London is aghast over the horrific murder of two French exchange students. They were found stabbed 243 times, tied up, gagged and burnt.
They were described as "two of the brightest students of their generation" and were due to return home later this month after a three month internship at Imperial College.
Police are clueless and Scotland Yard terms the murders the most "frenzied, brutal and horrific" it had ever investigated. They suspect it could have been a case of burglary gone awry. A white man had been seen fleeing the scene.
Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez, both 23, were tortured in an attack that may have lasted for several hours at a south-east London flat. They were then doused in an accelerant (a petroleum product) and the bedsit (a furnished sitting room with sleeping accommodations) was firebombed in an attempt to hide the evidence.
Bonomo was stabbed 196 times, up to 80 of which were wounds to his back after he was already dead.
Ferez, who lived in south London and was visiting his close friend, suffered 47 separate injuries and "bore the brunt of the fire", according to sources.
They were both stabbed in the head, the torso, the back and the neck and suffered other "horrific" injuries which were consistent with torture but not of a sexual nature.
Detective Chief Inspector Mick Duthie, who is leading the investigation, said he and his officers had "never seen injuries inflicted to bodies like this before".
One line of inquiry that detectives believe may be significant is that the flat in New Cross was broken into six days before and a laptop was stolen. Bonomo was in the shower at the time and went into his living room to discover the front window had been forced open.
Detectives are investigating whether a set of keys was taken, which would explain why there was no forced entry on Sunday. It is thought the burglar could have returned to find the students and attacked them. Other residents said that the residential cul-de-sac had been targeted by burglars before.
Possibly Bonomo and Ferez were playing a computer game together on Sunday night when they were set upon sometime before 10pm.
After the prolonged attack, it is believed the killer poured an accelerant over the bodies of the two men and around the flat, then set it alight - possibly to destroy forensic evidence.
Neighbours heard no screams and were first alerted when they heard the "explosion" of the fireball inside the ground-floor flat.
Police said the pair, who had met and studied at Polytech Clermont-Ferrard, were "entirely innocent" and "did not have an enemy in the world."
Bonomo's fiancee, Mary Bertez, a student in France who he was due to marry later this year, paid an emotional tribute to her "darling" who she said gave her "happiness the like of which I have never experienced before". In a message addressed to him she said she would help police in every way possible "so that you will be avenged".
Bonomo was engaged to Miss Bertez, who studied French Literature at UniversitÚ de Valenciennes, Lille. It is believed that she was the last to speak to him, in a phone call to France at 1am on Sunday.
She wrote a moving tribute to on his Facebook social networking profile.
It said: "My love, I wasn't there that night, we who were always together ... I do not stop thinking about you every second.
"I lived 10 months of happiness with you the like of which I never experienced before. Today you are gone, I will try to set a good example as you always wished.
"I will give all the necessary information to the inquiry my darling so that you will be avenged. I love you my darling from the bottom of my heart."
Friends revealed that the exchange students were "full of life and looking forward to getting home" in the days leading up to their killings, it emerged.
Close friend Antoine Galloux, 23, spoke to them last week, just days before the pair's mutilated bodies were found in a burnt out South London flat.
"I had no idea London was such a barbaric city," saidá Galloux.