Police officer in court over murder that shocked UK

London (AFP) –


The police officer charged with murdering a young Londoner who disappeared while walking home from a friend's house appeared in court on Saturday as organisers cancelled a march in her honour due to coronavirus restrictions.

Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, appeared in person at London's Westminster Magistrates' Court charged with the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard.

Couzens, a member of the force's diplomatic protection unit, was charged on Friday with the murder that has shocked the country and raised the issue of women's safety.

The 33-year-old marketing executive, whose body was identified on Friday, disappeared on the evening of March 3 while walking home from a friend's flat in a popular neighbourhood south of the capital.

Couzens was arrested at his home in Kent, southeast England, on Tuesday. The victim's body was discovered in a nearby wood on Wednesday.

He appeared in the dock on Saturday, wearing a grey tracksuit and suffering what appeared to be a red wound on his forehead.

Police earlier said that he had been taken to hospital twice in 48 hours for treatment to separate head injuries sustained in custody.

Couzens confirmed his name and personal details.

Organisers cancelled a march in honour of Everard on Saturday after police outlawed it due to Covid-19 restrictions.

"In light of the lack of constructive engagement from the Metropolitan Police, we do not feel that we can in good faith allow tonight's event to go ahead," the organisers of "Reclaim These Streets" said on Twitter.

Instead, the movement hopes to raise £320,000 ($445,000) for women's causes, equivalent to the £10,000 organisers were each threatened with multiplied by the number of venues where events were due to take place.

The organisers unsuccessfully challenged the Metropolitan Police's decision in court on Friday.

Everard had visited friends in Clapham and was returning home to Brixton, about 50 minutes walk, when she disappeared around 9:30pm.

The case has caused a political fallout, with MP Jess Phillips this week reading out the names of 118 women murdered last year.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was "shocked and deeply saddened" by the case.