LONDON (Reuters) – A public inquiry will examine how a serving British police officer was able to abduct and murder a woman, the interior ministry announced on Monday, and whether he could have been stopped from carrying out a crime that horrified the nation.
Wayne Couzens, 48, an officer whose job was to guard diplomatic premises in the British capital, abducted marketing executive Sarah Everard, 33, on a London street as she walked home in March last year, and then raped and murdered her.
“I am determined to understand the failings that enabled a serving officer to commit such heinous crimes – we owe an explanation to Sarah’s family and loved ones, and we need to do all in our power to prevent something like this from ever happening again,” Home Secretary Priti Patel said.
Everard’s murder led to public rallies and outpourings of anger from women who recounted their own experiences and fears of being out alone at night.
It also raised questions about whether previous concerns about Couzens had been properly checked by police, including an indecent exposure incident to which he was linked in 2015, and two further such allegations last year.
The inquiry, to be held in two parts, will firstly examine whether any “red flags” were missed, his abuse of police powers, and if any issues relating to his behaviour, particularly in relation to women, were known and raised by colleagues.
Those findings will be used for a second part of the inquiry to consider what further action should be considered to protect women and for policing in general.
Elish Angiolini, who will lead the inquiry, said Monday’s announcement was a significant step forward to “ensuring Sarah’s family and the wider public get a full understanding and explanation of the causes of, and factors contributing to, this tragic and harrowing murder.”
(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Alistair Smout and Paul Sandle)