There have been many murders where a perpetrator has been allowed to roam, free to kill despite – with the glorious clarity afforded by hindsight – there being loud alarm bells ringing throughout the criminal justice system and, sadly, the offices of mental health professionals. One grim and grisly case was the double murder of two French students in New Cross in 2008. Laurent Bonomo (left) and Gabriel Ferez were gifted research scientists from Clermont Ferrand University finishing their Masters Degrees at Imperial College London.
Bonomo and Ferraz (right) were tied up, gagged, tortured and then subject to frenzied multiple stabbings over several hours. They were then doused in an accelerant, and set fire to. Their bodies were discovered by firefighters attending the blaze in their rented apartment at Sterling Gardens, New Cross, on 29th June 2008.
On 6 July 2008, police issued an image of a suspect, based on the descriptions of witnesses who had seen him running away from Sterling Gardens just after 10.00pm on the day that the two young Frenchmen were killed.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”.
Following the precise description of the wanted man, a thin 33 year-old whose face and hands were badly burned had walked into Lewisham police station, apparently to confess to the killings. When he was told to wait in line at the reception by a civilian worker, he said: “I’ve got third degree fucking burns and they are not doing anything about it.” He was taken to hospital, eventually released, and then nterviewed in custody by the police.
On 10 July, Nigel Edward Farmer, 33, (left) unemployed and of no fixed abode, was charged with double murder, arson and attempting to pervert the course of justice when he appeared before Greenwich Magistrates’ Court. He was remanded in custody until 16 October, at which point the case would be transferred to the Old Bailey.
The very next day, armed police arrested Daniel “Dano” Sonnex, 23, (below) 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 and advised officers as to his whereabouts.
The trial of Daniel Sonnex and Nigel Farmer began on 24th April 2009 at the Old Bailey. The jury began to consider their verdict on 29th May 2009, and 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.
And what of the two murderers?
Farmer had worked as a decorator on projects including the ITN and ICI buildings in central London, but his life spiralled downwards after his relationship with the mother of his twins broke down. He drifted between the homes of various associates after leaving the family home, and his drug-taking and self-harming worsened.
Farmer developed a £100-a-day crack and heroin habit and eventually ended up lodging with the Sonnex family in Deptford. He was given residential treatment for his mental health problems, but he walked out after four days saying he was not getting the help he needed. At his trial his barrister attempted to paint him as a bemused figure watching from the periphery while members of the Sonnex family committed a series of violent attacks.
Sonnex was a member of a notorious criminal family in the area, but the scale of ineptitude from the authorities beggars belief, as this chronology reveals.
8th February 2008: Sonnex is wrongly categorised as ‘medium risk’ and released from jail with only low level supervision after multi-agenct public protection meetings are cancelled, in part because of a broken photocopier at a probation office.
10th February 2008: No action is taken by either police of probation officers after Sonnex and an accomplice tie up and threaten a pregnant woman and her boyfriend.
23rd April 2008: Sonnex is charged with handling stolen goods after stealing a handbag in a pub, but the probation service is not informed for five days. Eventually, Sonnex was found, and remanded in custody.
16th May: Sonnex, who has been in custody for the handling charge, is granted unconditional bail by Greenwich Magistrates. he then goes on the run. During June, the legal process requiring Sonnex to return to prison is finalised, but the police fail to execute the warrant for his address.
29th June: The murdered French students are discovered. Police officers, unaware that Sonnex is involved, go to arrest him under the terms of the previous warrant, but he escapes over a garden wall.
This catalogue of ineptitude, misplaced trust and woolly minded optimism by liberal-minded members of the criminal justice system takes some beating, and would be hilarious were it not for the fact that two young men, with the world at their feet have been lying in a French graveyard for the last nine years. A final thought for those who believe that criminals are equally traumatised by their actions, and that they are secondary victims who deserve our sympathy and guidance. If you want to know how the Sonnex family was chastened and sobered by the actions of one of their own, you may like to read this extract from a north Kent local newspaper in 2014.
Louise Sonnex – older sister of the brutal killer Dano – last week admitted driving a car into a double decker bus full of passengers while drunk in June. The mother-of-two, from Ash View Close in Deptford, was arrested after police found her to be three times over the limit with drugs also discovered in a car she claimed belonged to a friend.
The 40-year-old has previously been convicted for glassing a woman while screaming “I’m going to open her up like a can of beans”. In 2009 she was also given a five-year sentence for attacking her father’s girlfriend with a golf club. She is just one member of a family which has haunted the area for many years with a string of disgracefully violent incidents.
When arrested for the killings in Sterling Gardens, Dano – nicknamed ‘Mad Dog’ – turned to a detective and said: “I’m going to bite your face off”. After his sentence, the 28-year-old, who needed to be sedated during his murder trial – mouthed the words: “Fuck you” to the father of one of his victims.
Since his conviction, he has appeared in court again for trying to escape from Broadmoor prison by fashioning a pair of wings made from refrigerator shelves. Meanwhile, Louise’s father Bernard Senior has more than 26 convictions and has been to prison six times while other brother Bernard has been in prison 10 times for at least 34 offences.
Louise, who turned up to an earlier hearing in a leopard-print onesie before toppling over in the courtroom, admitted drink driving, reckless driving, driving without insurance and driving without a licence on Thursday (November 20) at Bexley Magistrates’ Court.