London - A French nanny was beaten, murdered and thrown on a bonfire by her employers, a court heard on Monday.
Sophie Lionnet, 21, became trapped in a ‘domestic nightmare’ after going to live with mother-of-two Sabrina Kouider, 35, and boyfriend Ouissem Medouni, 40, jurors were told.
Miss Lionnet was allegedly virtually unpaid, given so little food she was emaciated, and repeatedly attacked.
The Old Bailey heard that Kouider had become obsessed with her ex-boyfriend, Boyzone member Mark Walton, and accused the nanny of being ‘in league’ with the former pop star in a fictional plot to abuse her children. Prosecutors say Miss Lionnet’s ordeal ended only when she was killed, before the defendants burned her body in their garden.
Jurors heard her remains were so charred the cause of death was impossible to ascertain, but experts found she had suffered a fracture to her sternum, four broken ribs, and a broken jaw.
Her left arm, back, and chest were all bruised, indicating her ‘truly wretched’ final days, the court heard. Kouider, a French national of Algerian descent, was said to have become determined to force Miss Lionnet into ‘confessing’ that she had helped Mr Walton drug and sexually abuse the family – claims that were ‘wholly untrue’, Richard Horwell QC, prosecuting, told the court.
The couple, who both deny murder, were said to have made recordings on their mobile phones of 19 ‘brutal and oppressive’ interrogations leading up to the death, in an apparent bid to procure ‘evidence’. They threatened Miss Lionnet ‘with prison, rape and violence’.
The recordings – totalling more than eight-and-a-half hours – allegedly show Miss Lionnet making confessions ‘to please her oppressors’, then withdrawing them.
Mr Horwell said the nanny had been recruited as a nanny through a friend of Medouni, who is also a French national, and left her family home in Troyes, north-east France, for Wimbledon, South London, in January 2016. Her mother never saw her again.
Kouider wanted Miss Lionnet to look after her two young children – one by a French ex-boyfriend, the other, she claimed, by millionaire Mr Walton, with whom she had lived between 2012 and 2013.
Mr Horwell said: "Sophie was not only young, but also, we suggest, naive and particularly vulnerable and this made her an easy target for abuse and exploitation."
"The life she led in Wimbledon was at times bizarre and oppressive – it appears, for example, that she was hardly paid for her work as a nanny."
Before long, he said, Miss Lionnet had complained that she was being beaten and was not allowed to return to France. Witnesses saw Kouider ‘shout and scream’ at the nanny, while ‘what happened behind closed doors is likely to have been very much worse’.
Kouider allegedly began making ‘outlandish’ accusations, first accusing Miss Lionnet of stealing a diamond pendant then controlling her through ‘black magic’.
She even accused the nanny of sexually abusing one of the children – yet continued to keep her sleeping on the top bunk in the children’s room of the £650 000 two-bedroom flat.
Kouider also claimed the nanny had taken her youngest child to meet his alleged father Mr Walton – even though the Boyzone star, who had never met Miss Lionnet, was living in the US. Mr Horwell said: "Sophie was trapped in a domestic nightmare and tragically, there was much worse to come."
Kouider also claimed Miss Lionnet had let Mr Walton into the flat ‘where he drugged the family and sexually abused them’, while she said he had also threatened to murder them, the court heard.
Mr Horwell said Kouider had called social services or police more than 20 times making allegations of sexual or physical abuse against Mr Walton. She was cautioned for ‘malicious communication’ after setting up a Facebook page branding him a paedophile. Miss Lionnet’s passport was taken from her and she had virtually no money, meaning she was effectively ‘held prisoner’, the court heard.
Mr Horwell said: "The defendants mistreated and intimidated Sophie in a manner that is way beyond anything that could be considered normal or rational."
The pair had murdered her, he said, and burned her body in September last year so they could pretend she had gone to France.
A neighbour called 999 and fireman found Miss Lionnet’s remains. The trial continues.