Saturday 21 September 2019

'She hated suffering, it breaks my heart she was abused to the end'

An emaciated Sophie Lionnet pictured two days before she was found. Photo: Metropolitan Police/PA
An emaciated Sophie Lionnet pictured two days before she was found. Photo: Metropolitan Police/PA

Emily Pennick

Pretty, shy and naive, French nanny Sophie Lionnet was an "ingénue" if ever there was one.

She was big-hearted and loved working with children but was no match for her violent and oppressive employers.

Prosecutor Richard Horwell QC said the 21-year-old victim was "malleable, compliant and submissive", and, in the wrong hands, "ripe for exploitation".

Ms Lionnet was born in Troyes, in northern France, to her now-divorced parents Catherine Devallonne and Patrick Lionnet.

Ms Devallonne said her beloved daughter liked the "simple things in life" and enjoyed playing the guitar, reading and ice skating.

She said: "She wanted to correct injustice, prevent cruelty to animals and she rarely wanted for material goods."

Mr Lionnet told the court his daughter was "kind, quiet and reserved" and had always wanted to work with children. He said: "Sophie was so nurturing, she liked children and animals. She could not stand seeing others suffering and it breaks my heart to know that she was abused to the end of her life."

After finishing school, Ms Lionnet completed a vocational childcare course before the opportunity to work as a nanny in London arose. Ms Devallonne told how her placid, shy, and naive daughter had left home for the "prospect of fulfilling her dreams".

At first she seemed "happy" and things were "fine" in her first job with Sabrina Kouider and Ouissem Medouni. Kouider told how she gave her a make-over and they would enjoy cups of tea together.

In the six months before her death, Ms Lionnet seemed "fed up" and wanted to go back to her family, according to her mother.

In a final call on August 8, Ms Devallonne recalled her daughter was crying on the phone and seemed "a bit disoriented". By then, her employers had stopped paying her £50 a week wages, beat her, interrogated her, and accused her of stealing a diamond pendant.

Ms Lionnet was in such a state that the defendants refused to allow her out of their two-bedroom flat for the last 12 days of her life.

A video made hours before her death showed an emaciated and terrified young woman.

Investigating officer Detective Inspector Domenica Catino, of Scotland Yard, said it had been an "extremely harrowing and tragic case" but the full extent of the "horrors" Ms Lionnet endured will never be known.

Irish Independent

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