Police officer ‘missed opportunity to investigate Sarah Everard killer’

A former Metropolitan Police officer missed an opportunity to properly investigate two incidents of flashing by Wayne Couzens just hours before he kidnapped, raped and murdered Sarah Everard, a policy disciplinary hearing was told today.

Former police constable Samantha Lee allegedly failed to make “the correct investigative inquiries” when Couzens exposed himself to female staff at a McDonald’s drive-through in Swanley, Kent, on 14 and 27 February.

Ms Lee interviewed the restaurant’s manager on 3 March in relation to the incidents – just hours before Ms Everard, 33, was kidnapped while walking home in Clapham, south west London.

The former police officer is said to have lied about her actions when questioned later, claiming that she believed that the CCTV at the restaurant deleted automatically.

Sam Taylor, the manager of the McDonald’s drive-through, said in a statement that on both occasions Couzens, 50, was seen by female members of staff to have his pants open and his penis on display.

Paul Ozin KC told the hearing that after Mr Taylor reported the incidents to the Met on 28 February, the matter was triaged and recorded as “less urgent” than other matters the force had to deal with.

Mr Ozin said that after Mr Taylor made the call, a computer check confirmed that the black Seat Exeo had been registered to Wayne Couzens since January 2018.

“There is no standard check that takes place to see whether a suspect in criminal police cases are police officers,” Mr Ozin said.

Ms Lee’s visit to the McDonald’s branch on 3 March was her last appointment of the day.

Mr Ozin said: “We suggest that the work carried out was a rushed job.”

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Moments before Couzens exposed himself

The restaurant manager said he showed Ms Lee CCTV footage that showed Couzens’ car, as well as receipts that recorded the last four digits of Couzens’ card and witness statements taken from two members of staff.

But Ms Lee claims the manager did not show her any CCTV footage but accepted she did receive receipts and witness statements from Mr Taylor.

In a report made after attending the restaurant, Ms Lee recommended that Couzens be arrested and questioned.

Mr Ozin said Ms Lee believed that this report would be handed to a different team to follow up on.

But the former officer did not put the witness statements and the receipts in a sealed evidence bag, instead keeping them in a pocket in her body armour.

Mr Ozin said that Ms Lee’s behaviour “suggests that she was more intent in getting away quickly than in performing her duties properly”.

“It is supportive of the unpalatable conclusion that PC Lee just did not bother to get the CCTV, even though she knew it was important, instead relying on others to do that instead of her,” he added.

“And that she later lied to others when she knew that the stakes had escalated astronomically.”

Ms Lee is accused of breaching the force’s standards on duties and responsibilities as well as honesty and integrity.

If she is found to have committed gross misconduct, she could be banned from serving in the Met Police again.

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She denies both allegations.

The misconduct hearing at Palestra House in Southwark is expected to last seven days.

Couzens was sentenced to 19 months in prison in March of this year after admitting three counts of indecent exposure.

He was already serving life behind bars for kidnapping Ms Everard as she walked home on 3 March 2021 and murdering her.

The third indecent exposure incident relates to when Couzens exposed himself to a female cyclist on a Kent country lane in November 2020.