‘Don’t Get In The Car. Don’t Believe Him. Run!': The Heart-Breaking Words Of Sarah Everard's Mother

·14-min read
Photo credit: Ming Yeung - Getty Images
Photo credit: Ming Yeung - Getty Images

The victim impact statement given by Sarah Everard’s mother at the start of Wayne Couzens’ sentencing on Wednesday was received by a packed, but completely silent court at the Old Bailey.

The quiet was only broken by occasional sobs from the public gallery, the well and the press benches, as Susan Everard delivered her statement about a ‘feeling of loss so great it is visceral’.

Photo credit: Met Police
Photo credit: Met Police

‘I am tormented at the thought of what she endured,’ she continued, giving voice to the many families of victims who have suffered similarly.

‘I play it out in my mind. I go through the terrible sequence of events. I wonder when she realised she was in mortal danger; I wonder what her murderer said to her. When he strangled her, for how long was she conscious, knowing she would die? It is torture to think of it.’

Couzens, 48, sat with his head down in the dock. The former police officer, who had been serving at the time of Everard’s murder, had clocked off from a shift that morning and gone on to rape and strangle the 33-year-old marketing executive, before burning her body.

The officer then dumped her body in a woodland stream in Ashford, Kent, where it was found a week later. Couzens wiped his phone just minutes before he was arrested.

Photo credit: Met Police
Photo credit: Met Police

‘She spent her last hours on this earth with the very worst of humanity,’ continued Susan Everard. ‘She lost her life because Wayne Couzens wanted to satisfy his perverted desires. It is a ridiculous reason, it is nonsensical; how could he value a human life so cheaply? I cannot comprehend it. I am incandescent with rage at the thought of it. He treated my daughter as if she was nothing and disposed of her as if she was rubbish.’

‘In the morning I wake up to the awful reality that Sarah is gone. In the evenings, at the time she was abducted, I let out a silent scream: 'Don’t get in the car, Sarah. Don’t believe him. Run!’’

‘The other night, I dreamt that Sarah appeared at home. In my dream I held her and could feel her physically. Jeremy was there, we were comforting her, saying "it’s alright Sarah, it’s alright". I would give anything to hold her once more; I hope I dream that dream again.’

Photo credit: Met Police
Photo credit: Met Police

Susan Everard’s husband Jeremy and their eldest daughter, Katie, also made statements in court. Jeremy Everard demanded that Couzens face him, as he said: ‘We loved being a part of Sarah’s world and expected her to have a full and happy life. The closest we can get to her now is to visit her grave every day.’

Couzens’ trial is due to conclude today and he faces a life sentence. The family’s statements can be read in full below.

Sarah Everard's mother, Susan

'Sarah is gone and I am broken hearted. She was my precious little girl, our youngest child. The feeling of loss is so great it is visceral. And with the sorrow come waves of panic at not being able to see her again. I can never talk to her, never hold her again, and never more be a part of her life. We have kept her dressing gown - it still smells of her and I hug that instead of her.

Sarah died in horrendous circumstances. I am tormented at the thought of what she endured. I play it out in my mind. I go through the terrible sequence of events. I wonder when she realised she was in mortal danger; I wonder what her murderer said to her. When he strangled her, for how long was she conscious, knowing she would die? It is torture to think of it.

Sarah was handcuffed, unable to defend herself and there was no one to rescue her. She spent her last hours on this earth with the very worst of humanity. She lost her life because Wayne Couzens wanted to satisfy his perverted desires. It is a ridiculous reason, it is nonsensical; how could he value a human life so cheaply? I cannot comprehend it. I am incandescent with rage at the thought of it. He treated my daughter as if she was nothing and disposed of her as if she was rubbish.

If Sarah had died because of an illness, she would have been cared for. We could have looked after her and been with her. If she had died because of an accident, people would have tried to help - there would have been kindness. But there is no comfort to be had, there is no consoling thought in the way Sarah died. In her last hours she was faced with brutality and terror, alone with someone intent on doing her harm. The thought of it is unbearable. I am haunted by the horror of it.

When Sarah went missing we suffered days of agony, not knowing where she was or what had happened to her. Then, when Sarah’s burnt remains were found, we spent two terrible days waiting for tests to show how she had died, fearing she had been set alight before she was dead - the thought was appalling. Burning her body was the final insult, it meant we could never again see her sweet face and never say goodbye.

Our lives will never be the same. We should be a family of five, but now we are four. Her death leaves a yawning chasm in our lives that cannot be filled. I yearn for her. I remember all the lovely things about her: she was caring, she was funny. She was clever, but she was good at practical things too. She was a beautiful dancer. She was a wonderful daughter. She was always there to listen, to advise, or simply to share with the minutiae of the day. And she was also a strongly principled young woman who knew right from wrong and who lived by those values. She was a good person. She had purpose to her life.

My outlook on life has changed since Sarah died: I am more cautious; I worry more about our other children. I crave the familiarity and security of home; the wider world has lost its appeal. It is too painful to contemplate a future without Sarah, so I just live in the here and now.

I think of Sarah all the time, but the mornings and evenings are particularly painful. In the morning I wake up to the awful reality that Sarah is gone. In the evenings, at the time she was abducted, I let out a silent scream: 'Don’t get in the car, Sarah. Don’t believe him. Run!'

I am repulsed by the thought of Wayne Couzens and what he did to Sarah. I am outraged that he masqueraded as a policeman in order to get what he wanted. Sarah wanted to get married and have children, now all that has gone. He took her life and stole her future and we will never have the joy of sharing that future with her. Each day dawns and I think, Sarah should be here, leading her life and embracing new experiences. She had so many years ahead of her.

I don’t know how anyone could be so cruel as to take my daughter’s life. What I do know is that Sarah will never be forgotten and is remembered with boundless love. I cling on to memories of Sarah, I hold them tight to keep them safe.

The other night, I dreamt that Sarah appeared at home. In my dream I held her and could feel her physically. Jeremy was there, we were comforting her, saying "it’s alright Sarah, it’s alright". I would give anything to hold her once more; I hope I dream that dream again.'

Sarah Everard's father, Jeremy

'The impact of what you have done will never end. The horrendous murder of my daughter, Sarah, is in my mind all the time and will be for the rest of my life.

A father wants to look after his children and fix everything and you have deliberately and with premeditation stopped my ability to do that.

Sarah was handcuffed and unable to defend herself. This preys on my mind all the time. I can never forgive you for what you have done, for taking Sarah away from us.

You burnt our daughter’s body - you further tortured us - so that we could not see her again. We did not know whether you had burnt her alive or dead. You stopped us seeing Sarah for one last time and stopped me from giving my daughter one last kiss goodbye.

Her body fell apart when she was moved. Her brain and neck bones were removed for months by the pathologist and her body was difficult to preserve so we had to use the services of a specialist embalmer to enable a dignified burial.

All my family want is Sarah back with us. No punishment that you receive will ever compare to the pain and torture that you have inflicted on us. You murdered our daughter and forever broke the hearts of her mother, father, brother, sister, family and her friends.

Sarah had so much to look forward to and because of you this is now gone forever. She was saving to buy a house and looking forward to marriage and children. We were looking forward to having grandchildren. We loved being a part of Sarah’s world and expected her to have a full and happy life. The closest we can get to her now is to visit her grave every day.'

Sarah Everard's sister, Katie

'You treated Sarah as if she was nothing. Placed more emphasis on satisfying your sick, disgusting perversions than on a life. Her life. You disposed of my sister's body like it was rubbish. Fly-tipped her like she meant nothing. She meant everything. We couldn't even see her, she was so badly burnt. Her brain was removed from her skull to check for trauma and cause of death - I still don't know if they put her brain back in her head or whether it is lying next to her body in her coffin.

Shards of her kneecap were returned to us to be placed with her body - shards that you knocked when moving her burnt body from the fridge you had used to hide her and conceal the fire. We are still missing her hyoid bone from her throat, which is being checked to see the force you used to strangle her, to determine how long she may have survived. We know it was broken. Her burnt body still had her necklace and one earring in her ear - the other had fallen from her ear because it had burnt off.

You hear from the police that it takes around 2 minutes to strangle someone. And around 8-10 seconds for them to lose consciousness. At first there is a sense of relief at hearing that your sister might only have been aware of what was happening for 8-10 seconds. But have you put your hands around your neck and tried pushing hard? 8-10 seconds now seems a long time.

You used your warrant card to trick my sister into your car. She sat in a car handcuffed for hours. What could she have thought she had done wrong? What lies did you tell her? When did she realise that she wasn't going to survive the night?

I'm constantly replaying in my head - did you rape her, then kill her? Did you kill her while raping her? You get small nuggets of information and the thought process starts again. Your semen and blood were found in your car. So this suggests you raped her in the car. You find out you may have used a belt to strangle her. New horrendous images forming.

You stopped to get a Lucozade and water at a petrol station. Was she still alive at this point? Bound in your car? I am horrified by your ability to flit between what you did and normal everyday actions. Your casual demeanour on CCTV was very upsetting and shocking to see.

We had to go to the flat and pack up Sarah's whole life - washing left hanging up, half sewn outfits, deliveries waiting to be returned, packages waiting at the door ready to be opened. All signs of a life waiting to be lived - chores to be done, ready for her to return and continue when she got home. But she never got home because a predator - you - was on the loose. Prowling the streets for hours looking for his prey.

You can't comprehend what you are being told when it happened because it is so horrific. Some sort of sick waking nightmare. You can't imagine anyone could do such a thing.

You are waiting to hear anything from the police. Every bit you get is different. You hear her body has been found. Then you find out she has been burnt. So badly burnt you can't see her. Can't see her again to say goodbye. The first thought you have in your head after despair and shock is - was she dead before you burnt her? Imagine that even having to be a thought. You find out no soot was found in her lungs which suggests she was burnt after you murdered her. Imagine being relieved to hear your sister was dead before she was burnt.

I replay it continuously round in my head. What you may have said to her, what she may have said back, when she realised she was in grave danger and was not going to survive. Hoping my sister was unconscious and drugged, but we know that was not the case - no drugs found in her body, no trauma to the head. Burst blood vessels in her brain from your strangulation. Which meant she was conscious when you were doing these unfathomable things to her. My only hope is that she was in a state of shock and that she wasn't aware of the disgusting things being done to her by a monster. When you forced yourself upon and raped her. When you put your hands around her neck and strangled her.

It disgusts me that you were the last person to touch her perfect body and violate her in the way you did. The last person to see her alive and speak to her. How scared she must have been. The last moments of her life not with loved ones, but frightened and fighting for her life. I hate to think of her being so scared and alone and that in her last moments she had no one with her. No kindness. I hate that I wasn't there to save her. To stop you. I find it hard to believe she is not just living her own life and sick at the thought that her last moments on this earth alive were so horrific

How dare you take her from me? Take away her hopes and dreams. Her life. Children that will never be born. Generations that will never exist. Her future no longer exists. The future I was supposed to live with my sister no longer exists. You have ruined so many lives. Sarah is the very best person with so many people who love and cherish her. I want to speak to her and hug her and hear her laugh and go out for dinners and drinks and dancing. All those conversations we can never have. There were so many things I wanted to share with her - trips abroad, being each other's bridesmaid, meeting her babies and being an Aunty, growing old together and seeing who got the most wrinkles. We weren't even halfway through our journey and you took it all away!

I feel like I live in a make-believe world. As if nothing is real. I have to pretend because the thought of not having Sarah forever is too hard to bear. A lifetime now seems a very long time

I should never have to write a eulogy for or bury my little sister. There is no punishment that you could receive that will ever compare to the pain you have caused us. We can never get Sarah back. The last moments of Sarah's life play on my mind constantly. I am so disgusted and appalled. It terrifies me that you have such disregard for a person's life. You have taken from me the most precious person. And I can never get her back.'

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