Man accused of killing French students 'tried to burgle TV star'

Attempted break-in at home of 'EastEnders' actress an hour before fatal attacks

The man accused of torturing and killing two French students in a south London flat also tried to burgle the home of an EastEnders actress just one hour before the attacks, the Old Bailey heard yesterday.

Dano Sonnex, 23, climbed up to a window at the home of 63-year-old actress Maureen Bass – who plays "Big" Mo Slater in the BBC soap opera – with a knife between his teeth, the court was told. He was only stopped when a friend, who was staying at Ms Bass's home, woke up and asked what he was doing. He asked if it was "Big Mo's house" and said he wanted her autograph.

The actress – who is the sister of the Hollywood star Gary Oldman – phoned the police to report the attempted burglary at 5am, just half an hour before Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez, both 23, were murdered.

The jury heard earlier that the bio-chemistry students were bound and stabbed 244 times in a flat in New Cross last June in what the prosecution described as "an orgy of bloodletting".

Yesterday, they heard evidence from Mr Sonnex's co-accused Nigel Farmer, 34. Mr Farmer, who says he took no part in the murders, told the court that he and Mr Sonnex had been at a friend's house on the night in question.

The court was told that the house of the friend, who cannot be named, was adjacent to that of Ms Bass. Mr Farmer said that Mr Sonnex and the friend had talked about committing a burglary. He said he took no part in what happened but saw Mr Sonnex climb on the house with knife between his teeth. Ms Bass's friend, Sue Ann Blomfield, described in a witness statement how she was staying over that night when she disturbed a burglar.

She said that the man had tried to get into the house at 4.30am and had asked her "is this Mo's house? I want her signature". She had told him to "fuck off" and he then left, but warned that he would return.

The court heard that Mr Farmer was staying at the Sonnex family home in Deptford at the time of the killings.

Mr Farmer said that Mr Sonnex had returned to the house with "red staining" on his clothes and later ordered him to dump the knife in the River Thames before taking him to a service station where he was told to fill two jerry cans with petrol.

Mr Farmer admitted setting fire to the flat where Mr Bonomo and Mr Ferez were murdered, but said he only did so under threat. He claimed that Mr Sonnex had threatened to cut his children's legs off. He told the court he had climbed in through a window and did not see the dead bodies of the students because it was dark.

Both men deny murder, arson, being reckless as to whether life would be endangered and false imprisonment. Mr Sonnex admits burglary, which Mr Farmer denies. The trial continues.