Police probed over Sarah murder and link with indecency incident

Nusrat Ghani

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is looking at an incident in Dover in 2015 when a man driving a car was reported to police for indecent exposure. He was said to be naked from the waist down.

One avenue of inquiry is that the car belonged to Wayne Couzens jailed for life for Sarah’s kidnap, rape, and murder.

Couzens was serving as a special at Kent Police at the time and his vehicle was reported to the force in July 2015.

Officers decided the incident did not warrant any further action and the driver was not identified. Couzens joined the Met three years later.

The IOPC is investigating whether if Kent Police had linked Couzens with the indecent exposure, the Met Police’s vetting process would have red-flagged his application to later join that force.

Women’s groups have raised concerns how this incident in Dover was not followed up.

Carol Wilson, from the Tunbridge Wells Labour Women’s Forum, said: “His time in Kent police is not without question as a previous indecent exposure incident in 2015 was not followed up and went unreported in his transfer and vetting to the Metropolitan Police in 2018.”

She went on: “The message from women is loud and clear. We need to see the government compel the police to act. It is significant that Sarah was killed by a serving police officer and change must start there.”

Kent Police have declined to comment on the IOPC investigation, but this week the Chief Constable of Kent, Alan Pughsley, was asked by the Times about any steps being taken to ensure such a thing could not happen again.

He said in a general statement on the murder: “I want to make it absolutely clear that Kent Police officers will always carry identification and can always be asked for verification as part of their duties.”

Caroline Auckland, who is President of the Tunbridge Wells Soroptimists, the worldwide organisation that was set up in the town in 1946 to better the lives of women, said: “The Chief Constable of Kent Police highlights the use of ‘identification cards being used as verifications as part of their duties’ – sadly this is not helpful since Couzens used his police ID cards to assist them in their crimes.

“How does any of this build trust in our society and what is the way forward?” Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott was asked by the Times what he thinks needs to be done to make women safer.

He said: “This is more than just ‘learning the lessons’. This requires a systematic response. Not finger pointing.

“It is not just his appalling crimes. It is his recruitment, the conduct he is supposed to have demonstrated before and the crimes that he is alleged to have committed.

“It is the toxic WhatsApp groups that seem to exist everywhere now, and the poor workplace culture where he can be given awful nicknames based on how he made women feel.”

Caroline Auckland, added: “It is worrying to read the reference to WhatsApp communications in Matthew Scott’s statement, knowing that policemen in current service were engaging in communication with Couzens on this channel and yet none of them felt sufficiently alarmed enough to do anything about it at the time.”

She added: “A whole new policing strategy needs to be in put in place where safety concerns are immediately addressed.”

The comments came as Home Secretary Priti Patel launched an inquiry over the ‘systemic failures’ that allowed Wayne Couzens to become a police office. You can read the full statements from the police and responses from women’s groups here.

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