Court told of French students' 'inhuman' murders

Two French students were tortured and murdered in a London flat in a scene of "almost unimaginable horror" when a burglary at their home went wrong, a court heard today.

Biochemistry students Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez, both 23, were together stabbed more than 200 times in an attack of "brutal and sustained ferocity," jurors were told of a crime that horrified people on both sides of the Channel.

Defendants Dano Sonnex, 23, and Nigel Farmer, 34, are said to have burst into the students' home in New Cross, south-east London, and demanded their banking details, the Press Association reported.

But when one of the defendants went off to try and withdraw money from Ferez's account, the cash machine retained the card and failed to pay out, the Old Bailey heard.

"To take revenge for the fact that they had been unable to steal money from Mr Ferez, both men were murdered in a way that can only be described as inhuman," prosecutor Crispin Aylett said.

"They had been subjected to an attack of brutal and sustained ferocity - one of them had been stabbed 194 times, the other 50 times."

Jurors were told to brace themselves to see photographs of what was discovered at the property after it was later set ablaze.

"What the firemen found was a scene of almost unimaginable horror," said Aylett.

He said the men, dressed only in underpants, had been tied up, bound at the ankles and wrists, and their heads wrapped with towels. Both were repeatedly stabbed in the head, sometimes with such force the knife had penetrated the skull.

Last week, jurors were told that Sonnex had pleaded guilty to burgling the property on the day of the murders, stealing a bank and credit cards, two Sony PSP games consoles and two mobile phones.

Farmer denies the same charge and both have pleaded not guilty to murder, false imprisonment and arson, and being reckless as to whether life would be endangered.

Bonomo and Ferez were in the second year of a masters degree at the Ecole Polytechnique de Clermont Ferrand in central France and were nearing the end of a three-month internship studying DNA at Imperial College London when they were killed.

Aylett said they were "bright, talented and engaging young men" with "brilliant futures ahead of them."

He said the men must have believed that if they cooperated the ordeal would soon be over or they would have fought for their lives.

"At some point the burglars must have decided to rob the victims of whatever they could get from them. They must have tortured the young men into revealing their PIN numbers," the prosecutor said. The trial continues.