Wayne Couzens used his police ID card to arrest Sarah Everard for breaking Covid rules, then abducted her, court told.

A serving London police officer handcuffed a woman on the pretext that she broke COVID-19 lockdown rules before he kidnapped and killed her, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Wayne Couzens, 48, appeared at London’s Central Criminal Court charged with the abduction, rape and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, who disappeared while walking home from visiting a friend in south London on March 3.

The case has sparked national outrage and triggered large-scale protests denouncing violence against women.

Couzens has pleaded guilty to the charges. He sat in a packed courtroom with his head bowed as members of Everard’s family listened to prosecutor Tom Little open his case.

Little said Couzens wore his police belt with handcuffs and used his police identification when he detained Everard “by fraud.” He had also rented a car as part of his plan, the prosecutor argued.

There was “no credible alternative explanation for his need to hire a car other than to use that car to kidnap and rape a lone woman,” Little said.

“His movements were consistent with the defendant looking for, or hunting, for a lone young female to kidnap and rape, which is precisely what he did,” the prosecutor argued.

Couzens joined the Metropolitan Police in 2018 and had worked as part of a team protecting diplomatic locations in central London. He had worked an overnight shift at the U.S. Embassy on the day he kidnapped Everard.

Couzens also had worked on COVID-19 patrols and enforcing coronavirus regulations, Little said. Everard had been walking home after going to a friend’s house for dinner while Britain remained under lockdown, and that made her more vulnerable to the officer’s claim that she had breached pandemic rules, according to the prosecutor.

A passenger in a passing car witnessed the kidnapping, but mistook it for an arrest by an undercover officer, he added.

Everard’s body was found in woodland in Ashford, Kent, about 60 miles (nearly 100 kilometers) southeast of London, a week after she went missing. Prosecutors said Couzens strangled her before setting fire to the body.

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