London Metropolitan Police Officer Wayne Couzens pleaded guilty to the kidnap and rape of Sarah Everard, a marketing executive, during a London court hearing on Tuesday.
Members of the victim's family reportedly sat in court to witness the accused make his plea via video link from Belmarsh jail. A member of the British police force's parliamentary and diplomatic protection unit, the 48-year old replied "guilty your honour" to a charge of kidnapping the 33-year-old victim "unlawfully and by force or fraud" on March 3, according to The Sun. He also admitted to raping her between March 2 and 10.
However, he was not asked to enter a plea into a charge that he murdered Everard. His lawyer, Jim Sturman, said Couzens admitted responsibility for her death, pending medical reports. A further hearing is set for the accused before Lord Justice Fulford on July 9.
Couzens's court hearing came after a postmortem report released last week revealed that the victim died from compression of the neck or strangulation.
Everard was last seen on March 3 walking back to her home in Brixton from a friend's house in Clapham Common. A doorbell camera captured her walking along the A205 Poynders Road toward Tulse Hill at about 9:30 p.m. Her boyfriend reported her missing on March 4 and her body was found a week later hidden in a wooded area of Ashford, Kent, on March 10.
Everard's murder prompted an outpouring of anger and shock as well as conversations of women's safety in the U.K. It prompted others to share their personal experiences of assault and harassment. It also led to anger at the police for how it handled people who gathered at her vigil in March.
The mass gathering at Clapham Common was prohibited given the pandemic. It was said to have been a peaceful gathering at first. But when people refused to disperse, the police had to apply force. They reportedly arrested young women at the vigil.
The Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton was even photographed at Everard's vigil by an eyewitness. She stopped by to pay her respects with a bouquet of flowers. Her visit was reportedly "legal" because she was at work.