Senior police officers have joked about Wayne Couzens ‘better blame him on the fact that he’s redheaded’ after hearing details of the killer cop’s initial defense strategy, a court heard today – while one used sexual innuendo to tag his ‘old’ story slipped and fell ‘next thing i knew…’.
Couzens, 48, abducted and killed marketing manager Sarah Everard, 33, as she walked home near Clapham Common, south London, on March 3 last year, before dump his body in a pond in Kent.
But the father-of-two claimed in his first court appearance on March 13 that he handed Ms Everard alive to an Eastern European gang to pay off a debt.
Details of that defense were shared by a reporter with a senior member of the Police Federation, Sergeant Simon Kempton, who is facing a misconduct hearing for discussing it with colleagues from a group on the application of Signal messaging.
Mr Kempton, of Dorset Police, who was on secondment as federation treasurer, told today’s hearing he would be ‘bewildered’ if he believed he had added to the distress of Mrs. Everard’s family.
In a message, sent to eight other members of the Police Federation, which represents officers in England and Wales, Mr Kempton said: ‘Wait until you hear what his defense was today.’
Mr Kempton adds: ‘He said he used prostitutes and took one to a Travel Lodge type venue in Folkestone’, followed by: ‘He underpaid her so her family was threatened by the gang.”
Details of Couzens’ defense were shared by a reporter with a senior member of the Police Federation, Sergeant Simon Kempton (pictured), who is facing a misconduct hearing for discussing it with colleagues from a group Messaging Signal.
Mr Kempton continues: “They said, ‘…well, you better find us another girl then…’
“So he went to find Sarah and took her to a rest stop in Kent where a Mercedes Sprinter on Romanian plates flashed him. He handed her over and never saw her again.
“Except he was seen on CCTV at B&Q and bought two bags from builders.
And she was found in a mason’s bag.
“So basically coughing to kidnap but deny murder.”
The sergeant adds in the messages: “Admitted in interview to regularly using prostitutes in the same hotel.
“No comment after finding the body and re-examining it.
“He and his wife bought land in Kent. Where Sarah’s body was found. I imagine the SIO will want to take a look over there.
A co-worker replies, “The old one ‘slipped and fell’, next thing I knew…”
He adds: ‘It’s better to just blame the fact that he’s redheaded’ – which saw at least two colleagues react with laughing emojis.
Another said: ‘He had suffered a nasty blow to the head, which might explain why he thought that excuse might fly.
Mr Kempton is accused of breaching police professional behavior standards relating to respect and courtesy, duties and responsibilities, use of social media and confidentiality.
It is further alleged that his actions had the potential to undermine trust in the police.
Wayne Couzens (pictured), 48, abducted and killed marketing manager Sarah Everard, 33, as she walked home near Clapham Common, south London, on March 3 last year before dumping his body in a pond in Kent.
Giving evidence to a hearing at Dorset Police Headquarters, Mr Kempton denied any wrongdoing.
He said he thought it was vital that all members of the management team were briefed on the matter so they could discuss the position to take in subsequent press releases.
“We were talking about how we could play our part in building trust and the need to prepare lines for the media,” he said.
He continued: “At that time the federation, through me, we knew that (Couzens) had admitted at least one serious infraction, and that changes things on several levels.”
As Treasurer, Mr Kempton said he was also involved in claims by Police Federation members for legal funding.
‘My thought process went to the (legal funding) claims team, I didn’t know at the time that we hadn’t received a funding request from Couzens, but I thought it was not beyond the possibilities that (Couzens) might think: ‘Blimey, I need to ask for this help,’ he said.
“Once we’ve issued a press release we can’t get it back, so for me that was the most pressing concern, followed by a claim (for legal fees) which we may have already decided to fund.”
The press release subsequently issued by the Police Federation does not mention Couzens by name.
Mr Kempton said: “It was a deliberate decision, to make sure we focused on where we thought we should be, which was the Everard family, and that seems like a poor choice of words, but also to ‘get us away’ from Mr. Couzens.’
Asked about the tone of his messages, Mr Kempton said: ‘It was a conversation and I regret that given where I’m sitting, but it’s a conversation because it’s a conversation.’
A colleague jokes that Couzens ‘better just blame him on the fact that he’s redheaded’ – to which at least two colleagues reacted with a laughing emoji
He said the messages were “factual” and that he was repeating what the reporter had told him.
When asked if he thought the messages were discourteous to Couzens, he replied: “I don’t think so, I’m basically repeating what Wayne Couzens said.”
Mr Kempton denied showing any disrespect and courtesy to Sarah Everard’s family, saying: ‘I don’t accept this and it’s hurtful.’
He continued: “God only knows what they’ve been through already – if I had contributed in any way to their plight, I would be beside myself.
“I don’t think I did, but I would be beside myself.”
PC Duncan reported Sgt Kempton’s messages to the Metropolitan Police because he did not know where the information came from at the time and feared there was a leak within the force.
But he defended Sgt Kempton for releasing the information on Tuesday.
He said: ‘I made an assumption at the time that it was obtained by gossip and it was totally inappropriate.
“Now knowing where it came from, I think he was right to do what he did with it.”
Mark Ley-Morgan, the lawyer for Dorset Police, previously said the exchange of messages was ‘sarcastic, derogatory and cynical and disrespectful to the death of Sarah Everard’.
Mr Ley-Morgan said: ‘Was the officer sharing information with the executive group for a justifiable reason or was he just chatting away?
“We would say he got into that information and was eager to share it with the group even though they didn’t need to know.
“He had no reason to share the information. The question is what he should have done once he had this information. He should have kept that to himself.
“It was not done because it was necessary, it was done to gossip and ran the risk of highly confidential information being put into the public domain.”
The misconduct hearing is scheduled to end on Friday.
It comes after three Metropolitan Police officers accused of exchanging grossly offensive messages with Couzens were first named on Tuesday – including one who is a former firearms counter-terrorism officer, just like the killer of Mrs Everard.
PC Jonathan Cobban, PC William Neville and PC Joel Borders have been named ahead of their court appearances next month.
William Neville (pictured), 33, lives in Surrey in a modern building with his wife
PC Jonathan Cobban (pictured) and PC William Neville were first named ahead of their court appearance next month
A third man, former PC Joel Borders, 45, was also charged with sharing the offensive posts between April and August 2019.
PC Borders, 45, was charged with sharing the offensive posts between April and August 2019.
Borders, who now lists his job as a close protection officer, followed a similar career path to Couzens, having also served in the Civilian Nuclear Gendarmerie as a firearms officer.
He lists his skills as being an advanced driver, firearms, and counter-terrorism.
Couzens also worked for the CNC before joining the Met.
Cobban and Borders are charged with five counts of sending grossly offensive messages.
Neville, 33, who lives in Surrey in a modern building with his wife, is charged with two counts of the same offence.
Their colleague Cobban, 35, who shares a modern single-family home in Oxfordshire, will also stand trial.
Neville and Cobban’s neighbors knew they were police officers, but not of their alleged involvement with Couzens, who is serving a life sentence.
Both men were suspended from the force after being accused of participating in what the prosecution claimed were “grossly offensive” chats on WhatsApp.
The three men – who have been identified by the Crown Prosecution Service after a row over their undisclosed names – will appear in Westminster Magistrates Court on March 16.