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CRIME

Murdered French nanny was ‘prisoner in domestic nightmare’, London trial hears

A French couple living in London went on trial Monday accused of murdering their compatriot nanny and burning her body in a bonfire after starving and mistreating her.

Murdered French nanny was 'prisoner in domestic nightmare', London trial hears
Photo: Facebook/ Sophie Lionnet
Sabrina Kouider and Ouissem Medouni had kept 21-year-old Sophie Lionnet as a “prisoner” and violently abused her after she moved into their southwest London home, according to an indictment read in court.
   
Designer Kouider, 35, dressed in black, and her partner Medouni, 40, wearing a dark suit, pleaded not guilty to killing Lionnet, who was originally from Troyes in northeastern France.
   
Medouni has pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice.
   
   
Police had been alerted by neighbours who spotted thick smoke coming from a back garden in the well-to-do neighbourhood of Wimbledon.
   
Parents of Sophie Lionnet, Catherine Devallonne (L) and Patrick Lionnet (R) leave the Old Bailey. Photo: AFP
 
“Without this vigilance, the two accused could have escaped with impunity despite their murder,” said prosecutor Richard Horwell.
   
“The defendants burnt her body in the garden of their home in the hope that no one would ever discover her remains.”
   
Lionnet had suffered fractures to her sternum, ribs and jawbone, but the exact cause of her death was unknown due to the attempt to dispose of her body.
 
'A domestic nightmare' 
 
The au pair, who was described as “big hearted” had moved to London to learn English and began looking after the couple's two children.
   
But the court heard that months of mistreatment at their hands ensued, in which she was starved, mistreated and violently assaulted.
   
Kouider targeted Lionnet with “outlandish” allegations that she was involved with her former partner Mark Walton, who was an original member of the band Boyzone, the prosecution said.
   
Kouider had also falsely labelled Walton a paedophile using a fake Facebook account in 2015, the court heard.
   
Jurors were told the allegations against the former star, and any romantic involvement with Lionnet, were “quite untrue”.
   
“Sophie was trapped in a domestic nightmare,” said Horwell, adding her life was “bizarre and oppressive”.
 
Wellwishers react during a march in honour of slain French au-pair Sophie Lionnet in Wimbledon. Photo: AFP   
 
Kouider would shout and scream at Lionnet and accused her of stealing a diamond pendant.
   
In notes, the nanny described being called a “whore, a bitch and a slut” for no reason.
   
Following her death, more than eight hours of “harrowing” recordings were recovered from the defendants' mobile phones of Lionnet being interrogated.
   
They depicted “a young emaciated, frightened and helpless woman anxious to say and do whatever her two tormentors wanted her to say”, Horwell said.
   
“The last days and hours of Sophie's life must have been truly wretched,” he added.
   
“She was subjected, at times, to a brutal and oppressive inquisition and to significant violence.”
 
After Lionnet's death a silent march was held in her memory in October, during which around 30 of her friends and family gathered in her London neighbourhood.
   
During the vigil her cousin Melanie Lionnet told AFP that Sophie had been “tired” and wanted to “go back to France” before her death.
 
The victim's parents sat in the well of the court as the trial opened on Monday.

CRIME

French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

A French court on Thursday convicted eight men for the theft and handling of a Banksy painting paying homage to the victims of the 2015 attack on the Bataclan concert hall in Paris.

French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

Three men in their 30s who admitted to the 2019 theft were given prison sentences, one of four years and two of three, although they will be able to serve them wearing electronic tracking bracelets rather than behind bars.

Another man, a 41-year-old millionaire lottery winner and street art fan accused of being the mastermind of the heist, was given three years in jail for handling stolen goods after judges found the main allegation unproven. His sentence will also be served with a bracelet.

Elsewhere in the capital, the defence was making its final arguments in the trial of the surviving suspects in the 2015 Paris attacks themselves, with a verdict expected on June 29.

‘Acted like vultures’ 

British street artist Banksy painted his “sad girl” stencil on the metal door of the Bataclan in memory of the 90 people killed there on November 13th, 2015.

A white van with concealed number-plates was seen stopping on January 26, 2019 in an alleyway running alongside the central Paris music venue.

Many concertgoers fled via the same alley when the Bataclan became the focal point of France’s worst ever attacks since World War II, as Islamic State group jihadists killed 130 people at a string of sites across the capital.

On the morning of the theft, three masked men climbed out of the van, cut the hinges with angle grinders powered by a generator and left within 10 minutes, in what an investigating judge called a “meticulously prepared” heist.

Prosecutor Valerie Cadignan told the court earlier this month that the perpetrators had not sought to debase the memory of the attack victims, but “being aware of the priceless value of the door were looking to make a profit”.

She said the thieves “acted like vultures, like people who steal objects without any respect for what they might represent”.

During the trial, Bataclan staff said the theft sparked “deep indignation”, adding that the painted door was a “symbol of remembrance that belongs to everyone, locals, Parisians, citizens of the world”.

Investigators pieced together the door’s route across France and into Italy, where it was found in June 2020 on a farm in Sant’Omero, near the Adriatic coast.

Three men involved in transporting the door were each jailed for 10 months, while a 58-year-old Italian man who owns a hotel where it was temporarily stored received a six-month suspended sentence.

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