UK police officer admits killing woman abducted on walk home

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FILE – In this Saturday, March 20, 2021 file photo, floral tributes and messages are placed at the bandstand on Clapham Common in London in memory of Sarah Everard. A British police officer has pleaded guilty to murdering Everard, who was abducted as she walked home from a friend’s house in London. Wayne Couzens had previously admitted kidnapping and raping Everard. He entered a guilty plea to murder during a hearing on Friday, July 9. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, file)

LONDON (AP) — A British police officer pleaded guilty Friday to murdering a 33-year-old woman who was abducted as she walked home from a friend’s house in south London.

Wayne Couzens previously admitted kidnapping and raping Sarah Everard, a marketing executive who went missing on March 3. Couzens entered a guilty plea to murder during a hearing at London’s Central Criminal Court, appearing by video link from Belmarsh high-security prison.

A major police investigation was launched after Everhard’s disappearance. Her body was found a week later in woodland more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) southeast of London.

The search for Everard and news of her killing caused a nationwide outcry, with women sharing experiences of being threatened, attacked or simply facing the everyday fear of violence when walking alone.

Police in the U.K. capital came in for criticism after some women attending a vigil for Everard were detained for breaching coronavirus restrictions.

Couzens, 48, joined London’s Metropolitan Police in 2018 and had most recently served in the parliamentary and diplomatic protection command, an armed unit responsible for guarding embassies in the capital and Parliament.

Prosecutor Tom Little said Couzens abducted Everard, a complete stranger, in a rented car hours after he finished a 12-hour policing shift. Her body was found in woods close to a piece of land owned by Couzens. Despite his guilty plea, prosecutors said Couzens has not revealed where he raped and killed Everard.

“We still do not know what drove him to commit this appalling crime against a stranger,” said Carolyn Oakley of the Crown Prosecution Service. “Today is not the day for hearing the facts about what happened to Sarah. Today is a day to remember Sarah, and our thoughts remain with her family and friends.”

Couzens is due to be sentenced during a two-day hearing that starts Sept. 29.

The police force has expressed shock and horror at his crime, but faces an investigation by the policing watchdog over how it handled an allegation of indecent exposure against Couzens days before Everard was abducted.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said she had told Everard’s family “how very sorry I’m am for their loss, for their pain and their suffering.”

“All of us in the Met are sickened, angered and devastated by this man’s truly dreadful crimes,” she said. “Everyone in policing feels betrayed.”

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