The body found hidden in Kent woodland has been identified as Sarah Everard, police revealed today.
Speaking outside Scotland Yard, Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said Miss Everard’s heartbroken family had been told this ‘most distressing news’.
And amid growing fury that a serving policeman may be responsible, he said he understood why the public ‘feel hurt and angry’ after the marketing executive, 33, was kidnapped from the streets of London, killed and ‘secreted’ in woods near Ashford.
The Met officer suspected of her murder, Wayne Couzens, 48, remains in custody today after detectives requested more time to question him when he injured himself in his cell at Wandsworth Police Station.
It has also emerged he was reported to police twice for alleged indecent exposure on February 28 in a south London McDonald’s in allegations now being probed by the IOPC.
It comes as detectives investigating Couzens are today combing a network of military tunnels in the White Cliffs of Dover which run underneath his family’s former garage.
Officers are also searching his home and garden in Deal and the woodland near Ashford where Sarah’s body was found on Wednesday.
Assistant Commissioner Ephgrave said: ‘As you know, on Wednesday evening detectives investigating the disappearance of Sarah Everard discovered a body secreted in woodland in Kent.
‘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.’
He said his ‘thoughts and prayers, and those of the entire organisation’ remain with Sarah Everard’s family ‘at this awful time’.
He added: ‘Specialist officers remain in constant contact with Sarah’s family, and will continue to support them throughout the investigation and beyond.
‘That investigation continues at a pace and we have hundreds of officers working round the clock to establish the full circumstances of Sarah’s disappearance, and her murder.’
Tonight, a High Court judge refused to intervene after organisers of a vigil planned in Sarah’s honour yesterday claimed the Metropolitan Police ‘reversed their position’ in allowing it to go ahead.
Reclaim These Streets brought urgent legal action in a bid for a declaration that any ban on outdoor gatherings under coronavirus regulations is ‘subject to the right to protest’.
However, Mr Justice Holgate declined to grant the request and left it open for talks between the group and the Metropolitan Police to continue.
But Scotland Yard said tonight that large gatherings could ‘risk undoing all the hard work to reduce the (Covid) infection rate’ and urged people to stay at home rather than attend a vigil.
As the hearing got underway in London earlier today, Mr Ephgrave said: ‘I know that the public feel hurt and angry about what has happened, and those are sentiments that I share personally, and I know my colleagues here at Scotland Yard and across the Met share as well.
‘I also recognise the wider concerns that have been raised, quite rightly, about the safety of women in public spaces in London and also elsewhere in the country.
‘I want to say now that this organisation, and the men and women in it, remain committed to protecting Londoners wherever they are in this city.
‘And that commitment is undiminished by these events and if anything that commitment is strengthened by these tragic circumstances.’
Officers were searching for evidence in three locations as it emerged Wayne Couzens served in the territorial army in Kent in the 2000s before joining the police guarding a nuclear power plant at Dungeness and embassies in London until his arrest on Tuesday.
The confirmation that Sarah Everard is dead and the turmoil at Scotland Yard came as:
- Prime suspect Wayne Couzens, 48, is accused of exposing himself twice in McDonald’s just 72 hours before she was kidnapped;
- Metropolitan Police is referred to Britain’s police watchdog on five separate occasions over its handling of the case, arrest of their own armed officer and his alleged indecent exposure of unnamed victim;
- Police search military tunnels near family garage of Sarah Everard murder suspect cop in Dover as it’s revealed he served in Territorial Army 17 years ago;
- Organisers of the Sarah Everard vigil launch emergency legal challenge against Met’s decision to ban it;
- Sarah Everard’s family paid an emotional tribute to their ‘bright and beautiful’ daughter and sister;
- The Green Party’s Baroness Jones stands behind her call for a 6pm curfew for men after Sarah’s murder;
Following confirmation today that human remains found in woodland are that of Miss Everard, Marcus Rashford sent his well wishes to the family and called on men to ‘play a role’ in ensuring women feel safe.
Rashford said the news was ‘heartbreaking,’ adding: ‘I’m so sorry. This should have never happened.
‘Men we have a role to play. To listen, to protect, and to allow women to feel safe at whatever time of day. I have sisters, nieces… just horrible. I’m sending my love to Sarah’s family’.
The Archbishop of Canterbury also lent his support to women who have suffered ‘the sin of male violence’ in a message of support for Miss Everard.