A RETIRED Scots detective whose perseverance resulted in the conviction of another officer for rape, robbery and sexual assault has said the Sarah Everard case should be a “Stephen Lawrence moment” for forces across the UK.

Peter Ritchie, now a successful crime author, said he was extremely shocked by the rape and murder of the 33-year-old because it showed few lessons had been learned since he solved the case of the Lothian “Shoe Man” in the 1980s.

He told the Sunday National he would be surprised if Wayne Couzens, the police officer who raped and murdered her, had not struck before.

The harrowing case has brought back unpleasant memories for Ritchie, who finally discovered that the Shoe Man – so called because he stole the footwear of the women he raped and assaulted – was a police officer who lived in Musselburgh and had actually “investigated” two of his own crimes. “That case still troubles me because I suspected it was a police officer but when I suggested it, I was basically thrown out of the boss’s office,” said Ritchie.

READ MORE: Police officer killed Sarah Everard after false arrest for Covid breach, court hears

“It makes me sad we have not learned any lessons. The Sarah Everard case is terrible and it strikes me that we have not really progressed at all in the way we look at these things. Human nature being what it is, it is inevitable that you are going to get a number of offenders in the ranks but we have never really taken that on.”

Referring to the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, which provoked outrage over the way it was investigated by police, Ritchie said the rape and murder of Sarah Everard should be a similar “wake-up call”.

Couzens was reportedly nicknamed “The Rapist” by his colleagues because he made women feel uncomfortable, and Ritchie said they bore a “huge responsibility” for what happened. “When you work closely with people you see the signs, you cannot hide that and the real sin is that people are prepared to turn a blind eye to it or join in,” said Ritchie.

“I guarantee that umpteen people round about him would not necessarily know he was going to murder but would know what he was. You can’t work in police situations without knowing a lot about the person next to you – if someone has a problem you know it.”

Ritchie said he was a great defender of the police and did not believe there was misogyny right across the force, but said there had not been enough determination to stamp it out where it did occur.

“This should be a Stephen Lawrence moment, a wake up to the fact that we have really got to hammer down on this,” he said. “It is nothing new and although the Shoe Man, for example, was an unusual case these things have always happened and have never been resolved.”

Ritchie, who was involved in all kinds of investigations over the years, including murder, organised crime and terrorism, said the Shoe Man, whose real name was Charlie Hay, was a case he would never forget.

“In a way, the handle ‘Shoe Man’ trivialised something that should have been solved much earlier and avoided the suffering of a number of women who deserved better than they got from the service,” he said.

​READ MORE: Wayne Couzens given whole life sentence over kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard

In a blog on his website, Ritchie details all the mistakes that were made in investigating Hay’s many crimes, mainly because of the refusal to consider it could be a police officer who was the serial offender.

His first known offence was in Musselburgh in 1978.

In 1982 he tried to get into a woman’s home by saying he was a police officer investigating previous attacks.

Ritchie’s subsequent suggestion that the Shoe Man could actually be a police officer was angrily dismissed by his boss, and the attacks continued until Ritchie took a risk and began his own investigation, finally establishing it was Hay who was the perpetrator. Hay was subsequently jailed for numerous offences including rape.

“There were plenty of clues he was a cop but they were ignored,” said Ritchie, whose seventh book, Where Angels Rest, was published last week. “And it looks like lessons still need to be learned.”

A full account of the Shoe Man case is on peterritchie.co.uk