London – A British police officer today pleaded guilty to the kidnap and rape of a woman whose disappearance as she walked home sparked outrage and a national debate about women’s safety.
Wayne Couzens, 48, who served in the Metropolitan Police’s elite diplomatic protection unit, also accepted responsibility for the killing of Sarah Everard.
But he was not asked to enter a plea to a charge of murder when he appeared at London’s Old Bailey court, as medical reports were awaited.
Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, went missing in Clapham, south London, on March 3.
Her disappearance led to vigils and protests and prompted the government to promise enhanced police patrols at night, as well as funding to make the streets safer for women.
Couzens was wearing khaki trousers and a grey sweatshirt as he appeared by video link from Belmarsh high-security prison in southwest London, where he is being held on remand.
He responded “guilty, sir” to the charge of kidnapping Everard “unlawfully and by force or fraud” on March 3 and also pleaded guilty to a second charge of rape between March 2 and 10.
Everard’s family sat in the court as Couzens entered his pleas.
Everard had been visiting friends in the Clapham area and was returning to her home in nearby Brixton when she disappeared.
Her body was discovered a week later in woods some 80 kilometres (50 miles) away in Kent, southeast England.
The Metropolitan Police said last week that a post-mortem examination gave the cause of death as “compression of the neck”.
The next hearing is due to take place on July 9. A provisional trial date has been set for October. — AFP