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In a rapid series of events that have sent “shockwaves and anger” across the United Kingdom this week, an elite unit police officer was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and murder after the remains believed to be of a missing London woman were discovered in a neighboring county.
Sarah Everard, 33, disappeared on March 3 after leaving a friend in the Clapham area of southwest London around 9 p.m. The marketing executive was last seen on doorbell footage walking along Poynders Road toward Tulse Hill while on the roughly hour-long walk home to the Brixton neighborhood.
A massive search for Everard ensued, stretching across neighborhoods in London and into Deal, 80 miles from the capital, and Ashford, 50 miles away in neighboring Kent. On Wednesday, London Police Chief Cressida Dick confirmed that “what appears to be human remains” were found in a wooded area in Ashford.
On Tuesday, Police Constable Wayne Couzens, 48, was arrested at his home in Deal, Kent, on suspicion of kidnapping, The Guardian reported. Couzens was further booked on Wednesday on suspicion of Everard’s murder and a separate allegation of indecent exposure.
“The news today that it was a Metropolitan police officer who was arrested on suspicion of Sarah’s murder has sent shockwaves and anger through the public and through the Met,” Dick said at Wednesday’s press conference. “I speak on behalf of all my colleagues when I say that we are utterly appalled at this dreadful, dreadful news. Our job is to patrol the streets and to protect people.”
A woman in her 30s, who has not been named, was arrested and taken into custody along with Couzens on Tuesday on suspicion of aiding an offender.
Couzens is an officer in an elite parliamentary and diplomatic protection command, which is mostly tasked with protecting diplomatic premises in the British capital. He was mostly responsible for uniformed patrol duties, according to the Met Police. Officers in this role are usually armed and vetted, The Guardian reported.
Couzens was not on duty the night Everard disappeared. Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave described the news of his arrest as a shock as he attempted to reassure the horrified British public.
“The fact that the man who’s been arrested is a serving Metropolitan police officer is both shocking and deeply disturbing. I recognize the significant concern this will cause,” Ephgrave said.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan added that he is “shocked and worried” as he tried to reassure Londoners who are deeply troubled by the developments in the case.
“I want to assure Sarah’s family, and everyone in our city, that the police are doing absolutely everything they can,” Khan said in a Tuesday statement. “Londoners will continue to see more police officers on our streets continuing their investigation and carrying out reassurance patrols in the area where Sarah went missing a week ago.”
Mandu Reid, leader of the feminist Women’s Equality Party, expressed deep concern for the capital’s women, tweeting, “Police cannot be trusted to investigate their own when it comes to allegations of violence against women and girls.”
“Reclaim These Streets” vigils have been organized across the UK for Saturday. One will take place in London on Clapham Common, near where Everard was last seen.
On Thursday, Everard’s family thanked her friends and the police, who published their statement.
“Our beautiful daughter Sarah was taken from us and we are appealing for any information that will help to solve this terrible crime,” the family said. “Sarah was bright and beautiful — a wonderful daughter and sister. She was kind and thoughtful, caring and dependable. She always put others first and had the most amazing sense of humor. She was strong and principled and a shining example to us all. We are very proud of her and she brought so much joy to our lives.
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