Sarah Everard's murderer Wayne Couzens acted like a serial killer. He may have done this before – Tom Wood

With the exception of a few political despots, it is hard to recall a single act by one man that has done as much damage as that of Wayne Couzens.

A court artist's sketch of Susan Everard, the mother of Sarah, reading a victim impact statement as former Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens (left) sits in the dock (Sketch by Elizabeth Cook/PA)

The brutal murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer not only ended the life of an innocent young woman, but dealt a devastating blow to the police’s reputation.

Some, with axes to grind, have already taken the opportunity to smear the entire service as institutionally misogynist, top to bottom. It’s an odd proposition when you consider that nearly half of all police staff are women.

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But the damage is real. Trust is that most fragile of commodities, difficult to establish, shattered in an instant. The police, especially in London, face a long road back.

More immediately, there are pressing questions for the Met. How did Couzens slip through the vetting system, why were concerns about his behaviour not pursued, and what other serious crimes has he committed?

To answer the first, we must look at his background. Typically, police officers join in their 20s. For the first years of probation, the young officer is closely supervised. Recruits who do not meet standards of work or behaviour can be dismissed as “unlikely to become a good and efficient officer”.

Couzens’ career was different. He did not join the Met until 2018 when he was already in his 40s, having served briefly in two other forces – never a good sign.

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Why was he taken on so readily, his good character accepted? One clue may be that he came as a trained firearms officer, a precious commodity.

With the increased terror threat, the need for officers willing and able to carry firearms has grown prodigiously. Not everyone wants to undertake these roles, especially the long, boring static shifts at embassies and parliament – little better than sentry duty. That may be the reason why the Met accepted him with open arms.

As for the various allegations of indecent behaviour prior to the murder, we will learn more as the investigation proceeds. It may simply be a case of small pieces of information not being connected.

The last question is important. What other victims are out there?

The abduction and murder of Sarah Everard was no spontaneous crime. What we saw on the grainy video footage was a cold, calculated abduction, a predator on the hunt, organised and equipped to carry out his plan. The hire car and transportation of his victim to a place where he could rape and murder. The destruction of evidence, the detachment, the normal, everyday behaviour afterwards, all the hallmarks of an organised killer.

What I saw was exactly the same predatory behaviour as that of Angus Sinclair, the World’s End killer who stalked and murdered young women across Scotland in the 1970s.

Couzens’ behaviour was that of a serial killer and such men are seldom caught the first time. Since his arrest, a team of detectives will have been painstakingly piecing together the jigsaw of his life, tracking his movements over 30 years.

In time, we may learn more about the life and crimes of Wayne Couzens. It will take longer to heal the wounds he has inflicted on the reputation of the police service.

Tom Wood is a writer and former Deputy Chief Constable

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