Former Metropolitan Police officer Samantha Lee’s dishonesty about her investigation into Wayne Couzens over two incidents of flashing amounted to gross misconduct, a police disciplinary hearing has found.
The former constable was found by the hearing at Palestra House to have failed to make “the correct investigative inquiries” over two incidents when Couzens exposed himself to female members of staff at a McDonald’s restaurant in Swanley, Kent, on February 14 and 27 2021.
Ms Lee attended the restaurant on March 3 and interviewed manager Sam Taylor, hours before Sarah Everard was kidnapped by Couzens in Clapham, south-west London.
The former officer was also found to have lied about her actions when later questioned about the interview, claiming that she believed that CCTV at the restaurant was deleted automatically so there would be no footage of Couzens or the offence.
Panel chairman Darren Snow found that this dishonesty amounted to gross misconduct.
Concluding the panel’s findings, Mr Snow said that Ms Lee would have been dismissed without notice had she still been a serving police officer.
He added that she will be barred from serving in the police again.
In his evidence, Mr Taylor said that he had shown Ms Lee CCTV footage and told her it could be downloaded on to a USB stick.
He also said that he explained to her that Couzens’ registration plate could be seen in the CCTV footage of the second incident.
For her part, Ms Lee denied that this was the case, saying that he had told her that there was no CCTV.
Mr Snow, reading the panel’s findings, found that Mr Taylor was a “credible” witness.
“We find Sam Taylor to be a credible witness and that his evidence was clear.”
He added: “We find it inconceivable that he would not have shown her the CCTV evidence.”
Instead, the panel found that Ms Lee had been driven to dishonesty by the “pressure” of the investigation.
“We have some understanding of this situation, a relatively straightforward exposure became an issue of immense pressure,” he said.
In her evidence, Ms Lee admitted that she made some errors but said nothing she could have done “would have changed the tragic outcome” of what happened to Sarah Everard later that day.
“I accept that I could have done more around CCTV and evidence gathering, that was errors on my part and I accept that,” she said.
“And as much as I have thought it over and over, I don’t believe that anything I could have done would have changed the tragic outcome of what happened later that day.”
In a statement made outside Palestra House after the hearing, Ms Lee said that she had been made a “scapegoat”.
She added: “I am a young female Pc and I am the only person who has faced any disciplinary action in relation to this.
“There is only one person who is responsible for everything that happened and that is Wayne Couzens.
“I have never lied.”
In March this year, Couzens was sentenced to 19 months in prison after admitting three counts of indecent exposure.
He was already serving life behind bars for kidnapping Ms Everard as she walked home through Clapham, south London, on March 3 2021 and then murdering her.
The third indecent exposure incident related to when Couzens exposed himself to a female cyclist on a Kent country lane in November 2020.