A 48-year-old former police officer who strangled Sarah Everard in London last March with his police belt after kidnapping her under the guise of a fake arrest will die in jail.

Wayne Couzens was handed a whole life order for the "grotesque" murder of the 33-year-old marketing executive.

Whole life orders are the most severe punishment available in the British criminal justice system for those who commit the most serious crimes.

These prisoners will never be considered for release, unless there are exceptional compassionate grounds to warrant it.

Sentencing at the Old Bailey in London, Justice Fulford described the circumstances of the murder as "grotesque".

He said the seriousness of the case was so "exceptionally high" that it warranted a whole life order.

The judge said: "The misuse of a police officer's role such as occurred in this case in order to kidnap, rape and murder a lone victim is of equal seriousness as a murder for the purpose of advancing a political, religious ideological cause."

He paid tribute to the dignity of Ms Everard's family, whose statements in court revealed the human impact of Couzens' "warped, selfish and brutal offending which was both sexual and homicidal".

Couzens shook in the dock as he was sent down to begin his sentence.

The court had heard how Couzens used his Metropolitan Police-issue warrant card and handcuffs to snatch Ms Everard as she walked home from a friend's house in Clapham, south London, on the evening of 3 March.

The firearms officer, who had clocked off from a 12-hour shift at the American embassy that morning, drove to a secluded rural area near Dover in Kent, where he parked up and raped Ms Everard.

Ms Everard, who lived in Brixton, south London, had been strangled with Couzens' police issue belt by 2.30am the following morning.

Married Couzens then burned her body in a refrigerator in an area of woodland he owned in Hoads Wood, near Ashford, before dumping the remains in a nearby pond.

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Handout CCTV of Wayne Couzens on 4 March - the day after Sarah Everard was kidnapped

He was arrested at his home in Deal, Kent, after police connected him to a hire car he used to abduct Ms Everard, whose remains were found by police dogs on 10 March.

Police waited for two hours before moving in to detain the officer, giving him the chance to wipe his mobile phone beforehand.

In an emergency interview at his home, Couzens concocted a fake story that he had been "leant" on by a gang which forced him to hand over "a girl".

He went on to plead guilty to Ms Everard's kidnap, rape and murder and was sacked from the force in July.

During today's sentencing, Couzens' defence barrister Jim Sturman urged the judge to hand his client a lengthy life sentence, meaning he would be eligible for parole in his 80s.

Mr Sturman said: "The defendant was invited to look at the Everards. He could not, I am told.

"He is ashamed. What he has done is terrible. He deserves a very lengthy finite term, but he did all he could after he was arrested to minimise the wicked harm that he did."

The family of Sarah Everard has welcomed the whole life sentence given to the man who murdered her, saying: "The world is a safer place with him imprisoned".

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said Couzens had "brought shame" on the force and admitted that trust in her organisation has been "damaged".

British Home Secretary Priti Patel gave her backing to the police chief, but said "serious questions" need to be answered.