The Met knew a 'Wayne Couzens' was suspected of flashing two women at McDonald's three days before Sarah Everard's murder - but failed to identify him as one of their own officers until afterwards, MailOnline can reveal.
Previously it was known the incident had been reported to police, who identified Couzens' car via CCTV, but the fact officers knew his name but did not realise he was a serving Met policeman will be seen as fresh evidence he could have been exposed as a sexual predator before he went on to kidnap, rape and strangle the 33-year-old.
Address searches show there are very few people sharing the killer's name in the country, and even fewer in London and the South East - meaning a basic investigation would have identified the Diplomatic Protection Officer as the suspect.
Had detectives understood the full picture at the time, it is likely Couzens would have been suspended. Officers are then usually put on restricted duties, which means they must hand in their warrant card and cannot have any contact with the public.
To carry out his horrific crime, the fiend showed Miss Everard his warrant card to force her into his car as part of a fake Covid arrest. He then used his Met-issued equipment to handcuff the marketing executive before strangling her with his police belt.
The Met said the McDonald's allegations were 'allocated for investigation' but 'by the time of Sarah's abduction it was not concluded'. It referred itself to the Independent Office of Police Conduct, which is investigating the force's alleged failure to investigate.
Today's revelation will heap yet more pressure on beleaguered Met commissioner Cressida Dick - who has been facing demands to resign over the multiple missed chances to expose Couzens as a threat to women before he was able to finally fulfill his sick fantasy.
Police knew a Wayne Couzens (left, in his uniform with his police belt circled; and right, in a court sketch) was accused of flashing two women at a McDonald's three days before he raped and murdered Sarah Everard - but officers failed to make the link with him being a police officer
To carry out his horrific crime, Couzens showed Miss Everard his warrant card to force her into his car as part of a fake Covid arrest
1 - Two McDonald's staff said they were flashed by a male motorist on February 28 at a branch in Swanley, Kent gave their reports to the Met, and officers are then believed to have identified Couzens' car via CCTV of his number plate. However, officers did not realise the suspect was their own officer until afterwards.
2 - Couzens' car number plate was linked to the 2015 indecent exposure but Met Police blamed the Kent force, claiming 'Kent Police investigated this allegation and decided to take no further action. Our review found that the record of this allegation and outcome may not have been found during the vetting checks.'
HOW DID COP NICKNAMED 'THE RAPIST' PASS VETTING FOR ELITE MET ARMED UNIT?
The Met is also facing questions about how its vetting process failed to pick up concerns around Couzens before he was made an armed officer in its elite Diplomatic Protection Group, which involved him guarding embassies, VIPs and members of the Royal Family. There were numerous clues about Couzens' bad character, including:Couzens used to work at his father's garage in Dover before joining the Kent Special Constabulary at some point after 2002. The court heard a colleague in that year spoke of 'his attraction to brutal sexual pornography' but Jim Sturman QC, defending, said it related to a single incident 'which is almost impossible to examine now'; He allegedly nicknamed 'The Rapist' by colleagues in the Civil Nuclear Constabulary - where he was involved in protecting nuclear power stations - because of his inappropriate behaviour around women; He used prostitutes and had a fake Match.com dating profile despite being married with two children, his trial heard; In 2018, it has been claimed that he was reported to bosses for slapping a female police officer's bottom at Bromley police station but it appears no action was taken, a source claimed; While at Bromley, it is also alleged he became the subject of gossip for only stopping female motorists - before taking their details so he could watch their homes - and parking outside schools to leer at mothers and sixth formers; The Met said: 'Couzens was a serving and vetted police officer when he joined the Met. He had no criminal convictions or cautions and he was not subject to any misconduct proceedings during his time at the Met. We are not aware of any other concerns raised by his colleagues, or anyone else, regarding his behaviour prior to him joining the Met or since.'
The two McDonald's staff who said they were flashed by a male motorist on February 28 at a branch in Swanley, Kent gave their reports to the Met, and officers are then believed to have identified Couzens' car via CCTV of his number plate.
Last night, an official statement said the crime had been 'allocated for investigation' by the time of Miss Everard's abduction but it was not concluded. It added that the case remained a 'live criminal inquiry'.
The Met is being investigated by the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) over how it handled the case. In last night's statement, it said officers' approach to indecent exposure reports was being 're-evaluated'.
A third worker at the same McDonald's was flashed by a man she claimed was Couzens earlier in February.
The female server said she saw a male motorist pulling up by the order hatch with his trousers down, and subsequently realised it was Couzens from news coverage at the time of his arrest for Miss Everard's murder.
She told MailOnline: 'The whole has thing left me quite disturbed. He casually pulled up to the serving hatch having ordered his food and I could clearly see that he was naked from below the waist.
'It was not the first time that he had done this when he came to McDonald's, but I was the only female member of staff to report it. I'm glad I took a stand and alerted the authorities because it was the right thing do. But I never imagined that he would go on to murder a woman, it's tragic.'
The Met said it had not received any reports of this earlier incident.
The IOPC is also looking into Kent Police - where Couzens used to work as a volunteer - after it was accused of not investigating reports in 2015 that a man had been spotted driving down a road with no trousers on.
Met Police admitted 'one of a range of checks' when Couzens applied to join the force 'may not have been undertaken correctly'.
Couzens' car number plate was linked to the 2015 indecent exposure but Met Police blamed the Kent force, claiming 'Kent Police investigated this allegation and decided to take no further action. Our review found that the record of this allegation and outcome may not have been found during the vetting checks.'
Couzens was allegedly nicknamed 'The Rapist' by colleagues in the Civil Nuclear Constabulary - where he was involved in protecting nuclear power stations - because of his inappropriate behaviour around women.
The married father of two's trial also heard of his alleged attraction to 'violent pornography', use of escorts and possession of a Match.com dating profile under a fake name.
The Met has said Couzens was fully vetted when he joined the Met.
A spokesman added: 'He had no criminal convictions or cautions and he was not subject to any misconduct proceedings during his time at the Met.
'We are not aware of any other concerns raised by his colleagues, or anyone else, regarding his behaviour prior to him joining the Met or since.'
Yesterday, Lord Justice Fulford said his decision to hand Couzens a whole-life tariff was significantly influenced by the way he had exploited his role as a police officer, a fact he said made the offence equal in seriousness to a murder carried out by a terrorist.
Couzens has been linked to several reports of incident exposure at this McDonald's drive-thru in Swanley, Kent
It came as fresh details of Couzens' sexual perversion continued to emerge today – as the Met revealed a new strategy to counter violence against women.
Reports said Couzens exchanged misogynistic, racist and homophobic texts with police colleagues who are now facing a criminal investigation.
Five serving officers, three of whom work for the Metropolitan Police, and one former officer, allegedly shared horrific content with Sarah Everard's killer on a WhatsApp group in the months before the murder.
After his arrest in March, detectives found the 'vile' texts on his phone which the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IOPC) said were of a 'discriminatory and/or inappropriate nature'.
Aside from the three serving officers working for the Met, one under investigation is from the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and another works for Norfolk Constabulary, according to The Times.
The former officer in the group also previously worked for the Met, prompting yet more calls for Dame Cressida to go.
And when Sue Fish, a former chief constable of Nottinghamshire, was asked on Times Radio if she believed the police force was institutionally misogynistic, she replied: 'Yes, I do. And that's not just the Metropolitan Police, that's policing, structurally, across the country.'
This is the moment Couzens staged his fake arrest to lure Miss Everard into being handcuffed and put in the back of his car. Women are now being urged to 'hail a bus' or 'run'
By Martin Robinson, Chief Reporter for MailOnline
The Met has vowed to make women safer after the murder of Sarah Everard (pictured) by a serving officer - but women say the new strategy is 'deeply insulting'
The Met has today been accused of pouring scorn on frightened women in the wake of Sarah Everard's murder after the force's new 'deeply