Officer missed chance to investigate Wayne Couzens before murder of Sarah Everard, hearing told

Former Metropolitan Police officer Samantha Lee outside Palestra House in Southwark (PA)
Former Metropolitan Police officer Samantha Lee outside Palestra House in Southwark (PA)

A former Metropolitan Police officer allegedly missed an opportunity to properly investigate Wayne Couzens over two incidents of flashing just hours before he kidnapped, raped and murdered Sarah Everard.

Former police constable Samantha Lee is said to have failed to make “the correct investigative inquiries” over two incidents when Couzens exposed himself to female members of staff at a fast food restaurant in Swanley, Kent, on February 14 and 27, a police disciplinary hearing was told.

Ms Lee attended the restaurant on March 3, interviewing the branch’s manager hours before Ms Everard was kidnapped by Couzens in Clapham, south west London.

She is also said to have lied about her actions when questioned, claiming that she believed that the CCTV at the restaurant deleted automatically, the hearing heard on Monday.

According to a statement given by the restaurant manager, on both occasions Couzens was seen by female members of staff to have his pants open and his penis on display.

The statement said: “On both occasions the customer was sitting in his car with his trousers fully down and his penis out on display.”

Opening the case on behalf of the Met Police on Monday, Paul Ozin KC told the hearing that after the manager reported the incidents to the Met Police on February 28, the matter was triaged and recorded as “less urgent” than other matters the force have to deal with.

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

He added: “There is no standard check that takes place to see whether a suspect in criminal police cases are police officers.”

Ms Lee attended the restaurant on the afternoon of March 3.

It was her last appointment of the day.

Sarah Everard’s killer Wayne Couzens  (Met Police/PA) (PA Wire)
Sarah Everard’s killer Wayne Couzens (Met Police/PA) (PA Wire)

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

Mr Ozin said that the manager claims to have explained to Ms Lee that while the restaurant CCTV deletes automatically, other CCTV footage showed Couzens’ car.

He claimed that he showed her the other CCTV. He also showed her receipts which recorded the last four digits of Couzens’ card on both occasions, as well as witness statements taken from two members of staff.

He told the hearing that Ms Lee’s case is that she spoke to the manager when she attended the restaurant, but he did not show her any CCTV footage of the incident.

“Pc Lee said that he showed her the CCTV system and how it worked, but did not show her any footage or anything about the incident,” he said.

He said that she accepted that she did indeed take possession of receipts and witness statements from the manager.

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

Mr Ozin said that Ms Lee claims that she believed that the report would be allocated to a different team to follow up on.

However, Mr Ozin said that she 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: “One of the central issues of this case is whether there has been some horrible misunderstanding.”

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

He added: “It is supportive of the unpalatable conclusion that 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.

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

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

He was already serving life behind bars for kidnapping Ms Everard as she walked home through Clapham, south London, on March 3 2021 and then 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.

Ms Lee is said to have breached 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 force again.

She denies both allegations.

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