Father of ‘murdered’ French nanny, 21, whose burned body was found at £1m home reveals she ‘had problems with the family she worked for’
- Sophie Lionnet’s charred body was found at a home in south west London
- Sabrina Kouider and Ouissem Medouni, 40, have been charged with her murder
- Ms Lionnet’s father has revealed ‘tensions’ between her and the family
- Do you know Kouider or Medouni? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
The father of a French au pair whose charred body was discovered at a £900,000 London home has claimed his daughter was having problems with the family she worked for.
Sophie Lionnet, 21, was allegedly murdered by mother-of-two Sabrina Kouider, 34, and her partner Ouissem Medouni, 40.
The nanny, from Troyes, north east France, had been hired to look after the couple’s children – including Kouider’s son she had with ex-boyfriend Mark Walton, who founded the Irish boyband Boyzone and is now a Pop Idol judge living in LA.
Ms Lionnet’s body is yet to be formally identified due to the severity of the burns.
Her father, Patrick, has now revealed his daughter spoke about troubles with the family in a postcard sent home in July.
The 56-year-old, who works for the municipal park service in Troyes, told local newspaper L’Est Eclair: ‘Nothing indicated that it was so serious. If it had, I would have gone to join her.’
In the postcard, Ms Lionnet spoke about going back to France soon.
Her father added: ‘It’s unthinkable. I don’t know if I can stand up to the shock or collapse.’
Ms Lionnet’s friend, who is also a nanny, has paid tribute to her.
She said: ‘We just feel absolutely heartbroken for those boys, they have been through so much in life,’ according to The Sun.
The friend added: ‘It’s not fair, it’s not right. She was their rock. I have got a lump in my throat all the time.
‘She’ll be remembered as somebody who was always there for the boys and the most important thing was, if she was not happy she stayed because she loved those boys.’
In a poignant YouTube film unearthed earlier, an unnamed child – believed to be Kouider’s son – films himself playing computer game Minecraft before saying: ‘I want to show who I am and this is the person who is doing the video’.
Sophie smiles and waves back and says ‘hello, hello’ in a soft French accent during the footage made in February.
The boy aged nine playfully says, ‘Where are you, Sophie’ as he tries to find her avatar in the game.
His mother Kouider and Medouni were arrested for her murder last week after neighbours saw smoke coming from the back garden and noticed an unpleasant smell. They were remanded in custody at Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court to appear at the Old Bailey this week.
The exact nature of their relationship or why they were living together is not yet established.
Ms Lionnet moved to London last year to improve her English, according to The Times.
She described herself on Twitter as ‘seeking a universe of cinema and/or dance, theatre, films.’
Michael Croner, 43, the owner on a local fish and chip shop told The Times: ‘She came here almost every day. She was very thin.’
Mario Riccio, 68, who lives nearby, thinks he saw the ‘petite’ French nanny coming out of the park in the days before her death, and described her as ‘very shy’, adding: ‘She looked so innocent. She looked so delicate.’
Fun loving: In the playful video Sophie picks up the Minecraft box and covers her face
Neighbours said they had noticed smoke coming from the garden last Wednesday, and an unpleasant smell in the days before.
One told the Evening Standard: ‘We complained to our landlord the day before about a bad smell. It was like a gas leak. He came in and had a look around but didn’t see anything.
‘They seemed quite normal but they always do. We would hear them having really loud arguments below.’
Neighbours told of their horror. One woman, who did not want to be named, said: ‘I was walking past on the way home from school and we could see flames through the fence posts.
My young son called out, ‘If you are having a barbecue, are we allowed to come?’. I told him, ‘no that’s not a barbecue, that’s a bad smell’. I thought they may be burning leaves.’
Another resident said: ‘We saw smoke and there was a foul smell. My son was being a bit cheeky and he climbed up the fence to look over and he saw a man sweeping up what we thought were sticks and putting them on the bonfire.’
A woman living opposite said: ‘It definitely did not smell like a barbecue.’
Kouider was arrested at the scene along with Medouni, 40, and later charged with the murder of the French au pair up to three weeks’ ago, who was allegedly earning around £50 per month caring for her children.
Friends said she was unhappy and returning home to her parents in Troyes on the Monday before her body was found, which is 110 miles south-west of Paris.
Kouider was gasping for breath and on the verge of tears in court and a mental health report for her was handed to the judge.
Both the defendants wore grey prison issued track suits while Medouni looked calm and composed in the dock.
District Judge James Henderson remanded the pair in custody until a pre trial preparation hearing at the Old Bailey on September 26.
He said: ‘Both defendants are charged with murder. Murder is an offence that can only be dealt with at the Crown Crown.
‘I have no power to deal with a bail application.
‘I sent both defendants to the Central Criminal Court on the 26 September at 10am or such other time as is appropriate.’
As Kouider and Medouni were remanded in custody Kouider began shaking her head and smiled as she left the dock.
Medouni showed no emotion as he was led to the cells.
Kouider faces one charge of ‘murder on or before the September 20 murdered victim unknown’.
Medouni faces one charge of ‘murder between September 7 and September 20 murdered a person unknown’.
They will appear before the Old Bailey on September 26.
Neighbours said the French-Algerian mother, who claims to work as a stylist, make-up artist, fashion designer and songwriter, ‘had a lot of money’ and a busy social life.
Neighbours claimed Sabrina was rarely at the £900,000 home where she lived with her two boys and Medouni.
A neighbour who did not want to be named said of the nanny: ‘Sophie was very shy, I never heard her speak. I just saw her with the boys all the time.
‘She was with them for years, two, maybe three, definitely for as long as the family have been there’.
On social media, Miss Kouider posed for glamorous pictures on nights out at various restaurants.
One friend of the victim said: ‘She came here to learn English, but found it very difficult here.
‘Sabrina liked her social life and liked going out with her friends. There always seemed to be plenty of money’.
She has had Sophie, who is from a poor French family, was living in her little home for 14 months.
The friend said: ‘Sophie had been unhappy for a long time – so unhappy she left to stay with one of her few friends for two nights last month.
‘She had finally decided to go home though, and had just asked her mum to send her £40 so she could afford the fare.
‘She was supposed to have gone back on Monday. She never arrived. Sabrina was always a real party girl, out smiling with friends.’
The friend added: ‘The father of [Miss Kouider’s]son left some time ago and she has a new boyfriend, who is also French Algerian. It was him who introduced Sabrina to Sophie.’
A man living in the top floor flat of the converted property said he had complained to the landlord about a ‘gassy smell’ last Tuesday. He said: ‘The couple who lived in the flat were not the friendliest pair – we would hear them having really loud arguments below.’
A body bag was driven from the scene in a private ambulance, while forensics officers continued their work.
Detective Inspector Richard Leonard said: ‘I would like to appeal to those in and around the area to come forward with information.’
Mark Walton claims he is a co-founder of Boyzone, having put together the band in 1993 while still a teen.
‘I was the lead singer,’ he told The Irish Sun in May last year.
‘The boys felt it was my band and there were articles written about this 15-year-old boy who had put this band together.
‘Then these articles would start appearing with photos of Boyzone and an X over my face and quotes saying I had been ‘X’d’ out of Boyzone.’
Afterwards he went on to found another pop group, 5th Avenue, and to manage boyband Blue after their reformation in 2011.
Walton says he was then approached by Nicki Minaj.
Walton now says that he is a billionaire with a desire to combat issues such as homelessness child trafficking in Ireland and LA.
Sophie was particularly shocked in June 2015 when two sisters studying at Ande Malraux were attacked with a knife.
She wrote on social media: ‘The college of Paron – my old college – is in shock after the attack with a knife of two sisters. The adolescent is in custody’.
The 14-year-old responsible was later dealt with by a youth court, while the sisters escaped with non-life threatening injuries.
Sophie was originally from the city of Troyes, around three miles from Sens, in the Aube department of France.
Her mother is believed to be 54-year-old Corinne Lionnet, who still lives in Troyes. Mrs Lionnet was not at her home today.
Other posts by Sophie on social media revealed an adventurous young women who loved art, cinema and ice skating.
One set of pictures showed her posing in her skates at the Trois Seines ice rink in Troyes, while in another she is with the French film actor Kevin Miranda, 30.
‘It was just brilliant to see him!’ wrote Sophie, referring to the encounter in the Burgundy city of Auxurre.
Sophie was prone to posting motivational comments. One of the last she wrote was: ‘I may be a fighter, but my lucky star is soaring.’