Victim of Couzens tells court of ‘survivor’s guilt’
Police “could have saved Sarah Everard” if they acted more quickly on reports of Wayne Couzens flashing McDonald’s staff days before, one of his victims has said.
The serving Metropolitan Police officer targeted women at a drive-through restaurant near his home, where he would order
cheeseburgers and then expose himself at the serving window. Couzens had been caught on CCTV driving to the restaurant using his own car, which was registered in his name, and used his own credit card to purchase food.
The incidents were reported to the Metropolitan Police on 28 February 2021, but Couzens was not arrested and just three days later, he kidnapped, raped and murdered Ms Everard. One of the victims told the Old Bailey of her shock when she woke up to a message from her manager linking to an article showing Couzens’s face.
“If he had been held accountable when we had reported the crime, we could have saved Sarah,” she said. “I had no one contact me or ask for a statement [after the flashing incident]. It was only after Sarah’s murder that I became involved.”
The woman, who broke down crying while delivering her statement, said that by the time Couzens exposed himself to her on 27 February 2021, colleagues told her he had done the same “several times before” at the same McDonald’s.
“I became aware following this of the seriousness of what could have happened to me before while I had been walking late at night,” she said. “I could not believe that I had met someone who would go on to be a killer... I was scared. I felt like that could have been me. I still think about this now.” The woman said that she now feels that she has to take public transport instead of walking home, telling the court: “I should not have to be in fear of somebody attacking me and I should feel able to walk home while feeling safe.”
Couzens’s sentencing hearing also heard statements from two other victims of his perverted indecent exposure offences, including another member of McDonald’s staff. The statement, read to the court by prosecutor Tom Little KC, told how she had just been doing a “normal” night shift when Couzens pulled up and exposed himself.
“I remember everything about what had happened over the incident, even down to the cheeseburger and coffee that he had ordered, and even what his hands look like,” the woman said. “When I heard that this had happened before I had a very fear for my colleagues and myself that we could be in danger.”
The victim said she studied psychology at university and knew that men “who expose themselves have a tendency to escalate their behaviour” and felt scared for herself and her children, switching to day shifts and changing the way she travelled.
She described feeling sick after seeing Couzens had murdered Ms Everard and felt “survivor’s guilt”, adding: “It could have been me.” Couzens admitted two incidents of indecent exposure at the McDonald’s, as well as a previous incident in Kent in November 2020.
The Old Bailey heard that the armed Metropolitan Police officer was on duty and should have been working from home when he stood, naked and masturbating, alongside a rural lane and
exposed himself to a female cyclist. The woman cycled onwards as fast as she could and noticed his car parked nearby, but could not fully see the number plate because of the speed she was travelling at. She reported the incident to police but Couzens was not traced.
In a statement addressed directly to Couzens, the woman said: “The crime you perpetrated has left a dark stain on my daily life. I saw you, now known globally as a convicted murderer and rapist, in the act of masturbating whilst completely naked. Your intention was to cause distress and alarm.
“The pleasures of being able to take a walk on my own, or to cycle to the railway station, without fear, are now denied to me.” The victim said that indecent exposure should not be “viewed as a minor offence”, but “somebody who could expose themselves to a stranger in such an intimidating way could go on to commit much more serious acts”.
She added: “I did not feel that, when I reported your crime, it was taken as seriously as I felt that it should have been. The horror of what happened will remain with me for the rest of my life.” The head of Scotland Yard’s Directorate of Professional Standards said an officer who was charged with investigating the McDonald’s incidents will face a misconduct hearing, and the events surrounding Ms Everard’s death will be further examined by an inquest.
Deputy assistant Stuart Cundy added: “Like so many, I wish he had been arrested for these offences before he went on to kidnap, rape and murder Sarah Everard and I am sorry that he wasn’t. The fact he did this whilst serving as a police officer has brought shame on all of us who swore to protect the communities we serve.”
If I told you I’d been ‘flashed’, would you just laugh it off?
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