A damning report has found that series of red flags about Wayne Couzens were missed, meaning he could remain a Met Police officer despite being a serial sex offender who was deeply in debt. 

The inquiry found that without major changes there is nothing in place to stop another monster like Couzens going undetected. 

The family of Sarah Everard, who was kidnapped, raped and murdered by Couzens in 2021, said: “We believe that Sarah died because he was a police officer, she would never have got into a stranger’s car.” 

Lady Elish Angiolini, who led the inquiry, said: “Failures of investigations, failures of recruitment processes, and failures of vetting policy and practice are a depressingly familiar refrain in policing. 

“Now is the time for change and I have made 16 recommendations to bring about the necessary changes. 

“Wayne Couzens should never have been a police officer. And, without a significant overhaul, there is nothing to stop another Wayne Couzens operating in plain sight.” 

News Shopper: Sarah EverardSarah Everard (Image: Met Police)The report found that Couzens’ history of alleged sexual offending and preference for extreme violent pornography dated back nearly 20 years before Miss Everard’s murder. 

He is accused of having sexually assaulted a child “barely in her teens” while in his early 20s, and the inquiry identified four more victims who had not reported sexual crimes to the police, and it is feared there may be more. 

While the inquiry did not make a conclusive finding that Miss Everard’s murder could have been prevented, it found that Wayne Couzens could have been sacked if vetting and investigations into indecent exposure reports had been more thorough. 

His crimes were “the culmination of a trajectory of sexually motivated behaviour and offending”, including indecent exposure, the sexual assault on a child, sexual touching and sharing unsolicited photos of his genitals, the report found. 

It said that there were also allegations that he possessed indecent images of children. 

Police investigations into alleged indecent exposure in 2015 and 2021, in the days before the murder, were “of poor quality and inadequate”, and “seemed destined to fail from the start”. 

“Rather than embarking on a process of detailed, thorough and time-consuming evidence-gathering, the officers displayed apathy and disinterest and found reasons not to pursue the cases”, the report said. 

There were also failures in vetting, with Wayne Couzens hiding the level of debt that he was in and exaggerating the amount of time he spent in the Territorial Army. 

Couzens, who became a special constable for Kent Police in 2002, failed vetting to become a regular officer in 2008, but was allowed to remain as a special with all the same powers as a regular constable and was permitted to work alone. 

When he joined the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, an outside force – Thames Valley Police – carried out vetting and found that he should not be recruited, in line with rules around officers with heavy personal debts, but this was ignored. 

In 2018, when he joined the Metropolitan Police, a search of the Police National Database, an intelligence database, found “no trace”. 

In fact there were entries about an incident in 2013 when he was reported missing from home, and an allegation of indecent exposure from 2015. 

These were also missed when he applied to be a firearms officer the following year. 

The Met told the inquiry that it would still have recruited Couzens even if this information had been available, which the report said was “of serious concern”. 

While he carefully controlled how he was seen by colleagues, Couzens spent his working life in environments dominated by men that did nothing to discourage his warped beliefs, the inquiry found. 

“Although Wayne Couzens was not wholly a product of his working environments, those environments did nothing to discourage his misogynistic view of women and meant that providing he presented himself as professional his deviant behaviour outside work could flourish,” the report said. 

Sarah Everard’s parents and siblings Sue, Jeremy, Katie and James, said in a statement: “As a family, the inquiry has helped us, not just because of its significant findings, but because its implementation made us feel that Sarah’s life was valued and her memory honoured. 

“Her death has not been dismissed as a tragic event to be acknowledged with sympathy and then forgotten – questions have been raised and actions taken to investigate how this tragedy happened. 

“As a family, we have not had to fight for answers and, for this, we are very thankful. 

“It is obvious that Wayne Couzens should never have been a police officer. Whilst holding a position of trust, in reality he was a serial sex offender. 

“Warning signs were overlooked throughout his career and opportunities to confront him were missed. 

“We believe that Sarah died because he was a police officer, she would never have got into a stranger’s car.” 

Their statement continued: “It is almost three years now since Sarah died. We no longer wait for her call; we no longer expect to see her. 

“We know she won’t be there at family gatherings. But the desperate longing to have her with us remains and the loss of Sarah pervades every part of our lives.” 

Speaking to journalists as the report was published, Lady Elish Angiolini said: “Wayne Couzens was never fit to be a police officer. Police leaders need to be sure there isn’t another Couzens operating in plain sight.” 

She remembered Miss Everard “whose life was cut short by the most unimaginable cruelty”, and paid tribute to her family saying: “I have been profoundly affected by their grief, and their grace in suffering.” 

Lady Elish continued: “Sarah’s murder by an off-duty police officer shocked the nation. It triggered a surge of discourse about women’s safety in public spaces and started a tidal wave of reporting on police misconduct, particularly where officers misused their powers to commit sexual offences. 

“What is already clear is how much damage Couzens has done to the social contract on which policing is based and how significant improvements are required.” 

Met Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley’s said: “There is nothing we can say to the family of Sarah Everard and all those who loved her that will convey how very sorry we are.

“Wayne Couzens’ crimes were horrific. The fact that he abused his position as a Metropolitan Police officer to carry them out represents the most appalling betrayal of trust.

"It damages the relationship between the public and the police and exposes long-standing fundamental flaws in the way we decide who is fit to be a police officer and the way we pursue those who corrupt our integrity once they get in.

“The report published today is an urgent call to action for all of us in policing. We must go further and faster, to earn back the trust of all those whose confidence in policing has been shaken by events of recent years.

“Regardless of our significant progress over the past year, the scale of the change that is needed inevitably means it will take time and it is not yet complete.

"The majority of my Met colleagues share my determination to reform by both confronting the risk posed by predatory men in policing, and also, improving our protection of women and children across London.”