Couple appear in court charged with murdering 'au pair' after charred body found in garden of £900k home

Nicola Harley
Sabrina Kouider, left, is one of two people charged with murdering an 'au pair' named locally as Sophie Lionnet, top right, after a body was found in a Southfields garden, bottom right - Facebook and Peter Macdiarmid/LNP

A couple have appeared in court charged with murder after the badly burned body of a French “au pair” was found in the garden of a £900,000 home.

Ouissem Medouni, 40, and 34-year-old Sabrina Kouider were detained after the charred remains were discovered in Southfields, south-west London.

The pair - who are believed to live at the address in Wimbledon Park Road with their two children, who have since been taken into care - were charged with murder, Scotland Yard said early on Friday.

Wearing grey tracksuits, they appeared at Wimbledon Magistrates' Court for a short hearing on Friday morning.

I have not seen the nanny since late August. She used to come in with the kids twice a day to buy them sweets

Sunny Patel, shopkeeper

Police have been unable to tell the age or gender of the dead person because the remains were so charred when they were found on Wednesday afternoon following reports of a fire.

However, the suspected murder victim was named locally as au pair Sophie Lionnet, 21, a French woman from Troyes, a town in north-eastern France.

According to neighbours, Ms Lionnet, who had been living in London for 14 months in order to learn English, had not been seen since “late August”.

A friend added that she had been “unhappy” for some time, and that she had been due to fly back home to France on Monday but never arrived.

Kouider is charged with the murder of a victim unknown on or before September 20. Medouni is charged with the murder of a person unknown between September 7 and September 20.

The pair were remanded in custody to appear at the Old Bailey on September 26.

District Judge James Henderson told them: "Both defendants are charged with murder. Murder offences can only be dealt with by a circuit judge at crown court and I have no power to deal with it. I send both defendants to the Central Criminal Court to be produced there on September 26."

Police pictured on Friday morning outside the property where the body was found Credit: Paul Grover for The Telegraph

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Ms Kouider, the woman charged over the suspected murder is the former partner of a music mogul who now lives in the United States.

Ms Kouider, a designer and make-up artist, is believed to have separated from the musician, the father of one of her two children, and has been dating a man who neighbours described as French Algerian.

Forensic officers were on Thursday seen removing a body from the garden after emergency services were called following reports of a fire.

A body is removed from the property on a stretcher Credit: Peter Macdiarmid/LNP

Speaking to The Telegraph, Sunny Patel, who runs a newsagents opposite the couple’s home, said he had seen smoke rising from the garden.

He said that the couple had a French-speaking au pair who looked after the two children, adding that she had not been seen for several weeks.

“I have not seen the nanny since late August. She used to come in with the kids twice a day to buy them sweets,” he said. She looked about 13, but was actually in her early 20s. "

Mr Patel added: "A very polite, pleasant girl. She was French. The family was also French. The nanny has lived here for at least 20 months, she was here last Christmas.

“The husband works abroad in France, I believe. I saw plumes of smoke coming from the garden – lots of smoke, not much flames – but just thought it was a garden fire. Then… we were told that the man was arrested and then his wife.”

A police cordon remained outside the property on Friday morning Credit: Paul Grover for The Telegraph

Another woman who passed the property on Wednesday evening said a “weird smell” was coming from the fire.

A neighbour living above the couple’s apartment said they had called their landlord on Tuesday because there was a “bad smell”.

“We thought maybe a gas leak,” they said. "The landlord looked around our flat but couldn’t find anything.”

A police forensics officer at the property in Southfields, south-west London Credit: Peter Macdiarmid/LNP

In a statement early on Friday, Scotland Yard said: "Police were called to a residential address at Wimbledon Park Road at 18.26 on Wednesday, 20 September, following reports of a fire and a person deceased.

"A body was found at the scene. The body was too badly burned to establish the gender and age. A post-mortem examination will be held in due course."

The Metropolitan Police's Homicide and Major Crime Command is leading the investigation.

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