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French couple given life sentence for murdering au pair in London

Bertrand Guay, AFP (archives) | Sophie Lionnet was killed by the family who had employed her as an au pair.

A French couple living in London who murdered their au pair and tried to dispose of the body by burning it in their back garden have been sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 30 years.


The Old Bailey court in London sentenced Sabrina Kouider, who is undergoing psychiatric treatment, and Ouissem Medouni for the September 2017 killing of 21-year-old Sophie Lionnet.

“She died as a result of purposeful and sustained violence, and not by accident,” state prosecutor Aisling Hosein said when they were convicted last month.

“They were both jointly involved and came up with a plan to try and destroy her body and escape responsibility for this horrendous crime,” she added.

The jurors deliberated for a week before unanimously convicting Kouider and ruling by a majority decision of 10 to 2 on May 24 that her partner Medouni was guilty as well.

Both had denied murdering Lionnet, from Troyes in eastern France, although they had admitted during the two-month trial to burning her body.

The court heard how the couple had interrogated and tortured Lionnet over their belief she was conspiring with one of Kouider’s former boyfriends Mark Walton, a former member of Irish band Boyzone who they claimed sexually abused members of their family.

Kouider, who has two children, told London’s Old Bailey court that she hit the au pair “really bad” with an electrical cable.

The victim’s mother, Catherine Devallonne , called the guilty pair “monsters” in a statement read to court earlier.

“They left her hungry,” she said. “They took away her dignity and eventually her life”.


Police described how the victim was subjected to a series of ‘interrogations over a 12-day period, in a bid to force Sophie to confess to various false crimes that they had accused her of.

Kouider filmed some of the sessions, which they planned to hand over to police as evidence of the nanny’s guilt.

“It was clear that together the couple made the decision to torture Sophie and then in a cowardly fashion blamed each other for her death,” said Scotland Yard detective Domenica Catino.

“We will never know the full extent of the horrors Sophie had to endure,”

Firefighters discovered Medouni trying to burn Lionnet’s body on September 20 at the couple’s home in Southfields, south west London.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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