The off-duty police officer who raped and strangled Sarah Everard used the excuse of COVID lockdown rules to handcuff, ‘arrest’ and abduct her, a court has heard.

33-year-old Everard was murdered after she went missing following a visit to her friend’s house for dinner in South London on March 3rd.

Everard was technically in violation of England’s lockdown rules at the time, which forbade people visiting others outside of their ‘bubble’.

As she walked home with her headphones in her ears, Everard was confronted by off duty Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, who likely cited COVID rules as a reason to stop her in the street.

The officer had worked COVID patrol shifts in January 2021, and “was therefore aware of the regulations and what language to use to those who may have breached them,” the Crown Prosecution Service said at the Old Bailey today.

Footage played to the court showed Couzens hold up his hand to Everard, possibly showing her a warrant card, before he handcuffed her and placed her in the back of his hire car.

Tom Little QC told the court: “The fact she had been to a friend’s house for dinner at the height of the early 2021 lockdown made her more vulnerable to, and/or more likely to, submit to an accusation that she had acted in breach of the regulations in some way.”

“He could have used COVID as a reason to get her into the back of the car and said, ‘you’re breaching COVID rules’ and arrested her,” said Simon Harding, a former senior detective.

Witnesses who saw the encounter between Everard and Couzens likely did nothing to intervene because they thought Couzens “had done something wrong…They were in fact witnessing her kidnap by a cop,” tweeted journalist Fiona Hamilton.

Couzens drove his victim 80 miles before raping and killing her.

Everard’s remains were discovered a week later in woodland near Ashford in Kent.

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