Ex-police officer who murdered Sarah Everard after kidnapping her under the guise of an arrest has been sentenced to a whole-life prison term.

Wayne Couzens abducted the 33-year-old as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham on 3 March 2021.

Lord Justice Fulford described the circumstances of the kidnap, rape and murder as “grotesque”.

He said the seriousness of the case was so “exceptionally high” that it warranted a whole-life order.

Sarah Everard was only 33 when she was murdered by Wayne Couzens.

Mr Couzens, 48, was a serving PC with the Metropolitan Police when he snatched Ms Everard as she walked home in Clapham, South London.

The firearms officer who had been in the force since 2002, had finished a 12-hour shift at the US Embassy that morning, drove to a remote rural area northwest of Dover in Kent, where he parked up and raped Ms Everard.

Mr Couzens abducted Ms Everard in a false arrest by handcuffing her and showing his warrant card, most likely suggesting that she broke Covid-19 restriction laws to get her into his vehicle. She was handcuffed at about 9.34pm, detained in Mr Couzens’ hire car by 9.37pm and they were on their way to Kent a minute later.

Ms Everard was strangled with Mr Couzens’ police belt by 2.30am the following morning. The ex-cop then burned her body in a refrigerator in an area of woodland he owned near Ashford, Kent, before dumping the remains in a nearby pond.

By 2:31am Mr Couzens had left the scene and was spotted at a service station buying drinks.

He visited the site where Ms Everard’s body was dumped twice, leaving just before dawn.

Days later, amid extensive publicity about Ms Everard’s disappearance, Mr Couzens took his wife and children on a day out to the woods, allowing his kids to play close by to where Ms Everard’s body was left.

During sentencing remarks, Lord Justice Fulford said: “First and foremost, Sarah Everard was a wholly blameless victim of a grotesquely executed series of offences that culminated in her death and the disposal of her body.

“She was 33 years of age and had been working in marketing since graduating from Durham University, and she was simply walking home mid-evening having visited a friend during the Covid-19 pandemic. She was an intelligent, resourceful, talented, and much-loved young woman, still in the early years of her life.

“I have not the slightest doubt that the defendant used his position as a police officer to coerce her on a wholly false pretext into the car he had hired for this purpose. It is most likely that he suggested to Sarah Everard that she had breached the restrictions on movement that were being enforced during that stage of the pandemic.”

He also said: “The misuse of a police officer’s role such as occurred in this case to kidnap, rape and murder a lone victim is of equal seriousness as a murder for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause.

“You have very considerably added to the sense of insecurity that many have living in our cities, perhaps particularly women, when travelling by themselves and especially at night.”

Lord Justice Fulford gave Mr Couzens a whole life order saying that “I have seen no evidence of genuine contrition on your part as opposed to evident self-pity and attempts by you to avoid or minimise the proper consequences of what you have done.”

A whole life order is the most severe punishment available in the UK criminal justice system for those who commit the most serious crimes. The Government states that “a whole life term means there’s no minimum term set by the judge, and the person is never considered for release” unless there are exceptional compassionate grounds.

There are 60 criminals serving whole life orders, according to Government figures to the end of June.

Before they died, Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, Moors murderer Ian Brady and his girlfriend Myra Hindley, and doctor Harold Shipman – thought to be one of Britain’s most prolific serial killers – were also among those serving whole life orders.