The Metropolitan police officer who raped and murdered Sarah Everard guarded parliament five times, it has emerged, as a senior Conservative criticised the force for appearing to have “overlooked” warning signs about his behaviour.
Wayne Couzens, 48, worked in the parliamentary and diplomatic protection command and finished a shift guarding the US embassy hours before he carried out a false arrest of Everard on 3 March and abducted her.
His access to Westminster has only just come to light after the Met said he worked on the parliamentary estate used by MPs and ministers five times between February and July 2020.
Couzens had a pass granting him access to all areas of the Commons and Lords, according to the Sunday Times, which also reported that the Commons Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, had demanded a meeting with the Met commissioner, Cressida Dick, over Couzens’ vetting.
“I have asked the Met to meet me urgently to discuss how this person could have been deemed suitable for deployment here,” Hoyle said. “Further, I will be seeking reassurance that at no time was anyone on the parliamentary estate put at risk. The security of members and staff has always been my number one priority, so I want to know how this man could ever have crossed the parliamentary threshold.”
Hoyle said he was “sickened by the depravity” of Couzens and heartbroken for Everard’s family.
Some MPs, including Labour’s former acting leader Harriet Harman, have called for Dick to resign weeks after her contract was extended. Boris Johnson has said she should remain in post.
Oliver Dowden, the co-chair of the Conservative party, said the attack on Everard was “deeply, deeply disturbing”. He added there were “kind of warning signals that appear to have been overlooked” and that it was right Dick “properly investigates that”. He added: “I think we need to let her get on with that job first.”
Speaking to Sky News, Dowden said: “You’re very right to highlight all of those concerns, and I’m very worried about them as well – as is the home secretary.”
He said the government would “allow the Met commissioner to do the job of trying to sort this out and find out exactly how this happened” and did not rule out a public inquiry.
Parm Sandhu, a former Met police superintendent, said every police officer should be re-vetted.
“It needs to be done now as an urgent measure to reassure the public and rebuild the trust and confidence that policing has lost,” she said. “It needs to be done on a regular basis, so that we don’t have anybody who can even come close to the actions of Wayne Couzens.”
The Met’s response to concerns for women’s safety – which included advising people to flag down a bus if they are worried a police officer is conducting false inquiries – was also criticised by Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester.
“What I would say is that some of the statements that came out from the Met over the weekend felt like they were going down the wrong track – you know, women should wave down a bus,” Burnham told Sky.
“Any answer to this issue that begins with the words, ‘women should’ or ‘women must’ is, in my view, the wrong answer. This is an issue that starts with men and boys, and that is where attention should go.”
Meanwhile, the former justice secretary Robert Buckland said people’s trust in the police needed to be restored. “The public also needs to know that the police, who are civilians in uniform policing with our consent, are truly accountable for failure,” he wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.
“While the operational independence of our police force is of central importance, it should never be used as a cloak against scrutiny. If trust is to be regained, then it has to be understood that to admit fault and failure should be seen as a sign of strength, not weakness.”