Britons jailed for life for brutal French student murders

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The two men convicted of stabbing to death two french students have been sentenced to life in jail.

London – A British judge handed life sentences Thursday to two men convicted of stabbing to death two French students in an "orgy of bloodletting", in a case marked by errors in the justice system.

Daniel Sonnex will spend a minimum of 40 years in prison and Nigel Farmer 35 years after they were convicted of the brutal killings of Gabriel Ferez and Laurent Bonomo, both 23, who were tied up and stabbed 244 times.

Sonnex and Farmer, fuelled by alcohol and a cocktail of drugs, carried out the "truly horrific" torture and murders during a botched burglary at Bonomo's south London apartment in June last year.

They had climbed through an open window into the apartment at night and, egging each other on, repeatedly stabbed the partially naked students in "sadistic" killings.

The flat was later torched in an attempt to destroy evidence, the Old Bailey court in London was told during the five-week trial.

"It was almost like they were treated like animals," said Detective Superintendent Mick Duthie, who led the investigation.

"There was blood on the walls and ceilings. This was total carnage."

The victims, second-year students from Clermont-Ferrand in central France, had been nearing the end of a three-month research placement studying DNA at London's prestigious Imperial College when they were murdered.

During sentencing, Justice Saunders described the two students as "talented, decent young men" who were "entirely blameless".

"The facts of this case are truly horrific," he said, describing the case as the worst he had ever dealt with.

Sonnex appeared to wink at his father as he was led from the dock.

The students' families said late Thursday they planned to prosecute the government over the killings, saying their children "would be alive today if the British justice system had not failed us".

Guy Bonomo, Laurent's father, also described the British pair as "animals" who should never be released.

"We know there have been various errors that have been very serious, there have been lost of mistakes, but my son is here no longer," said Gabriel's father, Olivier Ferez.

Francoise Villemont, Gabriel's mother, said earlier that her son's death was a "barbaric act" and was "indescribable and inexcusable".

"I feel battered and bruised (and) as a mother forever scarred. I can no longer live an ordinary life," she said.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw has apologised in person to the families over revelations Sonnex was out of jail at the time of the murders, under probationary supervision for robbery.

"In relation to the failings of the probation service, I take full responsibility as secretary of state. They were unacceptable and had tragic consequences," Straw said after the verdicts.

London's top probation officer has resigned for the mistakes in the case of Sonnex, who had a long and violent criminal history.

During the attack, the Britons demanded the Frenchmen's bank cards and personal codes, prosecutors said during the trial. They managed to withdraw GBP 360 (EUR 415) using Bonomo's card.

But when Sonnex tried to take money out of Ferez's account, the card was withheld by a machine -- and the pair took their anger out on the Frenchmen, the court heard.

Both men had pleaded not guilty to murder, false imprisonment and a charge of arson. Sonnex admitted a single count of burglary.

Sonnex also later admitted having helped to tie up the two Frenchmen but claimed that his co-accused carried out the murders.

AFP / Expatica

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