A British police officer who works in the Diplomatic Protection Command in Westminster has been arrested on suspicion of murdering missing marketing executive Sarah Everard.
Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, 49, a father of two from Deal in Kent, was initially arrested on suspicion of kidnapping the 33-year-old who disappeared in south London a week ago.
But on Wednesday, Scotland Yard said the man in custody had further been arrested on suspicion of murder. They confirmed that the officer had not been on duty when Everard disappeared.
He has also been arrested on suspicion of a separate allegation of indecent exposure.
Couzens, a former mechanic, worked for his family’s garage business before joining the police around a decade ago.
He has an older brother who is also a serving police officer.
Neighbours in the quiet road in Deal where he lives with his wife and son and daughter described seeing him being led from his home in handcuffs on Tuesday evening by Met Police officers.
Detectives in forensics suits began searching his house on Tuesday night and on Wednesday removed two cars from outside the property.
Police were also understood to be searching his locker in the Palace of Westminster where his role includes protecting MPs and dignitaries.
Meanwhile, officers were continuing to search a house and woodland in Deal, Kent.
A tent was erected outside a property in Freemen’s Way in the town and a large police presence was in the area, including teams with sniffer dogs.
Two police officers stood outside the property while forensic officers wearing blue full body suits, white plastic boots and disposable face masks were seen coming in and out of the tent carrying black bin bags full of items out of the house.
A police helicopter was also seen circling overhead at around 11.30am.
Plain-clothed officers were seen speaking to next door neighbours while a Kent County Council community warden was also in attendance.
An area of woodland was also being searched near Betteshanger Park in Deal as well as a set of farm buildings near Great Chart in Ashford, Kent.
Everard, 33, disappeared last Wednesday as she walked home from a friend’s house in south London.
The last image of her was captured on CCTV on Poynders Road at around 9.30pm and police have spent recent days scouring the local area for clues as to her disappearance.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said Sarah’s family had been made aware of the latest developments.
Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave, one of the Met’s most senior officers, added: “The arrest is a serious and significant development.
“We will continue to work with all speed on this investigation but the fact that the arrested man is a serving Metropolitan Police officer is both shocking and deeply disturbing.
“I understand there will be significant public concern but it is essential that the investigative team are given the time and space to continue their work.”
Forensics teams search bins and pond
On Tuesday detectives searching for Everard examined the area around a block of flats just yards from where she disappeared seven days ago.
Police in white forensics suits were seen entering Poynders Court after the colleagues cordoned the area off at around 4pm yesterday.
Earlier officers were seen examining bins behind the complex as well as a set of lock up garages to the side of the plot.
One local resident, whose property overlooks Poynders Court, said the police had already searched the area on Sunday.
“It makes me very concerned,” she told the Telegraph. “I walk around here on my own between 7pm and 9pm, the time she was walking.”
Another woman, who works in Brixton but lives in Stockwell, said she walked the same route every day along which Everard disappeared.
“It’s really worrying.”
On Tuesday, Scotland Yard released fresh images of Everard in the hope of jogging people’s memories.
Everard, who recently started a new job, disappeared as she made her way back to her flat in Tulse Hill, south London after visiting friends in nearby Clapham.
Superintendent Kris Wright, from the Met’s Central South Area Command Unit which covers Clapham, said: “I know that Sarah’s disappearance is weighing on people’s minds and the local community is, of course, concerned about her and may even feel worried.
“I want them to know that they should expect to see more police officers on patrol in the area as we continue to search for Sarah and talk with the community. If you want to approach them about any concerns you have, please do so. We are here to support the community and we genuinely want to help in any way we can.”
Her boyfriend, Josh Louth, 33, who also works in marketing and lives in south London, is believed to have been the last person to speak to her on the phone before she disappeared without trace as she walked home last Wednesday evening.
Doorbell camera may have been last sighting
After leaving a friend’s flat in Leathwaite Road, Clapham, Everard set off on foot for the 50 minute walk back to her flat between Tulse Hill and Brixton.
It is understood she spoke to Louth as she made her way home and the pair arranged to meet the following day.
At around 9.30pm she was picked up by a doorbell camera close to the junction of Poynders Rd and Cavendish Rd, but there have been no sightings since.
Police had a huge team of officers scouring CCTV footage from the numerous cameras positioned along the busy south circular road, where she was walking.
Everard’s parents, Jeremy, 67, a professor of electronics and Sue, 63, travelled from their home in York to help in the search.
Her aunt, Jane Everard, told the Telegraph: “She is a very kind and beautiful person and has such a big circle of friends. It is absolutely unbelievable that this has happened. I cannot stress how organised and together she is so wandering off is just not something she would do.
“Nobody can believe that anybody would want to do something to her.”
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