A MAN who bludgeoned his housemate to death, buried him in a man-made tomb in his garden shed and then went for lunch, has been found guilty of murder.
Sebastian Bendou, a 36-year-old French hotel worker, was convicted after a Chester Crown Court trial of murdering former housemate Christophe Borgye, a Ryanair steward, in April 2009.
The jury of six men and six women took three hours and 15 minutes to find Bendou guilty of murder by a 10-2 majority verdict.
Bendou had earlier pleaded guilty to manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility saying he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the killing, but the Crown Prosecution Service pressed ahead with the murder allegation.
Bendou will be sentenced on July 15 after the judge, Mr Justice Alistair MacDuff, decided to wait for the outcome of an appeal by the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve MP, to lengthen the sentence handed to fellow murderer Dominik Kocher on his conviction.
Kocher was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 23 years which Mr Grieve QC felt was too lenient. Mr Justice MacDuff indicated to the jury Bendou’s sentence would not be as long as Kocher’s as Kocher was the ‘mastermind’ of the murder.
The court heard Mr Borgye’s body was found in May last year in a concrete tomb in the backyard outhouse of a home the men shared in Hylton Court, Stanney Grange, Ellesmere Port, after Bendou called police from a phone box in the town and told them he was responsible for killing a man four years earlier. Bendou was picked up and taken to Ellesmere Port police station where he admitted killing Mr Borgye in 2009 when they lived together at 19 Hylton Court.
Bendou, of no fixed home, told police during his first interview that Mr Borgye had attacked him with a knife and in self-defence he had hit Mr Borgye three times with a clawhammer which was lying on the kitchen table.
Bendou said in interview he was ‘very scared’ and did not call the hospital but instead took him into the shed and covered him in cement. He said he finally told the police because it was ‘too much for my mind’.
The next day Bendou took police to the house and showed them the tomb. When forensic experts broke into it they found Mr Borgye’s body wrapped in a duvet and tarpaulin with a hammer and two knives buried with him.
However at the trial Bendou changed his story and said another man, Kocher, had forced him to murder Mr Borgye by telling Bendou he was a French spy who was going to rape Kocher’s daughter. Bendou said he had been ‘indoctrinated’ and believed Kocher’s story Mr Borgye was a secret agent sent to ensure his wife was deported to France where she had tax issues. He was told ‘the Americans’ wanted Mr Borgye dead and had offered Kocher an ultimatum during clandestine telephone conversations.
“Dominik was given the choice by the Americans either to get rid of Christophe or the Americans would get rid of Christophe themselves,” Bendou told jurors.
“I told him twice not to do it. I said we shouldn’t do this. We should let the Americans deal with it. [Dominik said] Christophe wanted to rape his daughter so he would do it himself. He said he [Mr Borgye] is going to come out of this house feet first. I didn’t want to do it. He said ‘you’d better do it because I’m watching you’.”
Bendou then moved to Warrington and later to Scotland with the Kocher family and continued to pay all his wages into Kocher’s account as he had done for eight years.
But in May last year he fled in the direction of Ellesmere Port.
“I was frightened for my life,” he said. “I thought he [Kocher] wanted to terminate me.
I heard them talking and heard them say they want to eliminate me. I was going to Ellesmere Port... and my conscience said to me you’ve got to give yourself in now.”
The jury heard Bendou was seemingly under the control of Kocher and in return Kocher acted as landlord, would take rent and provide Bendou with one meal a day and £20 a week in pocket money. Kocher was also said to be angry about an alleged homosexual relationship between Mr Borgye and Manuel Wagner, another housemate and long-time friend of both Kocher and Bendou.
Bendou said Kocher, a married father-of-three, used him as an ‘instrument’ to help kill Mr Borgye, a man he had known for about three years.
Bendou told the court the pair, joined by Mr Wagner, laid tarpaulin in the kitchen of the Hylton Court house and wore blue plastic overshoes on their feet.
“Christophe was in his bedroom and Dominik called him down,” Bendou said.
“Manuel was the one who did the first blow. Dominik couldn’t stand it [that Mr Wagner and Mr Borgye had had a homosexual relationship] and decided he [Wagner] was going to give the first blow. He gave about seven or eight blows of the hammer.
“The second person was Dominik and he used the knife. He put the knife into his neck and said ‘that’s for my children’.
“I took the hammer and I struck him three times in the head. I was manipulated by Dominik. I was like a puppet.”
During cross-examination by prosecutor, Gerard McDermott QC, Bendou said his first story to police was a ‘complete lie’ and he had driven Kocher to a builders yard hours before the killing where they bought materials to wrap up Mr Borgye’s body.
He also said after the killing the three went out for lunch.
Earlier in the trial the prosecution said Kocher planned Mr Borgye’s murder once he found out he was planning to leave the UK and live in Belgium.
The court heard in the days leading up to the murder Kocher bought items from builders merchants in Ellesmere Port including concrete, bricks and limestone chippings, all of which were found in the home-made tomb.
Kocher also bought a set of three knives from a supermarket, two of which were found in the tomb.
The court also heard after the killing a large amount of money was paid from Mr Borgye’s bank account into Kocher’s.
The prosecution said Bendou was influenced by Kocher to kill Mr Borgye for money and it was premeditated.
In the post-mortem examination it was found Mr Borgye had been stabbed twice and hit with the claw end of the hammer eight times. Mr McDermott called it ‘an execution’.
Mr McDermott said Bendou’s story to the police was to minimise his role and protect Kocher from blame.
Kocher was found guilty of Mr Borgye’s murder at an earlier trial, while at a separate hearing Mr Wagner was found not guilty of assisting an offender and preventing an unlawful burial.
The jury heard evidence from three psychiatrists, two of which said there was no evidence Bendou was suffering from delusions from his paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the murder.
One of the pyschiatrists, Dr Taj Nathan, said although Bendou was ‘naive’ and ‘suggestible’ that did not mean he was suffering with a mental disorder at the time of the attack.
Dr Nathan said: “They [the delusions] are not typical because they can all be traced back to what Mr Kocher told him.
“I would agree that he [Bendou] accepted what he [Kocher] said.”
When asked directly by Mr McDermott whether ‘naivety or suggestibility is a cognitive impairment’, Dr Nathan said: “In itself, no.”
See full story in the Chester Leader