'Evil' duo jailed for life over sadistic murders

A dangerous knife thug freed from jail by mistake was today jailed for life with a minimum of 40 years for the "sadistic" murders of two brilliant French students.

Dano Sonnex and his accomplice Nigel Farmer were told by judge Mr Justice Saunders they had only escaped being jailed for the rest of their lives for the "truly horrific" murders because of their young ages.

Biochemists Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez, both 23, were knifed 244 times by Sonnex, 23, and drug addict Nigel Farmer, 34, during a three-hour torture ordeal.

Mr Bonomo's mother Lydie said her son would still be alive today were it not for the blunders that let Sonnex go free.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw has apologised to the families of the victims, saying the killer "could and should" have been in custody at the time and that he took "full responsibility" for probation service failings.

Sonnex had been jailed for a previous knife attack but was allowed out on licence and went straight back to his life of crime.

Yet instead of being recalled to prison he was left free to kill after what was described as a "complete breakdown in communication".

Even when the error was spotted it was 16 days before police came to take Sonnex into custody on June 29 last year - but they were too late.

The students already lay dead at Mr Bonomo's bedsit in New Cross, south London, in a scene of "almost unimaginable horror".

David Scott, head of the London probation service, has resigned following a review of the case.

Mr Scott accepted the probation service was "partly to blame" for allowing the crimes to take place but said ministers needed to address "urgent" underlying problems with the service's workload.

Sentencing Sonnex and Farmer at the Old Bailey, Mr Justice Saunders said the 'sadistic' killings were worthy of a full-life term.

But he said: "To condemn someone to be incarcerated for what in the case of Sonnex could be 60 years, is a terrible punishment, although it could be justified for such a terrible crime."

However, the judge added that their minimum terms could well mean Sonnex and Farmer were never released anyway.

Sonnex winked at his father Bernie in the public gallery and pretended to whistle as he swaggered from the dock.

The judge said: "The facts of this case are truly horrific."

He said the victims were "talented, decent young men" who were "entirely blameless" for what happened.

Evidence showed that Mr Bonomo was chased around the room as he was stabbed 194 times while Mr Ferez was stabbed 50 times.

"I am satisfied that the only possible reason for the number of stab wounds is that the killings were sadistic," said the judge.

"The killers got pleasure from what they were doing."

The two students, dressed only in their underpants, had been woken in the night and tied up after Sonnex and Farmer climbed through an open window.

They stole games consoles, mobile phones and bank cards, which they used to withdraw £360.

Fuelled by drink and drugs, the robbers egged each other on to an "inhuman" attack of "brutal and sustained ferocity", the Old Bailey heard.

It was described by prosecutor Crispin Aylett QC as an attack of "unmitigated evil" and an "orgy of bloodletting".

Mr Bonomo - who Farmer later said "just wouldn't die" - was stabbed 194 times and Mr Ferez suffered 50 knife wounds, some of them after his death.

Hours later Farmer torched the bedsit, leaving firefighters to find both victims bound at the ankles and wrists and their heads wrapped in towels. Mr Bonomo's fold-out bed was saturated in blood.

The flat was covered in burnt debris and feathers from where pillows and duvets had exploded in the fire.

Detective Superintendent Mick Duthie said: "This was total carnage. It was almost like they were treated like animals."

He described Sonnex as "one dangerous individual".

Mr Aylett said: "These two bright, talented and engaging young men had brilliant futures ahead of them. They were dearly loved by their families and friends. Neither of them had an enemy in the world."

Sonnex, of Peckham, and Farmer, of no fixed address, were each found guilty of both murders earlier today.

In a bizarre twist to the case it emerged Sonnex had tried to burgle the home of EastEnders actress Laila Morse shortly before the killings.

The judge said the facts of the case were "so appalling" that whole life sentences could be justified.

He told the killers: "The misery and suffering that you have caused cannot be measured. These are the worst crimes I have ever had to deal with and, unhappily, no punishment that I can pass can ever bring any real comfort to the families.

"Only you two know exactly what happened, why it happened, and which of you bears the greater blame.

"I sentence you to life imprisonment. In your cases I anticipate that that may well mean life."

He said he was fixing minimum terms instead of giving full life tariffs so that, when they are old and in poor health and the Parole Board thinks it is safe to do so, they may be released.

The judge said the days that they have spent in custody will not count towards their sentences as he was only setting the terms by working out the ages when they will be eligible for release. Sonnex will be 63 and Farmer 69.

He said: "I have distinguished between the defendants in fixing the minimum periods because Sonnex is younger and will not reach the age when I consider, as a matter of mercy, that release can be considered, until later.

"Also, he merits greater punishment because he was on licence and has a much worse record for serious offences."