A former Metropolitan police officer who allegedly failed to investigate Wayne Couzens properly for indecent exposure on the day that he later murdered Sarah Everard, “rushed the job” and then lied about it “when she realised the stakes had escalated astronomically”, a disciplinary hearing has been told.
Samantha Lee was suspended and then resigned from the Met in 2022, after it emerged that she had set up an OnlyFans account entitled Officer Naughty.
While serving, she had been the first responder, assigned to look into two reports that a man had flashed at female workers at a McDonald’s restaurant in Swanley, Kent on Feb 14 and Feb 27 in 2021.
The incident was reported by Sam Taylor, the manager of the fast-food restaurant, on Feb 28 and Miss Lee was assigned to pay a visit to the scene of the crime three days later, between midday and 1pm on March 3.
Couzens abducted, raped and murdered Miss Everard, 33, just hours after the investigation had been launched, as she walked home through south London.
Allegedly lied about failings
At a police disciplinary hearing on Monday, it was alleged that Miss Lee failed to conduct the investigation thoroughly, including securing crucial CCTV footage, and then lying about her mistakes.
The hearing was told that Mr Taylor made a 999 call on Feb 28 and told police call handlers that a man had exposed himself twice to female staff, providing details of the car registration number and the credit card used by Couzens.
The operator ran checks against the Police National Computer (PNC) and confirmed that the registered keeper of the black Seat Exeo was a man called Wayne Couzens, who lived at an address in Kent.
Unfortunately, the system is not designed to confirm whether suspects are serving police officers, the hearing was told.
The report was “triaged as less urgent than other matters the Met Police had to deal with and so it was booked for an appointment some days later”.
When Miss Lee came on shift on March 3, she was told to make a one-hour visit to the McDonald’s drive-thru between midday and 1pm.
It was the last appointment of her day and she only spent 15-20 minutes there before returning to her police station.
Once back at the station, she filled out a report stating: “This needs to be further looked into and the suspect will need to be arrested for indecent exposure.”
A string of ‘failings’
But it is alleged there were a string of failures in her investigative work that amounted to gross misconduct.
Opening the case against her, Paul Ozin KC, representing the Metropolitan Police, said: “We suggest the work carried out by PC Lee was a rushed job… which suggests she was more intent with getting away quickly than performing her job properly.”
Miss Lee is accused of failing to take adequate steps to secure CCTV footage of Couzens’ car at the drive-thru and then falsely telling investigators it had been automatically deleted.
Mr Ozin said: “It is supportive of the unpalatable conclusion that PC Lee just didn’t bother to get the CCTV, even though she knew that it was important, relying on others to do that work instead of her, and that she later lied about it after the event when she knew that the stakes had escalated astronomically.”
In addition, Miss Lee is accused of failing to record and store written witness statements and receipts that were relevant to the investigation.
It is further alleged that the officer failed to carry out intelligence checks on the suspect’s car and did not request local officers visit the home of the person registered as the registered keeper.
Mr Ozin told the inquiry: “Who knows what would have happened if a knock on Wayne Couzens’ door had taken place as a result of the actions of PC Lee. It may well have established that he was a police officer.”
He went on: “The general standard of the investigation was extremely poor, treating the matter as a low-grade allegation that could be dealt with by her cursorily, deliberately leaving to others what she should have done herself.”
Miss Lee denies one count of breaching police standards of professional behaviour for duties and responsibilities for alleged failings over the way inquiries were progressed.
She also denies one count of breaching the standards relating to honesty and integrity over parts of an account provided to investigators in respect of the alleged failings.
The hearing, due to last seven days, continues.