The London police officer arrested for the kidnapping, rape, and killing of 33-year-old Sarah Everard pleaded guilty to her murder on Friday in a crime that sent shockwaves through the UK.
Wayne Couzens, the 48-year-old former Metropolitan Police officer, had already admitted to kidnapping and rape, having pleaded guilty to the charges on June 8. At the time, he also admitted he "was responsible for her killing," but did not enter a plea on the murder charge, prosecutors said.
On Friday, officials announced Couzens had pleaded guilty to murder and will be sentenced on Sept. 29.
"This plea is as a result of a great deal of hard work by the prosecution team," said Carolyn Oakley of the Crown Prosecution Service. "The police should be commended for their thorough and tireless investigation into Sarah’s disappearance."
Everard, a London-based marketing executive, disappeared on the night of March 3 while walking home from a friend's house. Couzens was arrested days later, and Everard's body was found in a wooded area more than 50 miles from where she'd last been seen. An autopsy revealed the cause of death to be compression of the neck.
The young woman's death set off a tidal wave of grief and anger in the UK. Online, many women spoke out about gendered violence and the lack of safety they often feel just going about their lives. A peaceful vigil in London held shortly after the murder drew thousands, but police met it with force, arresting four women and igniting even deeper fury against the same institution that employed Everard's killer.
In a press conference on Friday, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said she and the entire police force are "sickened, angered, and devastated" by Everard's murder and "feel betrayed" that it was committed by one of their own.
"Sarah was a fantastic, talented young woman with her whole life ahead of her, and that has been snatched away," Dick said. "She was hugely loved, and she will be sorely missed by so very many people."
It is still unknown why Couzens murdered Everard. In court, prosecutor Tom Little said they had never met and were "total strangers to each other," according to the BBC.
He had previously concocted an elaborate lie to explain the events, the BBC reported, falsely claiming an Eastern European gang threatened his family and forced him to kidnap Everard.
But the true motive for the brutal crime, if such a motive even exists, remains a mystery.
“Couzens lied to the police when he was arrested and to date, he has refused to comment," Oakley said. "We still do not know what drove him to commit this appalling crime against a stranger."