Alleged French students' killer admits torching flat

14th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

In another development in the killing of two French students one of the accused said he only set fire to the flat because his children's lives where threatened.

London – One of the men accused of the brutal murder of two French students in London admitted Wednesday setting fire to their flat, but said it was only after his children's lives were threatened.

Nigel Farmer, 34, said he had played no part in stabbing to death the students, but claimed he was forced to torch the flat by the older brother of his co-defendant, Daniel "Dano" Sonnex, 23.

Farmer, who has two children, told the Old Bailey court in London that Bernie Sonnex had in the past boasted he had killed three people but had never been caught and that he regularly threatened pub landlords.

"He said to me, 'Have you seen how much blood Dano had on him this morning?'," said Farmer.

Farmer claimed that Bernie Sonnex -- who has not been charged in the case -- warned him that if he did not burn down the flat, "tomorrow morning that could be your kids' blood all over him."

"Bernie could be very scary when he wanted to be, intimidating," he said.

"He was obviously scaring me quite a lot. Dano came in and he said he could cut my kids' legs off below the knees.

"I was panicking, I had a panic attack, I think."

The conversation was alleged to have taken place in the hours following the murders of Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez, both 23, in New Cross, a tough area of south London, in June last year.

The students, who were nearing the end of a three-month placement at the prestigious Imperial College in the capital, were stabbed a total of 244 times in what prosecutors have described as an "orgy of bloodletting."

Farmer described how, in the hours before the attack, Dano Sonnex had attempted to break into the home of Maureen Bass, an actress in the popular TV soap opera "EastEnders", but when someone saw him he took flight.

He claimed he then returned home alone and that when he saw Sonnex later, he had blood on his shoes and clothes and looked "a bit crazy."

Farmer claimed the Sonnex brothers forced him to help dump a knife in the Thames river before he was taken to a filling station to fill two jerry cans with petrol.

"I had a funny feeling that I was becoming involved in whatever was happening," he told the court.

He said that after the threats made by Sonnex's brother, he agreed to torch the French students' flat where he became caught up in a fireball after sprinkling petrol and igniting it with a match.

Farmer said it was dark and he was only in the flat for 30 or 40 seconds so did not see the bodies. He suffered burns in the fire.

He said Bernie Sonnex told him he had done the right thing, but Farmer later became terrified for his own safety and that of his family.

"I hadn't slept for a week," he said. "I was paranoid about Bernie and Dano coming and doing me in."

Both the accused deny murder, although Sonnex has pleaded guilty to burglary. The trial is due to end in June.

AFP / Expatica

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