A paranoid schizophrenic has been sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the ‘bloody and brutal killing’ of his housemate, whose body was then buried in a purpose-built concrete tomb inside a shed in Ellesmere Port five years ago.
Frenchman Sebastian Bendou, 36, will serve a minimum jail term of 14 years for the murder of flight attendant Christophe Borgye - who was 36 when he died - after a jury found him guilty by a ten to two majority at Chester Crown Court in May.
Bendou had admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility due to mental illness but denied murder.
Mr Borgye was bludgeoned to death with a clawhammer and stabbed before his body was concealed in the outhouse of his home in Hylton Court, where it remained until Bendou confessed to the killing to police last May.
Bendou - who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia following his arrest - initially claimed he had acted in self-defence when Mr Borgye had come at him with a knife, grabbing a clawhammer from the kitchen table and hitting his friend three times over the head with it.
During his trial, however, Bendou told the court he had been acting on the instructions of his 35-year-old neighbour Dominik Kocher, of Dumfries, who has also been convicted of Mr Borgye’s murder.
Bendou claimed Kocher told him in early 2009 that he’d received information from ‘someone higher up’ than he, that Mr Borgye was going to rape his daughter, and that he needed to be ‘eliminated’.
Despite Bendou describing Mr Borgye as ‘someone I liked and got on well with’, he said: “I believed what he (Kocher) said. I was naive. I trusted him as he was like a brother to me. But I was a puppet, an instrument.”
Recalling the events of April 23, 2009, Bendou said the men laid tarpaulin on the kitchen floor and called Mr Borgye into the room of their shared home.
He said Kocher stabbed Mr Borgye so forcefully in the neck that the knife broke, before Bendou struck him three final times across the head.
He said he then helped move Mr Borgye’s body into the ready-made tomb in the outhouse of the property, before going out for lunch.
Jailing Bendou at Sessions House Court in Preston, the Hon Mr Justice MacDuff described the fatal attack as ‘wickedness beyond comprehension’ on a ‘wholly innocent man’.
“I have not the slightest doubt that you were under the malign influence of Dominik Kocher, who devised and orchestrated this killing for his own ends,” Mr Justice MacDuff said.
“But you voluntarily went along with his plan and took part in a bloody and brutal killing and were one of the two people who bludgeoned this unfortunate man to death using a claw hammer and raining repeated blows to his head.”
Referring to Kocher as an ‘evil and manipulative liar’, Mr Justice MacDuff said his and Bendou’s relationship was ‘a difficult one to grasp in the normal world’.
Of Kocher, the judge said: “I am entirely satisfied that he was not only the orchestrator of this wicked crime but that he played the predominant role in all aspects.
“His part in this murder was greater than yours (Bendou’s) by a very long distance.”
When Mr Borgye was reported missing by a colleague a month after his death, Kocher told police he had gone travelling, taking only his address book with him.
An email was then sent to Mr Borgye's family, reiterating the holiday story.
Mr Justice MacDuff said that some members of the family, including Mr Borgye’s sister Aurelie, have not been told of the ‘dreadful injuries’ inflicted upon him, ‘for fear of causing further distress’.
He added: “The lives of all members of this family have been affected and they too are serving a life sentence.
“You are in part responsible for all of this. The grief and anguish suffered by that family is beyond words.”
Mr Justice MacDuff conceded that if Bendou had been able to live with his conscience, ‘this would have been a crime which would have gone undetected’.
Kocher escaped having his minimum jail term of 23 years increased at the Court of Appeal last month, after the outgoing attorney general, Dominik Grieve QC, referred it for being ‘unduly lenient’ and not reflective of the aggravating features in the case.
But Lady Justice Macur, Mrs Justice Nicola Davies and Judge Nicholas Cooke QC rejected the bid for an increase, saying the sentencing judge had specifically referred to those features of the cases.
A third man, Manuel Wagner, 26, also of Dumfries, was acquitted of assisting Kocher and preventing the lawful and decent burial of a dead body at an earlier trial.