Sarah Everard murderer Wayne Couzens loses appeal against whole-life prison sentence

Court of Appeal told the way Couzens hunted down and killed his victim was a ‘fundamental attack on our way of life’

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Editor
Friday 29 July 2022 10:51 BST
Court rejects Sarah Everard’s killer’s appeal for a reduced sentence

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Louise Thomas

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The former Metropolitan Police officer who kidnapped, raped and murdered Sarah Everard will never be freed from prison after losing an appeal against his whole-life sentence.

Wayne Couzens’ bid to reduce his term was thrown out on Friday, as three of his former colleagues stood trial for sending “racist and misogynist” WhatsApp messages including comments about rape.

His lawyers had told the Court of Appeal that the rare whole-life order should be reduced to a regular life sentence with the prospect of release on licence.

Jim Sturman QC said Couzens, now 49, had shown remorse and “accepts his crimes are abhorrent”, adding: “It’s all too easy to imagine a worse case.”

But Tom Little QC, representing the prosecution, said a whole life order was “neither wrong in principle nor manifestly excessive”, and that the murder of Ms Everard was a “wholly exceptional case”.

He highlighted how Couzens had hunted the streets of London for a victim and lured Ms Everard into his car using his warrant card.

“This was offending of the utmost seriousness - a serving police officer using all of his knowhow, equipment and the like to act as the perpetrator,” Mr Little told the court. “His criminality was a fundamental attack on our way of life.”

In a judgment agreed by five judges, the Lord Chief Justice threw out the appeal and said Couzens had made “chilling and methodical attempts” to cover up his “cold-blooded and calculated” crimes.

Lord Burnett of Maldon added: “This was warped, selfish and brutal offending, which was both sexual and homicidal.

“It was a case with unique and extreme aggravating features. Chief amongst these was the grotesque misuse by Couzens of his position as a police officer, with all that connoted, to facilitate Ms Everard’s kidnap, rape and murder.

“We agree with the observations of the [original sentencing] judge about the unique position of the police, the critical importance of their role and the critical trust that the public repose in them.”

He said the Court of Appeal was “in no doubt that its seriousness is so exceptionally high” that a whole life order should be imposed, calling it a “just result”.

Jailing Couzens in September last year, Lord Justice Fulford said Couzens had not pleaded guilty to murdering Ms Everard until there was no “no credible innocent explanation for the evidence gathered against him”, and that he had “sought to minimise his true responsibility”.

In an initial police interview, Couzens claimed a Balkan human trafficking gang had paid him to kidnap Ms Everard and he had handed her over alive. He dropped the absurd story but refused to give any other account of his actions and did not give evidence in court.

Emma Tustin, Thomas Hughes, Ian Stewart, Wayne Couzens and Jordan Monaghan had their sentences reviewed (PA)
Emma Tustin, Thomas Hughes, Ian Stewart, Wayne Couzens and Jordan Monaghan had their sentences reviewed (PA) (PA Media)

The appeal was decided by a special court of five judges, who also considered a bid to increase the sentences handed to the killers of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.

The sentence given to Arthur’s stepmother Emma Tustin was not changed but the 21-year term given to his father Thomas Hughes was found to be “unduly lenient” and increased to 24 years.

The minimum 40-year term handed to Jordan Monaghan after he murdered two of his children and his new partner was also reviewed by the judges, who raised the minimum term of his life sentence to 48 years.

Double killer Stewart, who murdered his first wife six years before he went on to murder his fiancee, successfully appealed against his whole-life order.

He killed 51-year-old children’s author Helen Bailey in 2016 and was found guilty of her murder in 2017.

After this conviction, police investigated the 2010 death of Stewart’s wife, Diane Stewart, 47, and in February he was found guilty of her murder.

The Lord Chief Justice and the four other judges said Stewart was “not one of the rare cases” where a whole life order should be imposed, reducing his sentence to life with a 35-year minimum term.

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