Sarah Everard: Mother-in-law defends police officer arrested on suspicion of murder | #childabductors

The mother-in-law of a serving Metropolitan Police officer suspected of abducting and murdering Sarah Everard has defended him and told of her shock.

It came as PC Wayne Couzens, 49, was held for questioning by colleagues following the discovery of human remains in woodland near Ashford, Kent.

The remains, yet to be identified, were found about 50 miles from the area of Clapham, south London, where marketing executive Ms Everard was last seen alive on the night of March 3, and some 30 miles from Couzens’ home in Deal, Kent.

Ms Everard, 33, was walking from a friend’s house to her home in Brixton when she vanished, and it is suspected she was attacked by a stranger.

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PC Wayne Couzens has been arrested on suspicion of kidnap and murder

CCTV footage from a passing London bus provided a breakthrough that led to the arrests of Couzens and a woman in her 30s, it is claimed.

Another report claims a car linked to the suspect was allegedly spotted on a motorist’s dashcam.

Ms Everard has been described as “beautiful”, “sensible” and a “lovely girl” by friends and family who are now trying to come to terms with the fact human remains have been found.

Family members of Couzens, an armed officer who protected diplomats and VIPs, defended him following his arrest at the home he shared with his Ukraine-born wife Elena, a 38-year-old laboratory manager, and their two children.

His mother-in-law, Nina Sukhoreba, told the Telegraph from her home in Kirovograd, Ukraine: “He could not do anything like this. He is a wonderful family man, a wonderful man. This just sounds crazy to me.”

She added: “I talked to my daughter just yesterday (Tuesday) and she didn’t tell me anything. She said Wayne was at work and everything was fine.”

Sarah Everard
Police suspect Sarah Everard, 33, was abducted while walking home

Ms Everard had attended Fulford School in York, where headteacher Steve Lewis described her as a “popular and well-liked member of our community”.

He told the York Press: “Those who taught Sarah speak of a lovely, bright, intelligent girl who shone within the school.”

Teacher Rose Woollard, who has been friends with Ms Everard since they met at university, described her as “beautiful, thoughtful and incredibly kind”.

She told the BBC: “Sarah and I met many years ago whilst studying together at Durham University.

“She has always been an exceptional friend, dropping everything to be there to support her friends whenever they need her.

“It was only recently that she was telling me the good news about her new role as a senior marketing account manager, which she was excited to start.”

PC Wayne Couzens at work in 2008
Couzens (pictured in 2008) provided protection to diplomats and VIPs

Her aunt Jane Everard told the Telegraph: “She is that type of person, incredibly grounded and sensible.”

Married dad-of-two Couzens, meanwhile, had returned home from a shift in London when he was arrested on Tuesday night on suspicion of kidnap.

He was further arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of murder and a separate allegation of indecent exposure.

Neighbours claim police had the home of the armed officer, who worked in the Westminster-based Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command, under surveillance in the hours before the arrest.

A woman arrested at the same address, was being questioned by detectives on suspicion of assisting an offender.

The breakthrough is understood to have come from CCTV footage from a camera fixed to a bus that had been travelling along the route where Ms Everard disappeared, the Telegraph reported.

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A car linked to the murder suspect was allegedly spotted on a motorist’s dashcam near to where Ms Everard was last seen, and tracked by ANPR cameras, the Sun reported.

Scotland Yard said the murder suspect was not on duty when Ms Everard vanished.

It is claimed Couzens worked a relief shift at the American Embassy in Nine Elms, south-west London, until 8pm the night Ms Everard went missing.

The embassy is about three miles from where Durham University graduate Ms Everard, originally from York, was last seen on a doorbell camera in Clapham about 9.30pm.

Neighbours told the Times that former car mechanic Couzens was shirtless and handcuffed when he was led out of his house and taken away in a car late on Tuesday, six days after the disappearance.

A witness said she saw two men in a Land Rover watching the house at about 5pm on Tuesday before they went to the door two hours later.

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Between 15 and 20 more officers were hidden around the corner as the house was stormed, the neighbour added.

It is understood detectives have found no link between the suspect and Ms Everard.

A source told the Times: “Of course you can’t be 100 per cent certain at this stage and there’s a lot of digital equipment to go through.

“But so far it is a leading line of inquiry that Sarah did not know whoever attacked her.”

Met Commissioner Cressida Dick sought to reassure the public in the wake of Wednesday’s developments, saying “it is thankfully incredibly rare for a woman to be abducted from our streets”.

She added: “But I completely understand that despite this, women in London and the wider public – particularly those in the area where Sarah went missing – will be worried and may well be feeling scared.”

Police carry flowers at Great Chart Golf and Leisure near Ashford in Kent following the discovery of human remains in the hunt for missing Sarah Everard
Police officers carry flowers from members of the public near to where human remains were found

The Met said the arrested arrested officer’s main job was uniformed patrol of diplomatic premises, but would not specify where he had worked.

The diplomatic protection squad is responsible for guarding the Parliamentary estate including Downing Street and the Palace of Westminster, as well as embassies in London.

In a statement, Ms Dick said: “The news today that it was a Metropolitan Police officer arrested on suspicion of Sarah’s murder has sent waves of shock and anger through the public and through the whole of the Met.

“I speak on behalf of all my colleagues in the Met when I say we are utterly appalled at this dreadful news. Our job is to patrol the streets and to protect people.”

Investigators are continuing to work “around the clock” on what Ms Dick described as a “very fast moving” case.

The remains have not yet been identified and it could take some time to do so, the Commissioner added.

The remains were found as police searched an abandoned golf and paintball centre near Ashford.

She said people living around Clapham and Tulse Hill could expect to see increased patrols in the area.

Scotland Yard referred itself to the police watchdog over the arrest of its own officer and separately over the force’s actions after Ms Everard was reported missing.

Women’s Equality Party leader Mandu Reid said the Met should not oversee the case, given one of its officers has been arrested.

She tweeted: “The fact that a @metpoliceuk officer has been arrested on suspicion of murder makes it all the more frightening, and it is imperative that the case is now taken over by a separate police force. We have to do this right.”

The alleged abduction and murder has prompted a serious online discussion about the different attitudes men and women have towards personal safety.

Wayne Couzens
Couzens is a married dad-of-two who lives in Deal, Kent

The case has become national news followed by millions and, though its full details are not yet known, it has highlighted the danger women can face when out alone – and the measures they take to avoid it.

For some women, it has also been a troubling reminder of their own experiences.

One woman tweeted: “Sarah Everard did everything right. Everything women are ‘supposed’ to. Bright clothing. Main road. Called her man.

“Every woman I know in Clapham doesn’t feel safe at night.

“Not to walk home from work, to exercise, to walk to the shop. I wish more men understood this feeling.”

Downing Street said that the Government was working with “law enforcement agencies, charities, women’s group” to develop a strategy to ensure women’s safety.

A police officer stands guard at a temporary police barrier around the home of a murder suspect in the Sarah Everard case
Police stand guard at a temporary barrier surrounding the suspect’s home in Deal

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I am shocked and deeply saddened by the developments in the Sarah Everard investigation.

“Like the whole country my thoughts are with her family and friends. We must work fast to find all the answers to this horrifying crime.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel said “every woman should feel safe to walk our streets without fear of harassment or violence”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said “the scale of violence, intimidation and misogyny that women and girls suffer on a daily basis” must be recognised.

As well as the search of wooded areas in Ashford and the outskirts of Deal, over the course of Wednesday, officers also searched the suspect’s home in the coastal town of Deal, about 75 miles from Clapham.

Neighbours claim police were digging up the garden.

A tent was set up in front of the house, which was surrounded by a metal fence for privacy.

Two cars were taken away by investigators and neighbours said Couzens lived at the address with his wife and two children.

Members of Couzens’ family defended him following his arrest.

His mother-in-law, Nina Sukhoreba, told the Telegraph from her home in Kirovograd, Ukraine: “He could not do anything like this. He is a wonderful family man, a wonderful man. This just sounds crazy to me.”

She added: “I talked to my daughter just yesterday (Tuesday) and she didn’t tell me anything. She said Wayne was at work and everything was fine.”

Ms Everard vanished after leaving a friend’s flat in Clapham at about 9pm on March 3.

She is thought to have walked through Clapham Common towards her house in Brixton – a journey which should have taken around 50 minutes.

Marketing executive Ms Everard was remembered as “beautiful”, “sensible” and a “lovely girl”

Ms Everard spent about 15 minutes speaking to her boyfriend, Josh Lowth, on the phone shortly before she disappeared.

She was last captured on a doorbell camera walking along the A205 Poynders Road towards Tulse Hill at around 9.30pm.

A vigil titled “Reclaim these streets” has been organised on Facebook and is due to take place at Clapham Common bandstand at 6pm on Saturday evening.

Organisers said: “It’s wrong that the response to violence against women requires women to behave differently. In Clapham, police told women not to go out at night this week. Women are not the problem.

“We’ve all been following the tragic case of Sarah Everard over the last week.

“This is a vigil for Sarah, but also for all women who feel unsafe, who go missing from our streets and who face violence every day.”

Timeline of Sarah Everard’s disappearance

March 3: The 33-year-old marketing executive goes missing after leaving a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, around 9pm.

March 6: Metropolitan Police raise the alarm over Ms Everard’s disappearance, saying it was “totally out of character” for her not to be in contact with family and friends.

Police release a CCTV image of her, saying she was thought to have walked through Clapham Common after leaving her friend’s flat, heading towards her home in Brixton, a journey which should have taken around 50 minutes.

March 7: Police release footage taken from a private doorbell-type camera showing Ms Everard was walking alone along the A205 Poynders Road towards Tulse Hill, just south of Brixton.

Police say it is unclear whether or not she reached her house.

She was last seen wearing a green rain jacket, navy blue trousers with a white diamond pattern and turquoise and orange trainers, and was thought to have been wearing green earphones and a white beanie hat.

Scotland Yard says the investigation is being led by its Specialist Crime Command because of the “complex nature” of the probe, which combines searches with house-to-house inquiries.

Sarah Everard disappearance timeline map
A map of locations in the disappearance of Ms Everard

March 8: Scotland Yard says it remains “open minded as to all possibilities” over Ms Everard’s disappearance, while confirming a missing persons investigation.

Specialist officers are drafted in from across the Metropolitan Police force.

Police say they have received more than 120 calls from the public on the case, and ask anyone who may have relevant dashcam or other footage to come forward.

March 9: Police use sniffer dogs to search gardens in streets around the search site near Ms Everard’s envisaged route home and in the nearby Oaklands Estate. Officers also search a pond in Clapham Common and drains along the A205.

Police also release fresh images of Ms Everard – wearing the coat in which she disappeared – as they appeal for the public’s help.

Later in the day, the Met sets up a cordon around the Poynders Court housing complex on Poynders Road as part of the search, with forensics officers seen examining the area.

11.59pm, March 9: The Met tweets that it has arrested a police officer at an address in Kent in connection with Ms Everard’s disappearance.

Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave says the fact the man is a serving police officer “is both shocking and deeply disturbing”. The Met says a woman has also been arrested at the same location on suspicion of assisting an offender.

The man and the woman are taken into custody. Detective Chief Inspector Katherine Goodwin says the force is still “doing everything we can to find Sarah”.

A heavy police presence in the woods where human remains were found in the search for Sarah Everard
A heavy police presence is seen in the woods where human remains were found

9am, March 10: Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave tells journalists outside Scotland Yard that investigators really hope Ms Everard is still alive.

In an unusual step, Mr Ephgrave refuses to reveal what the officer has been arrested for, and will not reveal whether the suspect is known to Ms Everard.

10.30am, March 10: Detectives investigating the disappearance search a home and woodland at two locations in Kent – one on land near Ashford and the other at a property in Deal.

A tent was erected at the front of a house in Freemens Way in Deal, and multiple cars were taken away by investigators.

A neighbour tells the PA news agency a police officer lives at the address with his wife and two children.

3pm, March 10: The Met reveals the suspect is a diplomatic protection officer in his 40s and that he is being question over suspected kidnap and murder. It says he is also being questioned over a separate allegation of indecent exposure.

The force says the detained man is a member of Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command – the squad responsible for guarding the Parliamentary estate including Downing Street and the Palace of Westminster, as well as foreign embassies in London.

The force said that the officer’s main job was uniformed patrol of diplomatic premises, but would not specify where he had worked.

8.17pm: Met Commissioner Cressida Dick announces that what appear to be human remains have been found in woodland in Ashford, Kent.

Ms Dick says that the force is not able to confirm an identity, adding this could take “considerable time”.

Ms Dick says hundreds of officers and other police staff continue to work “around the clock” on the investigation.

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