British police officer Wayne Couzens has pleaded guilty to murdering Sarah Everard, the 33-year-old woman abducted as she walked home from a friend’s house in south London.
Couzens previously admitted to kidnapping and raping Everard, a marketing executive who went missing on March 3.
Couzens entered a guilty plea to murder during a hearing at London’s Central Criminal Court on Friday, appearing by video link from Belmarsh high-security prison.
Bearded and wearing a blue sweatshirt, he sat with his head bowed and said “guilty ma’am” when asked how he pleaded to the charge of murder.
A major police investigation was launched after Everard’s disappearance.
Her body was found a week later in the woods more than 80 kilometres (50 miles) southeast of London, close to a piece of land owned by Couzens.
The search for Everard and news of her killing caused a nationwide outcry, with women sharing experiences of being threatened, attacked or simply facing the everyday fear of violence when walking alone.
Police in the UK capital came under criticism after some women attending a vigil for Everard were arrested for breaching coronavirus restrictions.
Couzens, 48, joined London’s Metropolitan Police in 2018 and had most recently served in the parliamentary and diplomatic protection command, an armed unit responsible for guarding embassies in the capital and parliament.
Prosecutor Tom Little said Couzens had never met Everard prior to kidnapping her from London’s South Circular road in a rented car, and that they were “total strangers”.
Judge Adrian Fulford said Couzens had previously only given an entirely false account of events, an elaborate story involving an Eastern European gang.
Despite his guilty plea, prosecutors said Couzens has not revealed where he raped and killed Everard.
“We still do not know what drove him to commit this appalling crime against a stranger,” said Carolyn Oakley of the Crown Prosecution Service.
“Today is not the day for hearing the facts about what happened to Sarah. Today is a day to remember Sarah, and our thoughts remain with her family and friends.”
Couzens is due to be sentenced during a two-day hearing that starts September 29.
The police force has expressed shock and horror at his crime, but faces an investigation by the policing watchdog over how it handled an allegation of indecent exposure against Couzens days before Everard was abducted.
London Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, Britain’s most senior officer, told reporters outside court she had personally apologised to Everard’s family.
“All of us in the Met are sickened, angered and devastated by this man’s crimes. They are dreadful,” she said.
Couzens’ lawyer, James Sturman, said his client’s pleas represented “truly genuine guilt and remorse for what he did”.
“As he put it to us this morning he will bear this burden for the rest of his life, and he deserves to – his words ‘and I deserve to’. He accepts the victims in this case are the Everard family and friends, not him,” Sturman told the court.