Sarah Everard: Officer accused of murder wasn’t on duty at time of disappearance as judge sets trial date

Defendant appears wearing red top with grey tracksuit bottoms and with marks on forehead

Joe Middleton
Tuesday 16 March 2021 15:33
Protesters hold up traffic on Westminster Bridge

A Met Police constable accused of the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard finished a shift on the morning of her disappearance and was not on duty when the 33-year-old was last seen walking through south London, it has emerged, as a date for his trial was set for the autumn.

Wayne Couzens, 48, is accused of snatching the marketing executive as she made her way home from a friend’s flat in Clapham on the evening of 3 March.

Mr Couzens, who worked on the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command unit, appeared at the Old Bailey via videolink from Belmarsh Prison on Tuesday.

The defendant was wearing a red top with grey tracksuit bottoms and appeared to have cuts on his forehead. He spoke only to confirm his name and date of birth.

Judge Mark Lucraft QC set a provisional Old Bailey trial for 25 October with a plea hearing on 9 July.

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Members of Ms Everard’s family joined the hearing in court 10 of the Central Criminal Court by video link, according to court officials.

Prosecutor Tom Little QC said the circumstances of the case had led to a “very significant and wide-ranging investigation”.

He told the court the case had attracted an “almost unprecedented media and public attention”.

Mr Couzens, who sat with his head bowed throughout the hearing, was remanded into custody.

Ms Everard was reported missing by her boyfriend on 4 March. Her body was found hidden in an area of woodland in Ashford, Kent, on 10 March.

She was discovered inside a large builder’s bag and was formally identified through her dental records.

A post-mortem examination has taken place but no cause of death has yet been given.

The accused police officer, from Deal in Kent, was charged with kidnap and murder on Friday and appeared before Westminster Magistrates’ Court the following day.

Ms Everard’s death has sparked vigils across the country in her memory and demands for action to tackle violence against women.

Footage of women being arrested by police officers at a vigil on Clapham Common on Saturday night led to widespread condemnation and protests.

Additional reporting by PA