Couple found guilty of murdering French nanny over bizarre Boyzone obsession
The parents of timid 21-year-old au pair Sophie Lionnet described her killer employers as ‘monsters’.
A delusional couple who tortured, killed and then burned the body of their French nanny over a bizarre obsession with an ex-Boyzone pop star have been found guilty of murder.
Sabrina Kouider, 35, and Ouissem Medouni, 40, built a warped fantasy around music mogul Mark Walton and accused timid 21-year-old Sophie Lionnet of being in league with him.
Kouider collapsed in tears and Medouni hung his head as the jury foreman returned the verdicts at the Old Bailey following a lengthy trial and almost 30 hours of deliberations.
A couple who spun a web of lies to justify the torture and murder of their vulnerable young nanny [pic] have today been convicted of murder at the Old Bailey https://t.co/I0VRwumXYg pic.twitter.com/iZ1ClK0Yg4— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) May 24, 2018
Miss Lionnet’s mother, Catherine Devallonne, also wept as Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC said he was sure the allegations against her daughter contained “no truth whatsoever”.
Describing the killers as “monsters”, Mrs Devallonne said: “These self-obsessed individuals who murdered Sophie did not believe Sophie had a value.
“Those monsters repeatedly beat Sophie. They starved, tortured and broke her until she could no longer fight.
“They took away her dignity and finally her life painfully ebbed away until Sophie struggled to take her final terrified breath in the bath.
“Our Sophie will soon be laid to rest. No god will ever forgive you both for what you have done to our daughter.”
The victim’s father, Patrick Lionnet, said: “Sabrina and Ouissem have not only stolen the life of my daughter so brutally and without remorse, they have also stolen mine.”
He said what the couple did to his shy and reserved daughter was “beyond comprehension” and “unforgivable”.
In the weeks leading up to her death in September last year, the couple beat, starved and tortured the shy au pair by dunking her head into water until she confessed.
Having killed her in the bath, they then threw her body on a bonfire in the garden of their home near Wimbledon, south-west London, as they barbecued chicken nearby.
When firefighters were alerted by neighbours to pungent-smelling smoke, Medouni tried to pass off the charred remains as a sheep.
And Kouider claimed to police that Miss Lionnet had run off with Mr Walton in an attempt to frame him for her disappearance.
The defendants later admitted disposing of Miss Lionnet’s body but denied her murder, blaming each other for her death.
They were both jointly involved and came up with a plan to try and destroy her body and escape responsibility for this horrendous crime for which they have been found guilty Aisling Hosien, of the CPS
The jury found both of them guilty of murder following a two-month trial which was described as stranger than fiction.
Aisling Hosein, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Only Kouider and Medouni know exactly how they killed Sophie but the prosecution was able to prove that she died as a result of purposeful and sustained violence, and not by accident.
“They were both jointly involved and came up with a plan to try and destroy her body and escape responsibility for this horrendous crime for which they have been found guilty.”
Miss Lionnet’s parents travelled from France to see the disturbing evidence as it unfolded.
The court heard that fashion designer Kouider was fixated with her ex-boyfriend, Mr Walton.
After splitting up after two years, Kouider reported him to police more than 30 times and received a caution for branding him a paedophile on a fake Facebook profile.
She also accused him of sexually abusing a cat, using black magic and hiring a helicopter to spy on her.
Giving evidence, Los Angeles-based Mr Walton said he had been “in love” with Kouider but she would “flip” and go “crazy” for no reason.
Another ex-boyfriend, Anthony Francois, described her as a “lunatic, fickle and unstable”.
The mother-of-two created a fantasy world, casting Mr Walton as an evil villain who seduced Miss Lionnet with sex and promises of Hollywood stardom.
Banker Medouni became an ardent believer in Kouider’s twisted reality and they interrogated Miss Lionnet for hours to get to “the truth”.
Jurors heard more than eight hours of recordings in which Miss Lionnet was slapped, likened to a Nazi collaborator and called “worse than a murderer” by her tormentors.
Kouider, who claimed to know influential people including US President Donald Trump, threatened to have her locked up and even marched her to a police station.
The victim’s distraught mother, Mrs Devallonne, had begged Kouider to send her daughter home but she refused.
In her final days, Miss Lionnet was hit with an electrical cable and beaten so badly she had five broken ribs and a cracked breast bone.
In a filmed “confession”, the emaciated and broken young woman admitted she had drugged Medouni so Mr Walton could sexually assault him. Within hours, she was dead.
According to Kouider, Medouni tortured her in the bath, then demanded they have sex as she lay dead nearby.
She told jurors: “He was putting her head under the water and sometimes he would put water on the towel in her mouth. It was getting really mad.”
Before the trial, Medouni claimed Miss Lionnet died by accident after he punched her during an interrogation in the bath.
He offered to admit manslaughter but later retracted his confession, saying he made it to protect his wife, who has been diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder.
Prosecutor Richard Horwell QC told jurors that neither were prepared to admit the truth – that they killed her out of “revenge and punishment”.
He said their “unhealthy, myopic, all-consuming and groundless” obsession with Mr Walton had deprived them of reason and turned their nanny into “something less than human”.
The judge is expected to sentence the pair at the Old Bailey on June 26.
Investigating officer Detective Inspector Domenica Catino, of Scotland Yard, said the verdict brought justice for Miss Lionnet.
“I cannot imagine what thoughts were going through Sophie’s mind whilst being held a prisoner in those 12 days leading up to her death but from the harrowing images obtained it showed a scared, broken and emaciated young girl who probably knew she was shortly facing death.
“I believe that we are Sophie’s voice telling of the torment, abuse and torture she suffered and today she has finally been heard.”
She said it had been an “extremely harrowing and tragic case” but the full extent of the “horrors” Miss Lionnet endured will never be known.