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Stuff that matters

Sarah Everard’s body was found in a builder’s bag and had to be identified using dental records, a court heard as a suspect made his first appearance.

Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens is charged with kidnapping and murdering the 33-year-old marketing executive.

Wearing a grey tracksuit, Couzens, 48, appeared to have a red wound on the top of his forehead at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Saturday morning.

Couzens, who was twice taken to hospital this week to be treated for head injuries, sat between two plain-clothes officers in the dock and learned forward for most of the 20-minute hearing.

The married dad-of-two, a member of Scotland Yard’s elite Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command, bowed his head and stared at the ground as charges were read out in court.

His charge sheet alleges he “unlawfully and by force took or carried away Sarah Everard against her will”. He also faces a charge of murder.

He spoke only to confirm his name and address and did not enter any pleas before he was remanded in custody to appear at the Old Bailey on Tuesday.

Ms Everard disappeared on March 3
He is charged with kidnapping and killing Ms Everard, who went missing while walking home from a friend’s flat in Clapham, south London, to her home in Brixton on March 3.

Her body was found some 50 miles away, hidden in an area of woodland in Ashford, Kent, on Wednesday, a week after she vanished.

Late on Tuesday, Couzens was arrested by his colleagues at his home in Deal, Kent, some 75 miles from Clapham, and charged on Friday evening.

He arrived at the central London court in a large blue police van.

Chief Magistrate Paul Goldspring asked prosecutor Zoe Martin to give a brief summary “given the nature of the case and the interest”.

The court heard the officer is accused of kidnapping Ms Everard, originally from York, in the Poynders Road area of Clapham.

Ms Martin said Ms Everard was reported missing by her boyfriend on March 4 and that a body discovered on March 10 in a wooded area of Ashford had been formally identified as the missing woman using dental records.

A post-mortem examination has taken place but no cause of death was given in court.

The prosecutor said Ms Everard had visited a friend in the Clapham Junction area on March 3 and left at around 9pm to make the approximately 2.5-mile journey home.

She called her boyfriend for around 14 minutes and the court heard there has been no further activity on her mobile phone since then, adding that the phone has not yet been recovered.

It is not clear whether the phone had been switched off or run out of battery, she added.

Ms Everard was filmed on CCTV at quarter past nine, seen again on a camera at 9.28pm, and later recorded on the camera of a marked police car at 9.32pm.

It is understood a bus camera filmed two figures on Poynders Road and a white Vauxhall Astra with its hazard lights flashing.

It is understood another bus camera filmed the same car with both front doors open.

Judge Goldspring remanded Couzens in custody to appear at the Old Bailey on Tuesday.

Outpouring of grief from public
Ms Everard’s death has prompted an outpouring of grief from the public, with many women and girls sharing stories online of experiencing violence by men.

The Metropolitan Police previously said Couzens joined the force in 2018, most recently serving in the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command, an armed unit responsible for guarding the Parliamentary estate and embassies in London.

His main job was uniformed patrol of diplomatic buildings, and Scotland Yard said he was not on duty at the time of Ms Everard’s disappearance.

Scotland Yard is facing an investigation by the police watchdog into its handling of separate allegations of indecent exposure against Couzens, whose primary role was on uniformed patrol duties of diplomatic premises, mainly embassies.

He was alleged to have twice exposed himself in one day to staff at a McDonald’s restaurant in Swanley, Kent, three days before Ms Everard went missing.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct is to probe whether two officers “responded appropriately” in their investigation.

Before his court appearance, Scotland Yard said that Couzens, of Deal in Kent, was taken to hospital for a second time in 48 hours on Friday for treatment to another head injury sustained in custody, before he was discharged and returned to a police station.

He was previously treated in hospital for a separate head wound on Thursday, also sustained in custody when he was alone in his cell.

The Met Police said Couzens joined the force two years ago in September 2018 when he worked for a response team covering the Bromley area, before moving to the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command in February last year.

Meanwhile, police in dry suits were seen continuing to search around the area where Ms Everard’s body was found near Ashford on Saturday.

Police said a woman in her 30s, who was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of assisting an offender, had been released on bail to return to a police station on a date in mid-April.

A vigil for Ms Everard was scheduled to take place at the Clapham Common bandstand at 6pm on Saturday, alongside events across the country, but it has been cancelled and organisers said details of a “virtual gathering” will be announced instead.

Organisers said the Met Police told them the event would be illegal under England’s Covid lockdown rules, and they could face huge fines and criminal prosecution if the vigil went ahead.