Sarah Everard: Police given more time to question serving officer after human remains found in Kent woodland

Wayne Couzens arrested on suspicion of murder and kidnap and separate allegation of indecent exposure

Chiara Giordano,Samuel Osborne
Thursday 11 March 2021 23:46
'Arrested officer not on duty' when Sarah Everard disappeared, say police

Police have been granted more time to to question a serving officer on suspicion of the murder of Sarah Everard following the discovery of human remains.

Wayne Couzens remains in custody at a London police station after an application to extend his detention was granted at Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court.

A woman in her 30s, arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender, has been released on bail.

Metropolitan Police said the suspect was earlier taken to hospital for a head wound sustained while in custody. Scotland Yard said he was treated, discharged and returned to the police station where he was being held.

Detectives investigating Ms Everard’s disappearance said late on Wednesday that remains had been found in an area of woodland in Ashford, Kent.

A significant police presence remained at the site on Thursday with a wide perimeter.

Mr Couzens, a serving police officer in the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command, had earlier been arrested on suspicion of kidnap and murder.

Serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens has been arrested over the disappearance of Sarah Everard

The police force said the arrested officer’s main job was uniformed patrol of diplomatic premises, but would not specify where he had worked. He was not on duty at the time of Ms Everard’s disappearance.

The diplomatic protection squad is responsible for guarding the parliamentary estate including Downing Street and the Palace of Westminster, as well as embassies in London.

The officer, in his 40s, was also arrested over a separate allegation of indecent exposure.

Read more: Everything we know so far about Sarah Everard’s disappearance

Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick sought to reassure the public in the wake of Wednesday’s developments, saying "it is thankfully incredibly rare for a woman to be abducted from our streets".

She added: "But I completely understand that despite this, women in London and the wider public – particularly those in the area where Sarah went missing – will be worried and may well be feeling scared."

Ms Dick said the news that a Metropolitan Police officer had been arrested in connection with the investigation had “sent waves of shock and anger through the public and the whole of the Met”.

Sarah Everard was wearing the same green coat as in this photo at the time she disappeared

“I speak on behalf of all my colleagues in the Met when I say we are utterly appalled at this dreadful news,” she said. “Our job is to patrol the streets and to protect people.”

Investigators are working “around the clock” on what Ms Dick described as a “very fast-moving” case.

The remains have not yet been identified and it could take some time to do so, she added.

People living around Clapham and Tulse Hill can expect to see increased police patrols in the area.

As well as the search of the woodland in Ashford, over the course of Wednesday officers also searched a property in Deal, Kent, where multiple cars were taken away by investigators.

Flowers have been left in the woodland, with one tribute reading: "From women everywhere, we hope to change the world. All our love x x x x x x."

Another said: "Sarah Everard we send our love and prayers. We will always remember you."

Police at the disused Great Chart Golf & Leisure Country Club in Kent on Thursday after human remains were found in woodland in the search for missing Sarah Everard

Ms Everard, a marketing executive, vanished while walking home from a friend’s flat in south London on 3 March.

Ms Everard is thought to have walked through Clapham Common towards her house in Brixton – a journey which should have taken about 50 minutes.

She was last seen on a doorbell camera walking along the A205 Poynders Road towards Tulse Hill at about 9.30pm that night.

Boris Johnson said he was “shocked and deeply saddened” to learn human remains had been discovered in the search for Ms Everard.

The prime minister added: “Like the whole country, my thoughts are with her family and friends. We must work fast to find all the answers to this horrifying crime.”

Priti Patel, the home secretary, said “every woman should feel safe to walk our streets without fear of harassment or violence”.

She added in a statement: “I am deeply saddened by the developments in the Sarah Everard investigation. My heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with Sarah, her family and friends at this unbearable time.

“Many women have shared their stories and concerns online since Sarah's disappearance last week.

“These are so powerful because each and every woman can relate.

"At this deeply sad and tragic time as we think and pray for Sarah and her family, I will continue through my role to do all I can to protect women and girls from violence and harassment."

A vigil called "Reclaim these streets" has been organised on Facebook and was due to take place at Clapham Common bandstand at 6pm on Saturday.

Organisers said: "It's wrong that the response to violence against women requires women to behave differently. In Clapham, police told women not to go out at night this week. Women are not the problem.

"We've all been following the tragic case of Sarah Everard over the last week. This is a vigil for Sarah, but also for all women who feel unsafe, who go missing from our streets and who face violence every day."

Additional reporting by Press Association