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French student murders
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Drug-addicted burglar - Torture - Robbery
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: June 29, 2008
Date of arrest: July 11, 2008
Date of birth: November 5, 1971
Victims profile: Gabriel Ferez, 23, and Laurent Bonomo, 23
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife (Bonomo 196 times - Ferez 47 times)
Location: London, England, United Kingdom
Status: Sentenced to life in prison (minimum 40 years) on June 4, 2008
photo gallery

The New Cross double murder occurred on 29 June 2008, when two French research students, Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez, were murdered in Sterling Gardens, New Cross in South East London, United Kingdom.

The murders

The victims were bound, gagged, and tortured over several hours, and finally died after being stabbed 196 and 47 times, respectively. The bodies were discovered by firefighters in an apartment, rented by Laurent Bonomo, at Sterling Gardens, New Cross on 29 June 2008. Greenwich mortuary autopsy showed both died from wounds to the head, neck and chest before the fire took hold. A petrol-like accelerant was poured upon their bodies.


Both victims were biochemistry students and in their third year of a master's degree at Polytech Clermont-Ferrand university in France, on a three-month DNA research project exchange programme at London's Imperial College. Bonomo was from Velaux, Bouches-du-Rhône, southern France; Ferez from Prouzel, Picardie, northern France.


It was established that the victims' bank cards and two Sony PSP handheld game consoles were missing and it is believed they were taken during the incident. Prior to the events, on 23 June 2008, the same flat in Sterling Gardens, which Bonomo was renting, was burgled and a laptop was stolen.

The Metropolitan Police announced on 5 July 2008, the arrest of a 21-year-old man, who was released on the afternoon of 6 July without further action.


Police on 6 July 2008 issued an artist's impression or the E-fit of the murders' possible main suspect, running away from Sterling Gardens just after 22:00 BST. He was described as "white, 30 to 40 years of age, of slight or slim build and wearing light coloured baseball cap, a dark top with the word "Junfan" on, blue jeans and white trainers".

Ferez's parents Françoise and Olivier, of Prouzel, appealed: "Please help us to reveal the truth. Help us to know, to understand and to come to terms with our loss." They also stated: "Rest assured that we will not leave you in peace; and you will not be able to live in hiding forever." DCI Mick Duthie stated: "I also want to reiterate an appeal for anyone who saw or heard anything suspicious throughout that day, last Sunday, June 29. Just to repeat what we know: Laurent spoke to his fiancee around 01:00 BST on the Sunday morning. After that, no-one heard from Laurent or Gabriel or saw them. It is important to stress that the attack could have taken place at any time during Sunday."

Second arrest and charge

Police held in custody 33-year-old Nigel Edward Farmer who handed himself in to police at Lewisham police station. He was later taken to hospital for treatment of injuries.

The thin 33-year-old man whose face and hands were badly burned had walked into Lewisham police station, apparently to confess as the killer. But he was told to wait in line at the reception by a civilian worker for 5 minutes. He said: "I've got third degree f***ing burns and they are not doing anything about it." He was released from hospital and has been interviewed in custody by the police. Meanwhile, 600 students, on 7 July demonstrated against their murders in Clermont Ferrand, France. The group led by Mayor Serge Godart, included teachers, local residents and children that carried a huge banner "Pour Lolo et Gab" ("For Lolo and Gab"), "From all the corners of the world, the second-year biological students think of you and those close to you".


A Greenwich Magistrates' Court's judge, on the afternoon of 8 July, granted London's Metropolitan Police's request for extension of investigation, by issuing a 36 hours "warrant of further detention." Accordingly, Southwark Coroner's Court's Doreen Lawrence adjourned the coroner's inquest for 28 days pending police inquiries.

Court appearance and other arrests

On 10 July, Nigel Edward Farmer, 33, unemployed and without fixed address, was charged with double murder, arson and attempting to pervert the course of justice when he appeared before Greenwich Magistrates' Court. Bench chairman Phil Rogers ordered his remand in custody until October 16 for his appearance at the Old Bailey. Wearing a white sweatshirt, a tracksuit top with rolled up sleeves and white tracksuit bottoms, and his head shaved, he stood in the dock with 2 security guards. No application for bail was filed.

On 11 July 2008, it was reported by ITN that another man had been arrested in connection with the murders. Armed police arrested 6 feet 3 inches Daniel "Dano" Sonnex, 23, in Peckham, south-east London, after Scotland Yard issued an alert to trace him. Described as "extremely dangerous" he was detained and investigated after his brother, Bernard, 35 and a woman, 25, handed themselves to the police. Sonnex had been previously detained regarding serious, violent incidents. His parents, Kathleen and Bernard, both 55, live in a terraced house in New Cross. Armed officers raided the brothers' council house in Deptford, South East London.

Sonnex, 23, from Peckham, on 12 July 2008, was charged with murder and perverting the course of justice. He appeared at Wimbledon Magistrates' Court on 14 July. Sonnex's brother, Bernard, 35, and a woman, aged 25, had been released on bail, to return on July and August, respectively, pending further investigation. Police were also granted more time to question a man of 23 on the murders. Dano Sonnex appeared before Wimbledon magistrates and was back in custody until October 20 to appear at the Old Bailey.

The trial of Daniel Sonnex and Nigel Farmer began on 24 April 2009 at the Old Bailey.

The jury began to consider their verdict on 29 May 2009. Moving impact statements were given by the prosecutor.

On 4 June 2009, Sonnex and Farmer were found guilty of murder, Sonnex was sentenced to serve a minimum of 40 years in prison, and Farmer was ordered to stay behind bars for at least 35 years. Sonnex should have been in prison at the time of the murders but had been set free due to an administrative error. David Scott, the chief officer of London Probation, resigned in March 2009 after an investigation began into why Sonnex had not been recalled to prison. While the UK Justice Secretary Jack Straw has apologised to the families over the blunders which left Sonnex free to commit the crime, the families announced their intentions to commence legal proceedings against the authorities.

Crime author Scott Lomax later petitioned the High Court (who have the final say on how long a life sentence prisoner must serve behind bars) with a plea that Sonnex's and Farmer's life sentences must mean life, but the High Court rejected this plea.


Freed to butcher

By Mike Sullivan -

January 12, 2011

A STRING of blunders — and a broken photocopier — left a knife maniac free to butcher two French students, The Sun can reveal.

And as the killer and his accomplice were jailed yesterday the victims' tormented parents vowed to sue Justice Minister Jack Straw over failures by the legal system.

They said an apology issued by him "would not suffice".

Dano Sonnex, 23 — nicknamed "Mad Dog" — should have been behind bars when he and Nigel Farmer, 34, slaughtered Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez — both 23.

The brilliant biochemists were stabbed a total of 244 times during an orgy of violence on June 29 last year.

They were tortured for their PIN numbers after their bank cards were stolen.

But cops were supposed to have picked up Sonnex at least 12 DAYS before the bloodbath and sent him back to prison to finish an eight-year sentence for robbery, wounding and assault.

He had been released early but immediately committed another knife crime.

Yesterday he was jailed for a minimum of 40 years and Dublin-born Farmer, who is suicidal, must serve at least 35 for murdering the French pair, who were on attachment at Imperial College, London.

The judge, Mr Justice Saunders, told the Old Bailey: "I am satisfied that the only reason for the number of stab wounds is that the killings were sadistic.

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

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

The mercilessly violent crook, who came from a feared South London criminal family, had been released from jail on February 8, 2008.

An assessment of the potential danger he might pose was launched the previous autumn by the Multi-Agency Public Protection panel.

Sonnex was known to have an explosive temper and had even told a doctor in prison he feared he would kill someone — a warning that was never passed on.

The MAPP hearing was due to reconvene in January 2008 but crucial documents were not circulated because a Probation Service photocopier broke down.

The meeting was scrapped and the release went ahead.

Sonnex, who had a history of drug abuse, became the responsibility of an inept, newly-qualified junior probation officer who was also dealing with 126 other cases.

Only TWO DAYS after being freed Sonnex and a pal tied up and robbed a pregnant woman and her boyfriend.

The couple refused to give statements to police — fearing reprisals from Sonnex's family — and the case was left on file.

Sonnex was quizzed by his probation officer but simply denied being involved.

He could have been recalled to jail immediately — yet was let off with a verbal warning. Over the next two months, he attended weekly probation appointments and appeared to be narcotic-free.

But police believe he hoodwinked the officer and was back on drugs and burgling to feed his habit.

Sonnex missed a probation appointment on April 28, having earlier been arrested in possession of a handbag stolen in a burglary.

He was charged with handling stolen goods and remanded by Greenwich magistrates to Belmarsh Prison.

On May 3, his probation officer began a recall process for Sonnex to serve the remaining 2½ years of his original sentence. It should have taken a day for the recall notice to be completed. Yet it took 40 DAYS to send the papers to the Home Office.

On May 16 Sonnex was bailed by magistrates who thought he would remain behind bars because his licence had been revoked.

The probation officer sent an email to court staff stressing the recall process had not been completed.

But the message went to Greenwich magistrates, instead of the court's annexe at Belmarsh Prison where he was appearing, and the information was not forwarded. Sonnex was given "technical bail" by the court, even giving his family home in Deptford as a place to live.

It took the probation service until June 12 — 26 days after Sonnex was wrongly bailed — to send a fax to the Home Office asking for him to be returned to prison.

The following day the Metropolitan Police was asked to arrest Sonnex.

The arrest should have happened within 96 hours but officers waited 16 days before even looking for him.

Eventually, two cops arrived at his home at 2.30pm on June 29 — nine hours after the two French students were murdered.

Sonnex gave officers the slip but was eventually caught on July 10 hiding in his grandparents' loft in Peckham.

Junkie Farmer, a decorator and father of eight-year-old twin boys, surrendered to police three days earlier.


Management failings in the London Probation Service were blamed by two reviews into Sonnex's case.

Its head, David Scott, resigned in March.

Laurent and Gabriel were asleep at Laurent's bedsit in New Cross, South London, when the killers broke in.

Sonnex and Farmer started stealing video game consoles, mobile phones and credit cards — then the bloodbath began.

Laurent was stabbed 194 times and Gabriel 50 with a 12in Turkish army knife.

The bedsit was later set ablaze by Farmer.

A week before the murders, Sonnex broke in and stole a computer as Laurent was in the shower.

It also emerged later that Sonnex tried to burgle the home of EastEnders actress Laila Morse, who plays Mo Harris, shortly before the killings.

Gabriel's dad Oliver said after the trial he was taking legal action because both the students "would be alive today if the British justice system had not failed us".

He added: "I hope my son's death will not be in vain."

Laurent's dad Guy said: "I think every person concerned who had something to do with this should be in front of a court."

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


French student murders: Dano Sonnex profile

Dano Sonnex, convicted of the murder of two French students, is part of a feared crime family whose father, brother and sister have served 17 prison sentences.

By Tom Whitehead, Home Affairs Editor -

04 Jun 2009

With a long history of violence and drug-addiction, Dano, the middle-son, was happy to keep up the tradition.

Crispin Aylett, QC, told the Old Bailey Sonnex was “simply a man who is prone to using extreme forms of violence both indiscriminately and gratuitously”.

He was jailed for eight years in 2003, aged just 17, for a string of offences including an attack on rival Ersan Topcu, then 16, who was stabbed three times in the back and chest in a trivial row over a car in May 2002.

Sonnex immediately went on the run for six months and then armed himself with a blank-firing 8mm replica Barretta handgun to go on a robbery spree.

With the help of a 16-year-old friend he held a gun to a 23-year-old Fleur Staal’s head as she and three male friends went out for the night in Surrey Quays.

The two men took bags, cash and valuables before running off, with Sonnex shouting: "This is how we ------- do it."

Later that night the pair stormed in to the Welcome Inn take-away in Bermondsey
and demanded money from the till.

Sonnex, wearing a hood, jumped on to the counter and fired the imitation gun twice at shopworker Chan Lugia.

He fired a third time when Mrs Lugia’s son Ngiep ran from the back of the shop to confront the intruder.

When Mr Lugia realised the gun was firing blanks he gave chase and managed to grab hold of Sonnex and throw him against a nearby shopfront.

The takeaway worker was pistol whipped before his brother ran to help him.

Sonnex continued to struggle and pulled out a lock knife and threatened the two men before police arrived.

On February 7 2003 he was jailed for a total of eight years for the offences.

He was released on licence on February 8 last year and within two days he stage a terrifyingly similar attack to the French student murders in a row over drugs.

He tricked his way in to a flat in Bermondsey and took a pregnant woman captive before ordering she call her partner to the flat.

When he arrived he found his girlfriend bound at the wrists and ankles and being held at knifepoint.

The man was also bound and had a pillow case placed over his head before Sonnex made threats using a saw and a hammer and demanded money.

A complaint was later made to the police, but charges were not proceeded with and Sonnex, who was on licence, was not recalled to custody.

He was caught in April last year after being arrested on suspicion of handling stolen goods, although he was later to be granted bail.

Sonnex claimed his family’s hatred for the police stemmed from a raid on their home when he was a child.

Sonnex’s father Bernard Sonnex has 26 convictions recorded against him for 47 crimes, including gun and drugs offences and he has served, six prison sentences.

Dano's brother Bernie, 36, was only released from prison a few days before the end of his brother’s trial. He has 21 convictions for 34 offences and has served ten prison sentences.

Louise Sonnex, his 35 year-old sister, was jailed for five years on March 30 this year for causing grievous bodily harm after she repeatedly hit another woman with a golf club.


French student murders: Nigel Farmer profile

Nigel Farmer, convicted of the murder of French students Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez, was a depressive father-of-two whose life spiralled out of control after the break-up of a long-term relationship.

By Tom Whitehead, Home Affairs Editor -

04 Jun 2009

The 34-year-old was in awe of the family of Dano Sonnex, even though he was bullied and abused as a "whipping boy", out of his depth among more serious criminals.

But Farmer did have a ferocious temper after heavy drinking which he often directed towards women, especially his closest family members. His own mother would later testify against him.

In her police statement she said of her son: "When drunk, Nigel could get very angry. He could behave violently and lose control, lose the plot. He has a terrible temper."

She later denied ever seeing him drunk or angry, but she did admit that Farmer was so suicidally depressed he would "do something bad to somebody" unless he got help.

Farmer’s former lover, who cannot be named for legal reasons, revealed they split up because of his drinking and cocaine use.

He threatened to kill her when she told him she had a new man in her life.

After one drunken row, Farmer smashed up their kitchen and she kept a diary of his outbursts because she was trying to get an injunction against him.

Farmer twice tried to kill himself by slashing his wrists and was admitted to Oxleas Hospital in Dartford, Kent, on May 25 last year after a visit to the A&E department of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich.

Following a ward round on May 28 a meeting took place involving a senior house officer, a senior nurse, Farmer and his mother.

His risk of causing violence and harm to others was assessed at low to moderate.

The general impression from the medical professionals was he was suffering from "adjustment disorder" caused by the split from his partner and abuse of cocaine and cannabis.

But on May 29 Farmer discharged himself claiming he was not getting the right help.

He later told his mother "that if he did anything bad he thought he could get away with it because he had been under the Mental Health Act".

Farmer hoped to prove himself to the Sonnex family by becoming as violent as they were.

He claimed to have witnessed numerous beatings by Dano's father, Bernie Sonnex, in pubs in New Cross and Deptford.

At 6.34am on the day of the killings Farmer rang Bernie Sonnex on his mobile "screaming, ranting and raving".

He was inside Laurent Bonomo’s bedsit and the two men could be heard struggling in the background.

As Farmer started talking, he shouted: "Shut your ------- mouth or I’ll cut your hand off."

After the killings, and visibly burnt, he went to his mother’s house for dinner and the pair discussed the students’ murders.

She said: "I was really upset, I just thought why would somebody do something like that to them?

"Nigel said that maybe, because of their DNA studies, they had found something out about somebody."

Farmer’s brothers have completed MA courses at university and his step-father is a teacher.

Farmer has one previous conviction for robbery in June 1996 in which he and friend Darren Brennan robbed a stranger, Norman Fitzgerald, at knifepoint, in Plumstead, south east London.

While Brennan rifled through the victim’s pockets Farmer took hold of his wallet and demanded his PIN number for his bankcard.

The two men fled, but Mr Fitzgerald identified them to police and they were arrested. Farmer was later jailed for three years a trial for robbery.


Errors left 'sadist' free to kill

BBC News

4 June 2009

A series of blunders left a violent criminal free to torture and murder two French research students at a flat in south-east London.

Dano Sonnex and accomplice Nigel Farmer were jailed for life for murdering Gabriel Ferez, 23, and Laurent Bonomo, 23, in New Cross in June 2008.

The students suffered hundreds of stab wounds and their flat was set on fire.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw apologised for errors, but the victims' families said they would sue UK authorities.

Legal action

Sonnex, 23, must serve a minimum of 40 years. Farmer, 34, was told he must stay in prison for a minimum of 35 years.

The students' parents said they were going to sue British authorities for a "failure" to prevent Sonnex carrying out his brutal attacks.

Olivier Ferez, Gabriel's father, said an apology from Mr Straw "will not suffice" and his lawyers were now involved.

Guy Bonomo, Laurent's father, said the two students "would be alive today if the British justice system had not failed us".

It emerged after the trial that a catalogue of failures had led to Sonnex being on the loose.

Sonnex was bailed for handling stolen goods when he should have been remanded in custody by magistrates.

Further blunders delayed his recall to prison, and it took 33 days for the administrative process to be completed. It was a further 16 days before Metropolitan Police officers went to Sonnex's house to arrest him, by which time the two young French students were already dead.

Earlier, Sonnex had tied up and threatened a couple, and could have been returned to jail, but he was given a verbal warning by his probation officer rather than being the subject of a review.

Mr Straw apologised for probation service errors which allowed Sonnex to kill, and London's chief probation officer David Scott has resigned.

'Serious failures'

Mr Straw said: "The direct responsibility for these killings must lie - as the jury found - with the criminals Sonnex and Farmer.

"But it is also the case that Sonnex could and should have been in custody at the time he committed these murders.

"It was the consequence of very serious failures across the criminal justice system that he had not been arrested and incarcerated some weeks before."

Mr Straw added that a number of reviews had since taken place, the result of which was that 100 new probation officers would be recruited in London over the next two years.

In sentencing, trial judge Mr Justice Saunders said: "I am satisfied that the only possible reason for the number of stab wounds is that the killings were sadistic.

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

After sentencing, Guy Bonomo, Laurent's father said: "We have not seen the trial of two human beings - they are animals.

"We were hoping for a more severe sentence - they should never be let out."

Francoise Villemont, the mother of Gabriel Ferez, said: "Nothing will remove the suffering and I can never accept the torture that was inflicted on Gabriel gratuitously."

Farmer was also found guilty of burglary, a charge Sonnex had already admitted. Both men were also convicted of false imprisonment and arson.

'Unmitigated evil'

During the trial, prosecutor Crispin Aylett QC said Mr Ferez and Mr Bonomo had been tortured then murdered because Sonnex and Farmer were unable to get cash from a machine using one of the students' bank cards.

He said the students had been stabbed 244 times by Sonnex and drug addict Nigel Farmer, 34, during a three-hour torture ordeal.

Sonnex and Farmer had blamed each other, but Mr Aylett described the crime as a "joint enterprise of unmitigated evil".

Mr Bonomo and Mr Ferez were biochemistry students at the Polytech Clermont-Ferrand.

They were weeks away from finishing a research project at Imperial College when they were killed.


French students stabbed 244 times in murder of 'unmitigated evil' court hears

Two French students were stabbed 244 times in a "sadistic" attack of "unmitigated evil" by drug-addicted burglars, a court heard.

By Richard Edwards, Crime Correspondent -

28 Apr 2009

Gabriel Ferez and Laurent Bonomo, both 23, were tied up and tortured for more than two hours in their south London flat in last June before their alleged killers fled with just £360, their mobile phones and two computer games.

Jurors at the Old Bailey were told to "brace" themselves as they were told of the "unimaginable horror" of the killings.

Crispin Aylett QC, prosecuting, said the defendants – Dano Sonnex and Nigel Farmer – were "possibly intoxicated by a cocktail of drink and drugs" during the "orgy of blood-letting" at the flat in New Cross.

"Whatever the reason for it, they subjected their victims to over two hours of the most hideous terror and suffering," he said. "And for what? £360, a couple of telephones and two PlayStation games: enough to keep them in drugs for a few days."

The court heard that four months before the murders, Mr Sonnex is alleged to have tied up his five-months pregnant foster sister and her boyfriend. He demanded money and put hoods over their heads, threatening them with a hammer, it was claimed. The victims escaped unhurt and did not press charges.

Mr Sonnex also had previous knife convictions which showed that he "has a propensity to use and revel in gratuitous and excessive violence", jurors were told.

However, despite the "sadistic ferocity" of the attack on the French students, suggesting that the killers were "psychopaths", prosecutors said there was no evidence that Mr Farmer or Mr Sonnex had suffered from mental illness.

The Old Bailey heard that the students they were the victims of a dawn burglary last June, in which they were subjected to a "relentless and merciless onslaught", including being both repeatedly stabbed through the skull.

They gave their cash card pin numbers to the burglars, but when one of the cards failed at a cash machine, the attackers "took revenge" in a joint attack of "unmitigated evil", the court was told.

The raiders may have targeted the property in New Cross after seeing an open window. One of them later returned to try to burn the flat down to "destroy the evidence", it was alleged.

Mr Aylett said: "[It] was a scene of unimaginable horror. The two men, dressed only in their underpants, had been tied up. They had been bound at the ankles and wrists; their heads had been wrapped with towels and cloths.

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

"Both of them had been repeatedly stabbed in the head. In some instances, a knife had been used with such force that the skull had been penetrated and damage caused to the brain."

Mr Farmer was said to have told a friend afterwards that it was Mr Sonnex who stabbed the men "again and again", including in the head and they eye, then given him the knife to "finish them off".

One of the men – Mr Bonomo, who was stabbed 196 times – "would not die", he is alleged to have said. Mr Ferez was stabbed 50 times.

The court heard that a week after the incident, when police issued an e-fit picture of the suspect, Mr Farmer walked into a police station and handed himself in.

But the receptionist "did not know what to make of it" and he was asked to wait in line.

A witness said he became increasingly impatient and then walked up to the booths and said 'I've just killed two ------- people and the police don't ------- want to do anything about it' – after which he was led away by an officer.

Mr Sonnex was found hiding in the loft of his grandparents' house in Peckham, south London.

Mr Ferez's parents, Olivier Ferez, 47, and Francoise Villemont, 46, were in court to listen to the evidence, alongside Mr Bonomo's father, Guy Bonomo, 45.

Mr Sonnex, 23, has already pleaded guilty to burgling the address on the same date but he and Mr Farmer, 34, both deny murder. Each defendant also denies false imprisonment and arson, being reckless as to whether life would be endangered.

The trial, which is expected to last six weeks, continues.



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