A SERVING Met Police officer has been arrested on suspicion of murder and kidnap over the disappearance of Sarah Everard.
Dad-of-two Wayne Couzens, 48, is in custody after the 33-year-old went missing last week as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south west London.
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Sarah Everard, a marketing manager, should have made it back to her Brixton home by about 10pm on Wednesday night – but hasn’t been seen since.
And in a “shocking and deeply disturbing” update to the case, Scotland Yard last night revealed a police officer had been arrested over Sarah’s disappearance.
The Sun can today reveal Wayne Couzens, an armed diplomatic protection officer based in Westminster, was arrested at his Kent home.
His work saw him provide protection at major public events attended by senior members of the Royal Family with the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command also responsible for guarding Downing Street and the Palace of Westminster.
Met Police this afternoon confirmed a serving officer was arrested last night on suspicion of kidnap.
They said he was further arrested today on suspicion of murder and a separate allegation of indecent exposure.
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PC Couzens is thought to have been a late entrant to the police, joining around 10 years ago after previously working at a family garage repairs business in Dover.
One ex-colleague of PC Couzens said: “It is truly shocking that he has been arrested over Sarah’s disappearance.”
However despite the arrest, the Met said Ms Everard had not yet been found.
Detectives investigating Sarah’s disappearance are also today carrying out a search of his locker at the police base in the Palace of Westminster where he worked.
Following the arrest of the police officer, the Metropolitan Police has made a referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
Neighbour David Ladd, 48, said he saw Couzens bundled into a police car under arrest with handcuffs on last night.
He told The Sun: “He was escorted into the back of a police car.”
Cops are now standing guard at a Kent home with a forensic tent set up outside, with a car seized from outside the property.
A woman in her 30s – believed to be the cop’s partner – was also been arrested at the same location on suspicion of assisting an offender. She remains in custody.
Corrine Couzens, Wayne’s step-mother, told The Sun she couldn’t comment but added: “I’m aware of what’s happening.”
Cops were today seen searching locations in London and Kent including a property in Deal and an area of woodland near Ashford.
Officers have been combing through through bushes at a disused paintball centre and a golf driving range.
Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave last night said the arrest was a “serious and significant development”.
AC Ephgrave said: “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.”
The Directorate of Professional Standards is aware and Sarah’s family has been kept updated of these developments, police said.
And as cops searched the officer’s Kent home, neighbours spoke of their shock.
A neighbour in the road said a police officer lives at the address with his “chatty” wife and two children.
She said: “They just seemed like a normal, regular family, there was nothing strange about them at all.”
Pamela Cane, 77, who lives opposite, described the household as “the perfect family”.
She said Wayne lived there with his wife, two young children and a Pug dog.
She said her late partner Rod would discuss policing with Wayne – who she described as “very friendly” and part of a “perfect family”.
She said: “The whole situation is horrifying.
“I can’t believe this. The arrest is more shocking because he’s a police officer.
“Wayne would also fix bikes in his garage. He was known for helping people with them.”
A woman who lives nearby was walking past Couzens’ home about 8pm last night when she saw him arrested by about 25 plain clothes police officers outside the property.
The neighbour told The Sun: “There were two officers at the door and some more positioned to the side of the house.”
Sarah was last seen on Wednesday night – seen on a doorbell camera on the Poynders Road section of the South Circular – about halfway between her friend’s house and her own flat.
Detectives searching for the missing marketing executive earlier cordoned off a main road to search a housing complex close to where Sarah’s phone last pinged.
Officers carried out fingertip searches around Clapham Common where Sarah was last seen, while divers and sniffer dogs checked ponds and drains in the area.
And police have appealed for motorists who may have driving near her route home to send in their dash-cam footage.
Police yesterday released new pictures of missing Sarah hoping that it might encourage anyone with information to come forward.
One shows Sarah wearing the same coat as on the night she went missing.
Sarah’s parents left their York home at the weekend and drove to London to help the search for their daughter.
Her distraught family fear “bad people approached her” as her “very worried” boyfriend issued a desperate plea.
Her uncle Nick Everard also revealed the family are “absolutely distraught” – and said they were “baffled” by the arrest.
He told the Sun Online: “We know they arrested an armed officer but we don’t know him.
“It’s really shocked us all.
He had earlier pleaded with any potential abductor to “just to be human and to let her come home”.
Nick added: “If someone is holding her against her will I would plead with them just to be human and to let her come home, to let her talk to us, give us a ring or text to let us know she is OK.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing Boris Johnson’s thoughts are with missing woman Sarah Everard and her friends.
They said: “As investigations are ongoing on this case I can’t comment.
“But the Prime Minister’s thoughts are with Sarah and her friends and family.”
Sarah’s boyfriend Josh Lowth, who spoke to Sarah on the phone for around 15 minutes before she vanished, has appealed for information on Facebook.
He wrote: “Sarah is still missing. Please share this post to help us to find her. Today, more than ever, we miss our strong, beautiful friend.”
A relative also revealed today Josh is “very worried” as the search enters its seventh day.
His dad Chris added: “We are concerned, like everybody is. We really, really want to see her back.”
It is understood detectives investigating her disappearance have been told of assaults on women in the area, reports The Times.
In January, Metropolitan Police received a report of sexual harassment on a young female on Hydethorpe Road, just half a mile from where Sarah was last caught on CCTV.
At the start of February, a woman was witnessed being chased by a man just over a mile away.
Then, just three weeks ago, a 14-year-old girl was followed by a man in a van less than half a mile from where Sarah was last seen.
Meanwhile, other women said they reported groups of men following a woman in neighbouring district Balham.
But Scotland Yard has said it is so far not linking Sarah’s disappearance to any other incidents.
Alarmed women living in the area revealed police urged them to be vigilant after the mysterious disappearance.
One said cops knocked on her door last night and warned her “not to go out alone” as they desperately try to piece together what happened.
Another woman, aged in her 30s, told The Sun Online: “I was told to be more careful because I live on my own.
“The police came round yesterday and said to be careful.
“I don’t want to leave the house at the moment. You don’t know what happened.
“It makes me very worried. I just can’t believe it.”
Clues to find Sarah
Officers are also asking people in the following areas to check doorbell or dashcam footage for any sightings of Sarah:
- The A205 South Circular around Clapham Common
- Cavendish Road
- New Park Road
- Brixton Hill
- Brixton Water Lane
The map shows a possible route Sarah would have followed
On Wednesday night last week, Sarah left a friend’s house in Leathwaite Road in Clapham about 9pm.
She headed through a back gate onto the A205 South Circular before she is believed to have walked across Clapham Common.
She had spoken to her partner on the phone for about 15 minutes, and has not been heard from since that point, according to her friend Rose Woollard.
Sarah moved to the capital for work around 12 years ago and has a brother, James, and sister, Katie, who also live in London.
In a statement released over the weekend, her family said: “With every day that goes by we are getting more worried about Sarah.
“She is always in regular contact with us and with her friends and it is totally out of character for her to disappear like this.
“We long to see her and want nothing more than for her to be found safe and well.
“We are so grateful to the police and all our friends for all they are doing.
“We are desperate for news and if anyone knows anything about what has happened to her, we would urge you to please come forward and speak to the police.
“No piece of information is too insignificant.”
Sarah’s sister, Katie, added on Facebook: “No words. Please share and contact me if you hear anything.”
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Sarah was last seen wearing a green rain jacket, navy blue trousers with a white diamond pattern and turquoise and orange trainers.
She was also thought to have been wearing green earphones and a white beanie hat.
Anyone with information is asked to call 101 quoting CAD 3309/06MAR.
Information can also be provided anonymously by calling the Missing People charity on 116 000.