The police officer who kidnapped Sarah Everard before raping and strangling her could be handed a whole life order when he is sentenced later today.

Wayne Couzens, 48, used his Metropolitan Police-issue warrant card and handcuffs to abduct the 33-year-old marketing executive as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, on the evening of 3 March.

The firearms officer, who had finished a 12-hour shift at the US Embassy that morning, drove her to a secluded area near Dover in Kent before parking up and raping her.

Couzens then burned her body in a refrigerator in an area of woodland he owned near Ashford, Kent, before he dumped the remains in a nearby pond.

Amid extensive publicity around the search for Ms Everard, Couzens took his family on a day out to the woods where he had taken her body and allowed his two children to play close by.

When he was arrested at his home in Deal on 9 March he concocted a story about being threatened by an Eastern European gang, but later pleaded guilty to Ms Everard’s kidnap, rape and murder.

As Ms Everard’s parents and sister condemned him at the start of his sentencing at the Old Bailey on Wednesday, he sat shaking in the dock with his head bowed.

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Prosecutor Tom Little QC argued the case was so exceptional and unprecedented it could warrant a whole life order, which would see Couzens die in jail.

Opening the case, he said Ms Everard’s disappearance was one of the most widely publicised missing person investigations the country has ever seen.

After her body was discovered a week later, it became summarised on social media by the hashtag “she was just walking home”, which he said did not completely describe what had happened.

“Whilst it is impossible to summarise what the defendant did to Sarah Everard in just five words, if it had to be done then it would be more appropriate to do so as deception, kidnap, rape, strangulation, fire,” said Mr Little.

Lord Justice Fulford will hand down his sentence later today.