French Couple in London Sentenced for Murdering Au Pair
A French couple have been sentenced to at least thirty years in prison for murdering their au pair and trying to burn her body in their backyard. They have also been accused of starving and torturing her.
The pair are Sabrina Kouider, a 35-year-old former fashion designer, and her partner Ouissem Medouni, a 40-year-old former banker.
The two were living in London with their victim, the 21-year-old Sophie Lionnet, when they killed her back in September 2017. Lionnet, hired as a nanny to Kouider's two children, was a native of the eastern French city of Troyes.
After a week-long deliberation last month, Kouider was unanimously found guilty of the murder, while Medouni's conviction came from a 10 to 2 majority vote.
Both have denied the murder, though admitted to trying to burn the body. Kouider has also been undergoing psychiatric treatment since her arrest.
The murder has a strange backstory. Kouider is the ex-girlfriend of Mark Walton, a founding member of the Irish band Boyzone. The couple have a history of calling the police with bizarre claims about him, including that he is a pedophile, sexually abused Kouider's cat and that he has spied on her with both a helicopter and supernatural means.
Walton, who testified during the trial, has never been charged with any crime related to Kouider's family and described her as being prone to manipulative and erratic behavior, including firing past nannies for supposedly being attracted to him.
Kouider and Medouni apparently spent 12 days starving and torturing Lionnet in their apartment, trying to get her to confess to working with Walton, among other crimes. Kouider recorded some portions of their interrogation, planning to turn the "evidence" over to the police if Lionnet revealed anything. Among the portions seen are them holding her head underwater.
Ultimately, the murder was discovered when firefighters found Medouni trying to dispose of the body in their backyard. Lionnet's body was so small at the time that they reportedly believed her to be a child.
Domenica Catino, a detective for Scotland Yard, said “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. We will never know the full extent of the horrors Sophie had to endure."
For her part, Lionnet's mother, Catherine Devallonne, called the pair "monsters" who "took away her dignity and eventually her life.”
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