LONDON – Police in London charged an unemployed 33-year-old man Wednesday in the stabbing murders of two French students — a frenzied killing that shocked people on both sides of the English Channel.
Metropolitan police charged Nigel Edward Farmer with the murders of Gabriel Ferez and Laurent Bonomo on June 29. Farmer is set to appear at Greenwich magistrates' court Thursday.
Farmer has also been charged with arson and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
The burned bodies of the victims were discovered in an apartment by firefighters. Bonomo had been stabbed nearly 200 times, Ferez nearly 50 times — an attack so ferocious the press dubbed the killings the "Tarantino murders" because the senseless brutality was reminiscent of movies by the American filmmaker Quentin Tarantino.
The French victims, both 23, were promising bioengineering students taking part in a three-month DNA research project at Imperial College in London, one of Britain's top universities. Ferez had visited Bonomo's apartment in the New Cross area of south London on June 29. 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.
Their murders horrified people on both sides of the Channel and prompted some French journalists to depict London as a city of mean streets, rampant crime and "no-go" areas.
Police and residents in London are already alarmed by a rising number of knife attacks. Nineteen teenagers have been killed violently in London this year, compared to 27 in all of 2007. Most were stabbed, and police in the city say the fight against knife crime has overtaken terrorism as their top priority.
Farmer turned himself in to a London police station on Monday and was treated for burns in the hospital before being questioned and, ultimately, charged. Police said they are still appealing for witnesses and information about the incident. They will continue to carry out forensic examinations of the apartment where the two men were killed.