independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Killer planned to escape prison on glider made from fridge shelves

A MAN serving a life sentence for the brutal murder of two French students tried to build a makeshift ''glider'' from fridge shelves, which he planned to use to fly out of the prison, a court heard.

Daniel Sonnex attacked a prison officer in a maximum security jail because he thought "agents" were trying to assassinate him, the court also heard







Sonnex attacked Richard Stringfellow in the prison near Evesham, Worcestershire in England, where he was serving life with a minimum of 40 years for torturing and stabbing to death Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez in June 2008.







Reading Crown Court has heard the 27-year-old jumped on Mr Stringfellow's back, holding a knife to his throat, shouting: "I'm going to slit your f***ing throat."







As he was restrained by other officers, Sonnex started shouting, foaming at the mouth and chanting in Arabic, the court has heard.







He denies a charge of false imprisonment on June 19, 2010, as well as making a threat to kill. The court heard he admits jumping on Mr Stringfellow and holding the knife to his throat, but never intended to hurt him.







Sonnex, formerly of Deptford, south-east London, is being held at high-security psychiatric hospital Broadmoor and is taking anti-psychotic medication, the court heard.







Sonnex, who has converted to Islam, appeared in court wearing a Muslim headdress, flanked by five male nurses from Broadmoor.







He told the court he attacked Mr Stringfellow because the officer had found a "glider" he was building out of fridge shelves, which he planned to use to fly out of the prison.







Asked what his thoughts were on the morning of the attack, Sonnex said: "I thought agents were out to get me, both French and British, to assassinate me.







"It was broadcasted across the TV that me and my co-defendant was used as government scapegoats in order to cover up the murder of students who were about to expose the bird flu virus."







The court has heard officers were searching for missing shelves from a fridge, which Mr Stringfellow found in the exercise yard.







Sonnex told the court he had been building a glider using the shelves, as well as coat hangers, his mattress and sheets from his cell, and did not want it to be found.







"I was actually experimenting on making a glider and a shield in order to protect myself at the same time," he told the court.







"A glider in order so I could fly from the rooftop over the wall of the prison establishment."







He said when he saw Mr Stringfellow with the "glider", he feared he would be taken to the segregation unit and killed.







"I believed they was going to take me to the segregation and kill me," he said.







"I have heard rumours of them killing within the segregation at HMP Long Lartin, plus I believed that they was out to assassinate me as well.







"I thought, 'I need to get out of here'."







Sonnex said he remembered nothing after the attack until he "came around" in the segregation unit: "I was screaming to Allah and crying at the same time".







Asked why he jumped on Mr Stringfellow's back, he said: "I was just thinking, 'I'm dead, he is going to kill me'.







"He was walking in the direction of the segregation and, as I said, I thought they was going to take me down there and kill me. I though he was out to assassinate me."







Sonnex said a hook made out of the fridge element, found in his pocket after the attack, was going to be attached to the glider to hold on it as he flew over the prison wall.







"There was two hooks to the glider which was attached to it, I was going to use either one on each side to hold on to if I was to glide off the roof," he said.







He said he planned to climb up the fence, move across to the roof, and them glide some 30ft over the prison wall. But he said the glider kept breaking up.







Asked in cross examination if he really thought he could fly, Sonnex said: "I did at the time, yes."







The court has heard that Sonnex had a slew of previous convictions, many including the use of knives.







Today the jury heard that in March 2003, when just a teenager, he was jailed for a total of eight years for stabbing someone several times, and also for firing blank shots from a handgun during a robbery in September 2002, then pistol whipping a member of staff.







The court also heard that in June 2009, Sonnex was jailed for life with a minimum of 40 years for murdering the two French students in June 2008, despite pleading not guilty.







Now 27, he will not be released until June 2049 - aged 63 - the court heard, and apart from a four-month spell in 2008, has been in prison since the age of 17.







He has also attacked prisoner officers several times whilst in jail, the court heard.







The court heard that Sonnex, who was expelled from school at the age of 12 and attended schools for special educational needs, spent his time "hanging about or at home".







Born into a Catholic family, he said he converted to Islam in Long Lartin because he had been "fascinated" by the religion since the age of 17, and in the maximum security prison was surrounded by Muslims, who he described as "very righteous people".







Sonnex, who gave a no comment interview to police about the jail attack, was put in segregation at Long Lartin afterwards, and also when he when he was moved to HMP Woodhill in February last year - spending nearly 12 months in segregation.







Describing it as "mental torture", he said: "I went completely insane, I went nuts down there. I was messed up, I went nuts, I tried to kill myself down there, I was placed on suicide watch. I just went nuts down there, I went insane down there.







"Words can't really explain how it affected me."







Sonnex claimed he was attacked in HMP Belmarsh between June 2008 and June 2009 while awaiting trial for the double murders, and said he was verbally assaulted by officers in Long Lartin.







He sought psychiatric help in February last year at Woodhill and was moved to Broadmoor Hospital in February this year.







Yesterday the court heard that on the day of the attack on Mr Stringfellow, prison officers were searching for the fridge shelves after an inmate reported them missing.







Mr Stringfellow found them, strapped together using bedding, leaning against a wall in the exercise yard.







As he walked through the wing with them, Sonnex jumped on his back, clamped his arms round his neck, and held a vegetable knife to his throat.







"The next thing I was aware of was something cold and hard being pressed against my throat and Mr Sonnex shouting angrily out that he had a knife and he was going to 'slit my f***ing throat'," Mr Stringfellow told the court.







"I seriously believed that I was going to die that instant. If not then, then shortly after that."







Colleagues who rushed to help the officer described Sonnex foaming at the mouth and chanting in Arabic.







The 27-year-old was said to have shouted things like "send me to paradise" and "brothers help me".







One officer, David Coughtrie, said he heard Sonnex shouting: "Kill me and send me to paradise," and "You think you are a superior race, you are going to die. I am sorry Allah, I have let you down."







In a statement read to the court, officer Andrea d'Arienzo said she heard Sonnex shout: "I am here for 40 years, kill me now, take me to the promised land," while senior prison officer Alexis Wood said Sonnex was foaming at the mouth and his eyes were glazed.







"He was shouting, 'I want to die, show me paradise, you're all going to die'," she said.







"He was also calling on Allah and his Muslim brothers."







Under cross examination, Sonnex said he could not recall saying he would slit Mr Stringfellow's throat, or declaring it a "hostage situation".







He also could not remember referring to Allah, or the comments he was said to have made while being restrained, he said.







He was asked by prosecutor Peter Grice if a knife was his "weapon of choice", saying it was often used in "revenge" by the defendant.







Mr Grice said Sonnex stabbed someone twice in the back, once in the side and once in the chest, in 2002 in an argument over a car, and also used a lock knife in a robbery in September 2002.







The prosecutor said Sonnex was responsible for murdering the French students in June 2008, both stabbed repeatedly, despite him denying their murder.







Mr Grice put to him that they were killed in revenge because, as he tortured them for their PIN numbers so he could rob them, one of them gave Sonnex the wrong number.







The defendant declined to comment, saying he could not as he was appealing the case, but later admitted no live appeal was ongoing.







He claimed he attacked Mr Stringfellow in "self defence".







"I thought he was going to kill me, take me to segregation and kill me, I had heard rumours of it. I thought they was all going to kill me.







"He retrieved what I had hidden and he was walking towards where they were going to take me and I suspected that, and still do in a way, that they would all kill me.







"I thought agents were out to get me, organisations, the military etc. I felt under threat, I felt so threatened."

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