A couple held a French nanny hostage in their home before beating her to death and then burning her body in their garden, a court has heard.
The couple, Sabrina Kouider, 35 and Ouissem Medouni, 40, held the nanny, Sophie Lionnet, 21, hostage at their £900,000 home in Wimbledon, southwest London, in the days before her death, the court was told.
Prosecutor Richard Horwell QC said: ‘The last days and hours of Sophie’s life must have been truly wretched.
‘She was subjected, at times, to a brutal and oppressive inquisition and to significant violence.’
Lionnet died after suffering fractures to her sternum, four ribs and her jawbone. Kouider and Medouni then tried to cover up the murder by burning her body in their garden.
‘The plan was to dispose of Sophie’s body and to explain her disappearance by inventing a story that she had left under something of a cloud and had returned to France.
‘Another missing person, no longer their responsibility, her disappearance nothing to do with them.’ Their plan was only foiled when a neighbour became concerned about the fire and dialled 999, jurors were told.
Lionnet’s charred body was discovered at the house in Wimbledon Park Road on September 20 last year. The young victim, from Troyes, northeast France, had moved to the UK in 2016 to improve her English.
‘Sophie was not only young, but also naive and particularly vulnerable and this made her an easy target for abuse and exploitation,’ said Mr Horwell.
‘Sophie had a big heart but was not worldly wise and it was easy to take advantage of her.’
Lionnet’s health began to deteriorate in the period leading up to her death because of her ‘bizarre and oppressive’ life, the court heard.
‘At times she appeared scared and hungry,’ said Horwell.
‘She complained that she was being beaten and that she was not allowed to return to her home in France.’ Kouider was seen shouting and screaming at Sophie, the court heard.
She accused the young Frenchwoman of stealing a diamond pendant and plotting against her, the court heard.
Horwell said: ‘Precisely what was in Sabrina Kouider’s mind may be difficult to determine but it seems that the more outlandish the allegations the more she pursued them, despite the fact they were denied and despite the fact there was no evidence to support them.
‘Her allegations appear to have been contagious because Medouni was beguiled by Kouider and her obsessions and delusions and he began to adopt them himself.
‘Eventually they confronted Sophie and wanted her to confess to conduct and crimes she had not committed. Sophie became a prisoner in the Wimbledon home and she must have been terrified.
‘The defendants mistreated and intimidated Sophie in a manner that is way beyond anything that could be considered normal or rational.
‘Sophie must have found this unnatural and increasingly toxic situation wholly outside her experience and ability to manage.
‘At times she made confessions to please her oppressors and then would withdraw them. And so the pressure increased and so did the violence against her.’
Medouni and Kouider, both from Southfields, southwest London, both deny murder.
The trial was however postponed for further hearing.