British police confirmed Friday that a body found in the disappearance of Sarah Everard is that of the 33-year-old woman — who is at the center of the high-profile case involving a cop arrested on suspicion of kidnap and murder.
Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said police were determined to get justice for Everard after finding the remains in Ashford, Kent, the Sun reported.
“As you know, on Wednesday evening detectives investigating the disappearance of Sarah Everard discovered a body secreted in woodland in Kent,” Ephgrave told reporters outside Scotland Yard.
“The body has now been recovered and formal identification procedure has now been undertaken. I can now confirm that it is the body of Sarah Everard,” said, adding that the woman’s family had been given the “distressing” news.
The marketing exec disappeared while walking home from a friend’s house in south London on March 3.
Metropolitan Police specialist firearms officer Wayne Couzens, 48, was found unconscious with head wounds Thursday after his second night in custody in the case, police told the Sun.
The father of two was believed to have been alone in his cell in Wandsworth police station in south London at the time, the outlet said. He has since been discharged from a hospital.
“I know that the public feel hurt and angry about what has happened, and those are sentiments that I share personally,” Ephgrave said Friday.
“I also recognize the wider concerns that are being raised quite rightly about the safety of women in public spaces in London and also elsewhere in the country,” he added.
Before the remains were officially identified, Everard’s family had paid tribute to their “beautiful daughter Sarah” as they appealed to the public help to solve “this terrible crime,” Reuters reported.
The formal identification of the remains comes after it was claimed that police failed to act and arrest Couzens over an alleged indecent exposure at a McDonald’s in south London on Feb. 28, the Sun reported.
It meant the officer — a member of Scotland Yard’s Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command — was still on the job for three days and free to allegedly snatch the woman on March 3.
“It’s definitely not that police did nothing about the indecent exposure or that they turned a blind eye to a crime by a colleague. But the question will be whether the case was progressed quickly enough,” a source told the Standard on Friday.
Had Couzens been arrested over the exposure allegation, he would automatically have had his “blue ticket” firearm license revoked and been suspended from duty, the Sun reported.
In a statement, the Independent Office for Police Conduct said it “has started an independent investigation into whether Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officers responded appropriately to a report of indecent exposure.
“The IOPC’s investigation follows a conduct referral from the MPS in relation to two officers, received last night, which is linked to four other referrals,” it continued.
“They are all connected to the arrest of a serving MPS officer on suspicion of kidnap, murder and a separate allegation of indecent exposure,” it added, the Sun reported.
“Our investigation will look at the actions of the MPS after police received a report on 28 February that a man had exposed himself at a fast food restaurant in South London.”
Couzens’ Ukraine-born wife, Elena, 38, a laboratory manager, also has been arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender and has since been released on bail, the outlet reported.
“The working hypothesis is that he saw Sarah on the street for the first time and kidnapped her,” a source told the Sun earlier.
“At this stage it is thought the officer used his warrant card to entice Sarah towards his car,” the source added. “One theory is that he may have used the COVID lockdown as a pretext to engage with her and then snatched her.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “shocked and deeply saddened by the developments in the Sarah Everard investigation,” adding that “we must work fast to find all the answers to this horrifying crime.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel also expressed his sadness at her death.
“My heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with Sarah, her family and friends at this unbearable time,” he said.
“Many women have shared their stories and concerns online since Sarah’s disappearance last week. These are so powerful because each and every woman can relate,” Patel said.
“Every woman should feel safe to walk on our streets without fear of harassment or violence,” he continued.
“At this deeply sad and tragic time as we think and pray for Sarah and her family, I will continue through my role to do all I can to protect women and girls from violence and harassment,” Patel added.
With Post wires