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French students’ murder: Victims were ‘two of the brightest students of their generation’

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”.


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