Serial failings allowed UK police officer to commit rape, murder-inquiry

By Thomson Reuters Feb 29, 2024 | 4:32 AM

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) – A public inquiry into a British police officer whose rape and murder of a woman horrified the nation concluded on Thursday that without a sweeping overhaul of failed vetting procedures, there was nothing to stop another similar case arising.

Wayne Couzens, 51, whose job was to guard diplomatic premises in London, is serving a full life sentence in jail after being convicted of the 2021 rape and murder of Sarah Everard, who he abducted from a London street using his police credentials to force her into his car.

He subsequently pleaded guilty to three unrelated charges of exposing himself, and in total the inquiry found eight such offences had been reported, but not acted upon, prior to the killing of the 33-year-old marketing executive.

Elish Angiolini, who headed the inquiry, concluded there had been repeated failings in the vetting and investigations of Couzens that meant opportunities to bring him to justice were consistently missed.

This included evidence he had allegedly committed a very serious assault against a child who was barely in her teens before he became an officer.

“Wayne Couzens was never fit to be a police officer,” Angiolini said. “And without a significant overhaul, there is nothing to stop another Couzens operating in plain sight.”

The former officer’s crimes provoked anger across the country and stirred protests over violence against women.

After Couzens’ crimes came to light, Mark Rowley, the head of the London’s Metropolitan Police (MPS), began a major purge of his force, and he has said hundreds of officers were likely to be sacked for sexual and domestic abuse offences.

Since then further serving officers have been convicted of serious sexual offences, including one who carried out 24 rapes, while a report last year concluded the MPS was institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic.

(Reporting by Michael Holden, Editing by Paul Sandle)