternoon.

“As you know, on Wednesday evening detectives investigating the disappearance of Sarah Everard discovered a body secreted in woodland in Kent,” he said.

“The body has now been recovered and formal identification procedure has now been undertaken.

“I can now confirm that it is the body of Sarah Everard.”

He said his “thoughts and prayers, and those of the entire organisation” were with Ms Everard’s family, who described the 33-year-old as a “shining example to us all” in a tribute on Thursday.

Assistant Commissioner Ephgrave also used his statement to acknowledge the public protests over women’s safety sparked by Ms Everard’s disappearance and the arrest of a serving Met officer for her murder.

“I know that the public feel hurt and angry about what has happened, and those are sentiments that I share personally, and I know my colleagues here at Scotland Yard and across the Met share as well,” he said.

“I also recognise the wider concerns that have been raised, quite rightly, about the safety of women in public spaces in London and also elsewhere in the country.”

He said that Met remained “committed to protecting Londoners wherever they are in this city”, adding: “And that commitment is undiminished by these events and if anything that commitment is strengthened by these tragic circumstances.”

It came as detectives were today trawling through the background of Wayne Couzens, including his activities during previous careers, to see if the arrested firearms officer might have committed other offences

The inquiry is also aiming to uncover a possible explanation for what might have triggered the alleged kidnapping and murder of 33-year-old Ms Everard.

The disclosure follows the revelation that Couzens, 48, is a suspect after an indecent exposure incident at a McDonald’s in south London on February 28, three days before Ms Everard went missing as she walked home from Clapham to Brixton.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct has begun an inquiry into the handling of that incident by two officers amid fears that they might have missed an opportunity to arrest him. It is understood that the officers had carried out a number plate check on a vehicle after the offence was reported online and obtained the name of its owner. But they had yet to carry out an interview.

Couzens was not identified as a suspect in the flashing incident until he was linked to it by homicide detectives after they had made him the key suspect in Ms Everard’s disappearance and started investigating his background.

The police watchdog will now assess whether the inquiry into the indecent exposure could have been progressed more quickly, although sources point out that given the demands on police time of dealing with other serious offences, it might well have been reasonable for the officers to have moved at the speed they did.

“It’s definitely not that police did nothing about the indecent exposure or that they turned a blind eye to a crime by a colleague. But the question will be whether the case was progressed quickly enough,” a person with knowledge of the case said.

The latest developments came as:

A High Court challenge was taking place over police attempts to stop a mass Reclaim These Streets vigil on Clapham Common tomorrow. Health minister Michelle Donelan warned that the country was still in a “perilous state” as she called for a balance to be struck between protecting health and allowing people to voice their concerns.

– Couzens continued to be questioned at a London police station after being returned to custody on Thursday following treatment for an apparently self-inflicted head wound in his cell.

– Aides said Home Secretary Priti Patel was considering a new law to protect women better from harassment on the streets.

– Four other investigations referred by the Met to the Independent Office for Police Conduct got under way, including a mandatory one into whether the force acted quickly enough in its search for Ms Everard. The main focus of attention, however, continued to be on when or if charges will be brought against Couzens, a member of the Met’s Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command. He was arrested on Tuesday night at his home in Deal, Kent.

Questioning was expected to continue today. Police will have to decide before Saturday evening if he is to be kept in custody because of the legal limit on the time suspects can be held without charge.

Meanwhile, detectives investigating Ms Everard’s murder were today combing a network of military tunnels in the White Cliffs of Dover, which are said to run under Couzens’ former family garage.

Ms Everard disappeared on Wednesday March 3 and was last seen on doorbell camera footage as she walked along Poynders Road at around 9.30pm on her way to her home in Brixton.

A woman in her thirties who was arrested at the same address in Deal as Couzens on suspicion of assisting an offender has been released on bail.