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Stabbing deaths of French students shock London
In this two photo combo file image, showing undated photos originally issued by the British Metropolitan Police on Thursday July, 3, 2008, showing Laurent Bonomo, left, and Gabriel Ferez, right, who have been named as the two French students who were stabbed to death in a London flat that was then set on fire. The two men were studying bio-engineering at Imperial College London and the University of Clermont-Ferrand. Their bodies were found Sunday night, June 29. when firefighters were called to deal with a fire at a London flat, both had been stabbed in the head, neck and chest, Metropolitan police said. - photo by Associated Press
    LONDON — The tabloids are calling them the ‘‘Tarantino murders.’’
    The two young Frenchmen, promising research students at one of Britain’s top universities, had been bound and stabbed repeatedly in the head, neck and torso before their bodies were doused in fuel and set alight. A senior Scotland Yard detective said their wounds were the worst he had ever seen.
    Even for a city assailed almost daily by reports of knife crime, this was shocking — a seemingly burst of brutality reminiscent of a Quentin Tarantino film. No one has been charged in the June 29 deaths that horrified people on both sides of the English Channel, and prompted some French journalists to depict London as a city of mean streets, rampant crime and ‘‘no-go’’ areas.
    On Tuesday, bouquets of flowers lay behind police tape outside the brick townhouse where Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez, both 23, were killed. One note expressed hope that they had not died in vain: ‘‘Maybe something will be done,’’ it said.
    Detectives were questioning a 33-year-old man who surrendered Monday after police released a description of a man seen running from the area on the day of the killings. The suspect, who has not been named, was treated in hospital for burns after this arrest.
    Detective Chief Inspector Mick Duthie of London’s Metropolitan Police said the students were subjected to ‘‘a frenzied, horrible, horrific attack.’’
    ‘‘I have never seen injuries like this throughout my career,’’ he said.
    Police have found no obvious motive for the killings. They say the two bioengineering students, who were on three-month research placements at London’s Imperial College, were talented academics and had not been involved in criminal activity.
    On June 29, Ferez visited Bonomo’s apartment in the New Cross area of south London. That night, neighbors called police when they heard what sounded like an explosion and saw the ground-floor apartment ablaze. Police initially thought the men died in the fire, but autopsies showed they had been stabbed to death. Bonomo had almost 200 wounds, Ferez almost 50. Police believe some of the injuries were inflicted after they died.
    One theory is that the men were victims of mistaken identity, or of a robbery gone wrong. Police are trying to trace two Sony PlayStation consoles they believe were taken from the apartment. They are also investigating possible links between the deaths and a robbery at the apartment a week earlier in which a laptop computer was stolen.
    David Nias, a clinical psychologist who has studied criminals, said the level of violence was ‘‘way over the top for a burglary’’ and pointed to a sadistic killer who may have murdered before.
    ‘‘A first offender would be more restrained or inhibited,’’ he said. ‘‘These sort of incidents are very, very rare. That’s what makes it difficult for the police.’’
    In France, news reports depicted the district where the men were killed as drug-ridden and violent.
    ‘‘Never go south of the river. In London, among the large French community, the adage is well-known,’’ read the opening lines of an article in France-Soir. ‘‘But considering the exorbitant price of rents in the British capital, there are numerous students who, like Laurent, settle on the other side of the Thames.’’
    France-Soir quoted a young Frenchman who said he never goes out after dark in New Cross. Le Parisien newspaper described the neighborhood as dominated by refugees and students, and said it was adjacent to drug- and gang-infested areas.
    Residents say such descriptions are misleading. Bonomo rented a ground-floor apartment on a quiet cul-de-sac in a suburban area that contains Victorian, 1930s and modern architecture. A mix of public housing and private homes, it is not the best neighborhood in London — nor the worst.
    On New Cross’ busy, run-down main street, locals said the area’s large Afro-Caribbean population coexists mostly peaceably with thousands of students from the University of London’s Goldsmith’s College.
    ‘‘It’s a bit of a weird mix,’’ said Laura Kenny, a bartender at the Amersham Arms, a pub and music venue that attracts hipsters from across London. ‘‘But there’s no sense of antagonism.
    ‘‘I live in New Cross and I don’t feel scared walking down the street.’’
    London is undergoing a period of soul-searching about violence because of knife crimes involving young people. Nineteen teenagers have been killed in the city this year, many of them stabbed by other young people.
    The killings of Ferez and Bonomo don’t fit that pattern, in part because they are foreigners and because of the level of violence.
    ‘‘We’re all shaken up,’’ said David Chrisp, who lives on the street where the men died. ‘‘This is a quiet area. There’s a few people who have complained about robberies and break-ins, but that’s life, isn’t it?’’
    Associated Press Writer Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

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