Couple who killed French nanny Sophie Lionnet convicted of murder

From the outside, Sabrina Kouider seemed to have it all. Attractive, vivacious and with a job in the industry, the 35-year-old mother-of-two appeared a perfect fit for the affluent corner of south-west London where she had chosen to make her home.

Indeed, the setting could hardly have been more appealing – well-heeled neighbours in multi-million-pound terraced houses and an 'outstanding' primary school for her children. There was even a Marks & Spencer Foodhall at the end of her road.

And it was there, against the backdrop of this wealthy middle-class suburban enclave, that the life of a young, innocent French woman would end in circumstances that are almost too appalling to comprehend.

And what makes the death of Sophie Lionnet all the more shocking is that it was not the result of a single moment of madness.

A shocking image shows nanny Sophie Lionnet after she was starved and tortured by the couple she worked for. She was murdered two days after this picture was taken

A shocking image shows nanny Sophie Lionnet after she was starved and tortured by the couple she worked for. She was murdered two days after this picture was taken

Sabrina Kouider (pictured) and Ouissem Medouni, 40, built a warped fantasy around music mogul Mark Walton and accused Sophie Lionnet of being in league with him

Sabrina Kouider, 35, and Ouissem Medouni (pictured), built a warped fantasy around music mogul Mark Walton and accused Sophie Lionnet of being in league with him

Sabrina Kouider, 35, and Ouissem Medouni, 40, were today convicted of her murder 

Her abuse unfolded and intensified over the course of months. And while no one knew the full extent of what was going on behind the doors of Kouider's rented £550,000 ground-floor flat, there were plenty who had their concerns.

A naturally thin girl, over time the young nanny became positively emaciated and unkempt – her hair lank and greasy, a vacant, sad look on her face. A local restaurateur noticed how hungry she was – wolfing down chips that he gave her whenever she called in.

Others who saw her interact with Kouider were shocked by the way she treated her – shouting at her, calling her names, striking her. Even the police were involved at one point, as were Sophie's parents.

But despite these warning signs, no-one, not least Sophie herself, did anything about it. Why that is, will no doubt haunt those involved for years to come.

And yet the reality is that the circumstances were unique – so bizarre they were almost impossible to believe.

The couple barbecued chicken in a bid to cover the smell as they burned Sophie's body

The couple barbecued chicken in a bid to cover the smell as they burned Sophie's body

In Sophie, by chance, the outwardly respectable Kouider had found the perfect person on whom to vent her paranoid delusions.

Naive, innocent and a long way from her home, the 21-year-old's kind heart and love for the children she was looking after was abused and exploited.

While deep down Sophie knew she needed to get out, to go back to her mother, whenever she threatened to leave, Kouider would persuade her to stay, promising things would change. 

Later on, as Kouider became increasing irrational and obsessive, the violence began. By the end, Sophie was totally broken – tortured, imprisoned and brutalised to such an extent she was incapable of rational thought.

'How can someone work for no money? How can someone be treated in such an appalling manner and not leave?' the jury was asked by the prosecution at the start of the trial. 

'Your reaction will be based on the fact that it is likely that never before will you have encountered a combination of individuals such as these two: Sabrina Kouider and Sophie Lionnet. 

The one being vindictive, overbearing and controlling – the other being timid, uncomplaining and especially vulnerable to manipulation and threats.'

Sophie's killer, who at birth was named Nafissa by her parents, was born in northern Algeria, one of four siblings. 

Sophie Lionnet was a shy au pair who became trapped in her killers' violent, paranoid world

Sophie Lionnet was a shy au pair who became trapped in her killers' violent, paranoid world

Sophie Lionnet was a shy au pair who became trapped in her killers' violent, paranoid world

Not long after her birth her parents and sister left for Paris because of the conflict in the region. She was cared for by her grandmother, joining her family in France when she was eight.

Raised in Vitry, a southern suburb of Paris full of industry and housing estates, she found settling in to her new life 'difficult'. 

Hers was a gritty rather than glamorous beginning. At the age of 18 Kouider left school. 

Three years later she met Ouissem Medouni at a fun fair. Bowled over by her , he said he felt like he had won the lottery when she agreed to date him. Kouider was the dominant partner from the start – Medouni her 'lapdog'. Over the following years the pair's on-off relationship would never be short of incident.

Medouni told how Kouider threatened his father with a knife, overdosed on tablets, jumped out of a window and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital suffering from bipolar disorder. 

In about 2005 Kouider travelled to London to improve her English and find work. 

Not long after Medouni joined her, having landed a job with the French bank Société Générale.

Medouni suspected her of cheating on him with forklift driver Anthony FrancoisFrancois and they split. 

A couple of years later Kouider gave birth to her first child. Mr Francois was his father, although they were not together.

Following her arrival in London, Kouider had taken the first name Sabrina. 'It was all part of an attempt to reinvent herself as someone who was 'hip', and not just another girl from the projects [housing estates],' said a friend. 

Sabrina Kouider and partner Ouissem Medouni have been convicted of killing their nanny

Sabrina Kouider and partner Ouissem Medouni have been convicted of killing their nanny

And, indeed, from a glance at her Facebook pages you would be forgiven for thinking that here was a woman with the world at her feet.

She was perfectly made-up, and her petite figure was shown off

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