The young French scientists murdered in London were “two of the brightest students of their generation” who were at the forefront of research into human disease and environmental issues.
by Richard Edwards and Rupert Neate
Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez, both 23, were in the second year of a three-year Master’s degree in bio-engineering in France.
They had won internships to take part in a three-month research project into chains of protein within DNA at London’s Imperial College.
The pair arrived in May and were just a few weeks from returning home when they were killed.
They were born in north and southern France, but became close friends at the Polytech Clermont-Ferrard, a state run institution founded in 1794 which is viewed as the most prestigious engineering Grande Ecole in France.
“They were brilliant students with glittering careers ahead of them,” said a spokesman for the Polytech.
“There is no doubt that they were two of the brightest students of their generation. Everybody is absolutely devastated at what has happened. Emotions are running very high.”
Mr Bonomo was brought up in the medieval village of Velaux, near Marseille and left La Nativite school in Aix in 2001.
Known to close friends as Lolo, he has been described as a sociable and well-rounded young man, with a passion for his work, tennis and chess.
At the Polytech, where he had spent a year as student union president, students remembered him from “countless parties”.
He was very close to his family, who he spoke to on most days while in England, and was engaged to Mary Bertez, who studies at the Université de Valenciennes, Lille.
Four days before his murder, Miss Bertez, posted a message on his Facebook page: “Cheri, a little hello from St Paul-sur-Vence. Missing you...”
The post is among many from a wide circle of friends and family, among whom Mr Bonomo was clearly a much loved figure.
Another message from Miss Bertez said: “Come back quickly, mon chou!!! London is too far away. Sniff! Love you to death. Your princess!”
At Imperial College, Mr Bonomo was researching how proteins in a parasite cause disease in humans.
Professor Steve Matthews, who worked closely with him, said: “Laurent was particularly mature and well-rounded. He was a keen tennis fan and looking forward to following the French players at Wimbledon.
He added: “Laurent was very well-liked. He was intelligent and he obviously had a bright future. He was conspicuous in the fact that he was mature, well-rounded and with excellent English.”
Mr Ferez, was brought up in Prouzel, near Amiens, and described his hobbies on a personal website as travelling playing his guitar gardening and DIY.
He worked as a technician at the Hopital Philipe Pinel in Amiens and spent time at a university in Mexico last year. He said he dreamed of visiting Canada and Finland.
At university he was treasurer of the arts club.
As well as having a brilliant scientific brain, he was a prodigious reader of history books, and played badminton regularly.
Friends recalled that he loved the Hugh Laurie TV series Doctor House, as well as cooking and listening to music.
On a personal website, Mr Ferez admitted that his personal life was “less successful than I had expected”.
In London he was working on the production of ethanol from bacteria for use as a biofuel.
Student Nicky Crowhurst, 25, who shared a laboratory with Mr Ferez, said he was a “really nice guy”.
“It’s a huge shock. I can’t believe it. Him and his mate were always in the lab. They had only been here a little while”.