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French couple found guilty of au pair's murder in London

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Sabrina Kouider in an undeted photo supplied by the Metropolitan Police Metropolitan Police/Handout via REUTERS

A French couple living in London have been found guilty of murdering their 21-year-old au-pair girl and burning her body in their garden.


Sabrina Kouider, 35, broke into tears after a jury at London's Old Bailey found her and her partner Ouissem Medouni, 40, guilty of murdering French live-in nanny Sophie Lionnet.

"Only Kouider and Medouni know exactly how they killed Sophie but the prosecution was able to prove that she died as a result of purposeful and sustained violence, and not by accident," said prosecutor Aisling Hosein. "They were both jointly involved and came up with a plan to try and destroy her body and escape responsibility for this horrendous crime."

Kouider, a fashion designer, is to undergo psychiatric assessment before sentencing, which is to take place on 26 June.

Both denied murdering Lionnet, from Troyes in eastern France, although during the two-month trial they admitted burning her body.

They were found to have tortured and interrogated Lionnet because they believed she was conspiring with one of Kouider's former boyfriends, Mark Walton - an ex-member of Irish band Boyzone who they claimed had sexually abused members of their family.

Kouider, who has two children, told the court that she hit the au pair "really bad" with an electrical cable.

Police said the victim was subjected to a "series of 'interrogations' ... over a 12-day period, in a bid to force Sophie to confess to various false crimes they had accused her of".

Kouider filmed some of the sessions, which they planned to hand them over to police as evidence of Lionnet's guilt.

Firefighters discovered Medouni trying to burn Lionnet's body at the couple's home in Southfields, south-west London.

Neighbours alerted the authorities after noticing smoke and a "horrible" smell coming from the property.

Firefighter Thomas Hunt told the court that he confronted Medouni after he found human fingers and a nose as he put out the fire.

Messouni said it was a sheep, he said.

The victim's mother, Catherine Devallonne, called the guilty pair "monsters" in a statement read to court.

"I've been living this nightmare ever since," she said, adding that Lionnet's brother was suffering from "mental trauma" and had been placed with a foster family.

Kouider said in court that her partner was violent to her and "was with me for sex, nothing else, and money".

Their lawyers have 30 days to appeal against the decision.