A serving Metropolitan Police officer has been arrested on suspicion of murdering missing woman Sarah Everard as Scotland Yard confirmed that human remains had been found in woodland in Kent.
Wayne Couzens, 49, a married father of two from Deal in Kent, was arrested at home on Tuesday night on suspicion of kidnapping the 33-year-old, who vanished in south London a week ago.
The discovery of as-yet-unidentified human remains in woodland in Ashford in Kent was announced by Cressida Dick, the Met Police Commissioner.
During a media briefing, she said the news that a serving police officer was arrested on suspicion of Everard’s murder “has sent waves of shock and anger through the public and through the whole of the Met”.
“I speak on behalf of all my colleagues in the Met when I say we are utterly appalled at this dreadful news. Our job is to patrol the streets and to protect people.
“Sarah’s disappearance in these awful and wicked circumstances is every family’s worst nightmare.”
In yet another twist to the case, Couzens sustained a head injury while being held at Wandsworth police station and required hospital treatment before being discharged back into custody.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “The suspect was taken to a hospital for treatment to a head injury sustained while in custody. He has since been discharged and returned to custody.”
There is no suggestion anyone else was involved in the incident and it is understood the matter has now been referred to the Department for Professional Standards.
Dame Cressida acknowledged the disappearance would be of concern to women living in London, adding “it is thankfully incredibly rare for a woman to be abducted from our streets”.
Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave described the arrest of a police officer as a “shocking and deeply disturbing development”.
On Wednesday night, Scotland Yard referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) over the actions of police after Miss Everard was first reported missing.
Shortly after 3pm, Scotland Yard confirmed that the investigation was being treated as a murder inquiry and the suspect had been further arrested on suspicion of killing the Durham University graduate.
A woman, who is in her 30s, was also arrested alongside Couzens on suspicion of assisting an offender and was also taken into custody. In another twist, the Met Police said the armed officer had also been arrested on suspicion of a separate allegation of indecent exposure.
These allegations are now also being looked at by the IOPC.
Announcing the development, a Scotland Yard spokesman said: “A man arrested in connection with the disappearance of Sarah Everard remains in custody at a London police station.
“The man, in his 40s, was arrested on the evening of Tuesday, March 9, on suspicion of kidnap. Today, Wednesday, March 10, he has been further arrested on suspicion of murder and a separate allegation of indecent exposure.
“The man is a serving Metropolitan Police officer in the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command. His primary role was uniformed patrol duties of diplomatic premises.
“A woman, who is in her 30s, was also arrested on the evening of March 9 on suspicion of assisting an offender. She remains in custody.”
It is understood the breakthrough in the investigation followed information that was obtained from a CCTV camera fixed to a London bus that had been travelling along the route where Everard disappeared.
Couzens, a former mechanic, worked for his family’s garage business before opting for a career in the police.
He initially joined the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, which is an armed unit that protects the country’s power stations. He worked at the Dungeness Nuclear Power station in Kent before transferring to the Met Police, where he joined the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command.
His role would have been to protect politicians and VIPs in and around the capital including in Westminster.
Boris Johnson’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “The Prime Minister’s thoughts are with Sarah and her friends and family.”
Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate for mayor of London, sparked a debate about safety in the capital when he said his wife and daughter “have to live in fear”, but vowed that he would work to “deliver for the safety of women and girls” if he wins May’s contest.
However, Liberal Democrat rival Luisa Porritt said Bailey’s comments were “utterly grotesque”.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said: “I can only imagine the pain and terrible agonies that Sarah Everard’s family and friends are going through right now. My thoughts and prayers are with them.”
He added: “All women and girls should be able to feel safe on the streets of London at all times.”
Couzens’ arrest followed a huge investigation to try to find Ms Everard, who disappeared as she walked home in south London last Wednesday.
She had spent the evening with friends in Leathwaite Rd, close to Clapham Common, but having just started a new job left at around 9pm as she did not want a late night.
Everard decided to walk back to her flat in Brixton, a journey of around 50 minutes, and opted to stick to the well-lit and busy A205 road.
She spoke to Josh Lowth, her boyfriend, by phone as she made her way home and arranged to meet him the following day.
Just after 9.30pm, she passed the junction of Cavendish Rd, where a doorbell camera caught fleeting footage of her walking along. But that was the last confirmed sighting and when she failed to meet Lowth the following day as they had arranged, he became worried and raised the alarm.
Described as extremely organised and someone who always kept in touch with her family, concern quickly turned to panic among her friends.
Police initially insisted that despite her disappearance being out of character, there was no evidence that anything untoward had happened.
However, on Sunday the investigation was dramatically ramped up and the Met’s Specialist Crime Command, which deals with murders, took over the case.
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