French students murdered in 'inhuman' attack

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London court heard the details of the brutal attack and murder of two French students after a burglary gone wrong.

LONDON – Two French students were murdered in an attack of "brutal and sustained ferocity," leaving a scene of almost unimaginable horror after a botched burglary, a London court heard Monday.

Gabriel Ferez and Laurent Bonomo, both 23, were killed in the "inhuman" attack -- during which they were repeatedly stabbed in the head -- last June in their rented flat in the tough south London district of New Cross.

Daniel "Dano" Sonnex, 23, and Nigel Farmer, 34, allegedly burst into their flat and demanded their bank cards and personal codes. They managed to withdraw EUR 400 (GBP 360) 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 Old Bailey heard.

"To take revenge for the fact that they had been unable to steal money from Mr. Ferez, both men were murdered in a way that can only be described as inhuman," said prosecutor Crispin Aylett.

Jurors at the trial were told to brace themselves before photographs taken from the scene were shown as evidence in court.

The prosecutor said firemen who were the first to arrive at the flat -- which was set alight in an apparent attempt to destroy the evidence -- found "a scene of almost unimaginable horror."

"The two men, dressed only in their underpants, had been tied up. They had been bound at the ankles and the wrists. Their heads had been wrapped with towels," said Aylett.

"They had been subjected to an attack of brutal and sustained ferocity -- one of them had been stabbed 194 times, the other 50 times," he added.

Sonnex has pleaded guilty to burglary, over the theft of a bank card, credit card, two Sony PSP games consoles and two mobile phones. Both defendants deny murdering the students and charges of false imprisonment and arson.

Sonnex and Farmer are alleged to have held the two victims captive at the flat before killing them and setting fire to the property.

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

The two men entered the flat at 5:30 am and left around 8:15 am. One of them returned the following night to torch the apartment, Aylett said.

The prosecutor said there were blood stains on Ferez's card, swallowed by a cash machine at 7:22 am.

"It must have been after Sonnex's return that the most serious violence was inflicted, said Aylett.

"Farmer and Sonnex now had no further use for Laurent Bonomo or Gabriel Ferez. They had nothing left to hand over, nothing left to tell. Now it was time for them to die," he added.

The court also heard of previous accusations against Farmer and Sonnex, including one with "telling similarities" only four months before the two French students were killed.

In February 2008 Sonnex, described as a particularly violent man, had chained up his own half-sister, Louise Shine, and her partner Robert Ssentongo, threatening them with various implements to try to extort money.

Shine and Ssentongo did not make a formal complaint about the incident.

"If only Mr Ssentongo and Miss Shine had felt able to co-operate with the police back in February 2008 and Sonnex had been convicted, Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez might still be alive today," said Aylett.

The victims' parents were in court, accompanied by an interpreter.

AFP / Expatica

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