Former Met PC says she made mistakes on Wayne Couzens flashing case

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  • May 18, 2023
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The former Met police officer accused of botching the Wayne Couzens flashing case has admitted she made some mistakes, but said nothing she could have done would have changed the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard.

Samantha Lee has been accused of conducting an “extremely poor” investigation after Couzens, 50, exposed himself to female staff at a drive-through McDonald’s in Kent on 14 and 27 February 2021, a police disciplinary hearing was told.

Lee, 29, was said to have failed to secure CCTV footage when she visited the restaurant on 3 March, hours before Couzens abducted Everard, 33, in Clapham, south-west London.

Lee was also accused of lying when later questioned about her actions, claiming she believed the CCTV at the restaurant deleted automatically. Lee denied gross misconduct, lying and breaching the force’s standards on duties and responsibilities as well as honesty and integrity.

While under investigation for the alleged failings, she quit the force and reportedly set up an OnlyFans account called Officer Naughty.

On Thursday, Lee told the hearing she should have asked more questions about the CCTV and properly logged evidence, including the McDonald’s receipts that showed the last four digits of Couzens’ Mastercard and the date and time he exposed his penis to female members of staff.

At the of end her evidence, she was asked if she wanted to add anything about the case. She told the hearing: “I would say I accept I could’ve done more around the CCTV inquiries and evidence gathering, those were errors on my part and I fully accept that.

“As much as I thought over and over about what I could’ve done different, I don’t think anything would’ve changed the tragic outcome of what happened later that day.”

When asked about the mistakes she had admitted to, Lee added: “I’m just not sure what caused the errors, I hold my hands up to all of them.”

Lee was accused of failing to escalate the case so officers from Kent police could have been sent to Couzens’ house in Deal. However, Lee’s commanding officer, Insp Rita Jones, told the hearing that even if Lee had, an arrest would not have happened until the next day at best.

In his closing speech, Paul Ozin KC, for the Met police, drew attention to Insp Jones’ evidence and said Lee’s alleged failings “probably would not have prevented the appalling crimes committed by Wayne Couzens on 3 March 2021”.

Neil Saunders, Lee’s representative, said: “There’s no way that within hours there could have been anything done by Kent police.”

He added that it was “unfair” to pose the question about whether Couzens could have been stopped earlier, telling the tribunal panel: “It is unfair that the question and finger should have been pointed at a young PC when we know it is not an issue that you would have to decide.”

Lee told the hearing that she was shocked to be called to a meeting about her involvement in the case on 12 March 2021, after the arrest of Couzens three days earlier. “[I was] anxious and upset that obviously the case was in my name and I hadn’t progressed it and this awful thing happened,” she said.

She said she joined the Met in April 2016 because she “wanted to make a difference”. Her former commanding officer Sgt Kelly Cooper told the hearing that Lee was a “good” officer, describing her as compassionate, understanding and empathic.

In a statement read by Saunders, Lee’s mother, Liola, described her daughter as “a tower of strength” and “one of the bravest people” she knew.

“Sadly this investigation has been too much,” she added. She said Lee felt forced to resign in November 2022 after being placed on restricted duties and described her as being “forced into a corner and subjected to long periods of isolation at work”.

“Work was difficult in that it was nonexistent,” she said.

“She finally broke down and couldn’t take it any more,” she added, saying her daughter was showing signs of depression and anxiety. “The investigation has had a huge detrimental effect on her. The Met has lost a good officer who has been able to deal with people with honestly and integrity.”

If Lee is found to have committed gross misconduct, she could be banned from serving in the force again.

The panel at the misconduct hearing at Palestra House in Southwark, south London, will return its decision on Monday.