Friday 14 December 2018

Nanny's fingers and nose found on bonfire, court told

Ouissem Medouni (left) and his partner Sabrina Kouider. Photo: Elizabeth Cook/PA
Ouissem Medouni (left) and his partner Sabrina Kouider. Photo: Elizabeth Cook/PA

Emily Pennink

A firefighter has described how he found human fingers and a nose on a bonfire in the back garden of a couple accused of murdering their nanny.

French nanny Sophie Lionnet (21) was allegedly tortured and killed by her employers and then thrown onto a bonfire at their home in Wimbledon, south west London.

Neighbours alerted the fire brigade after noticing smoke and a "horrible" smell coming from the property on the afternoon of September 20 last year.

Sabrina Kouider (35) and Ouissem Medouni (40) have admitted perverting the course of justice by attempting to burn the body but deny murder. Ms Kouider is the ex-girlfriend of Boyzone founding member Mark Walton.

Firefighter Thomas Hunt told the Old Bailey jury that he confronted Medouni after he found human fingers and a nose as he put out the fire. The bonfire was near to a barbecue with chicken cooking on it.

Giving evidence, Mr Hunt said: "I thought it was a very strange place for a self-started bonfire because of the close proximity to the tenants' or owners' property.

Sophie Lionnet. Photo: Metropolitan Police/PA
Sophie Lionnet. Photo: Metropolitan Police/PA

"The pile of debris caused damage to the property. I thought: 'Why has he done that here?' I spoke to the tenant and said: 'Why would you do that?' He just shrugged his shoulders."

Mr Hunt told jurors he used a small amount of water to put the fire out and was turning it over with a spade when he saw what appeared to be "two blackened logs".

He also noticed clothes and jewellery. He said: "When I recognised it was a body I was concerned for my crew's safety so held it to myself for what seemed like 20 seconds because I did not know if I challenged the occupant what might happen next. We were very close to leaving, our job was done. At that point I called to my colleague Jo: 'That's a body.'

"I turned to the occupant and asked: 'Why are you burning a body?' He said: 'It's a sheep.'"

Mr Hunt said "B****cks" in reply. He added: "I quickly ran through features of a body found on a human being. I could make out a nose and fingers just to get confirmation from my colleagues it was what I thought it was."

Asked how Medouni seemed, he said: "Very calm. When I challenged him he shrugged off the accusation. When he sat down there was a look of resignation on him, like: 'The game's up, I've been caught'."

In cross-examination, Orlando Pownall QC suggested Medouni may have been "in a daze".

The court heard Sabrina Kouider (35) was not at home when 21-year-old Sophie Lionnet's charred remains were found in her garden.

She was taken in by a neighbour who found her standing by a police cordon outside the Wimbledon flat on the evening of September 20 last year.

Neighbour Melanie Gamble told jurors she appeared "nervous" and asked to smoke, even though she had given up.

PC Naomi Townsend said in a statement Kouider was "very emotional and shocked" when she was arrested for murder.

Video footage was shown of Kouider's initial comments. Asked what was going on at the house, she said her partner was "going to have a barbecue".

On who lived there, she said: "We had a nanny but she left two days ago. We woke up and she's not there. The problem: she told us something very big happened and had been in contact with my ex, Mark Walton."

She claimed the former Boyzone singer had paid Miss Lionnet more than £18,000 (€20,000). Kouider told police she worked in fashion from home and had paid her nanny £50 (€57) a week.

Irish Independent

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