Two men have been sentenced for carrying out the horrific murders of two French exchange-students studying at Imperial College, after a six-week trial at the Old Bailey. Dano Sonnex, 23, must serve a minimum jail-term of 40 years and Nigel Farmer, 33, must serve 35 years. The trial has brought to light a large number of failures in the Crown Prosecution Service and the Probation Service. This has lead to the resignation of David Scott, head of the London Probation Service, and an apology from Jack Straw.
Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez were killed in their South-London flat after a failed burglary by Sonnex and Farmer. The pair were stabbed to death before their flat was torched in the early hours of 29th June last year.
The court case has revealed that Sonnex should have been in prison at the time of the murders however he wasn't - due to a series of startling errors by the probation service.
Sonnex had previous convictions, for stabbing another person in an argument over a car when he was just 16 and a spate of armed robberies later that year, and was sentenced to 8 years in jail when he was 17. In 2004 he admitted to a prison doctor that he feared that he might kill in the future, but this information was never passed on to the prison service who later downgraded Sonnex to a "medium-risk" prisoner status.
Sonnex was freed from prison on February 8th 2008, on a licence which required him to go back to jail should he break any of the terms of his early-release. It has been reported that in a meeting discussing Sonnex's release, several vital papers were missing due to a "broken office printer". On February 11th of the same year he allegedly tied up a pregnant woman and her boyfriend, who refused to press charges. Sonnex's probation officer, who had been in the job for just 9 months, gave Sonnex a verbal warning instead of returning him to jail.
In April 2008 Sonnex was found guilty of handling stolen goods. The magistrates court believed that his licence had been revoked and granted him "technical bail", expecting that he would therefore be returning to jail immediately. However this wasn't the case. The probation service didn't know that Sonnex had been given bail and took six weeks to complete the paperwork to revoke his licence.
Police were given the order to arrest Sonnex on June 13th 2008, however there was confusion about which police force would handle the request, and it wasn't until 2pm on June 29th that police finally visited his home. By this time it was too late. The bodies of Bonomo and Ferez had been discovered. Sonnex was finally arrested by police 11 days later at his grandparents' home after Nigel Farmer handed himself in at a police station.
Following the media reports, Justice Secretary Jack Straw has made a personal apology to the victims' families and David Scott, head of the London Probation Service, has resigned. The families of Bonomo and Ferez have announced that they intend to sue the government over the failures.
Mr Straw said of the criticism, "there is nothing that anyone can do to bring these entirely innocent French students, these sons, back to life. But what we have to do is learn the lessons, and these lessons have been pursued ever since that I learnt about these failures at the end of last year."
Crispin Aylett QC, prosecuting, described Bonomo and Ferez as "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."