An Estonian man who concocted a cornucopia of lies to disguise the fact he had fatally strangled and then buried his ex-girlfriend in her own garden has been jailed.
Kirill Belorusov, 32 (04.03.87), an Estonian national who had been living in London, was today, Friday, 4 October, jailed for life with a minimum tariff of 24 years after killing Laureline Garcia-Bertaux at her home in Kew, west London in March.
He had been found guilty at the same court on Monday, 30 September.
Laureline, a 34-year-old film and television producer, was reported missing on Monday, 4 March after she did not turn up for work. Her concerned best friend travelled to her flat in Darrell Road, Kew, to try and locate her. She looked through the letterbox and saw Laureline’s dogs were acting unusually subdued. She found this suspicious and so she called the police.
Officers attended and forced entry to the address via the back door and found bags packed ready for the move Laureline had been due to make with Belorusov's help over the weekend of 2/3 March. However, they found no sign of Laureline herself.
Following a search of the garden, they became suspicious when they saw topsoil had been moved and carried out a fingertip search, which located a shallow grave in the late evening of Wednesday, 6 March. The body was later identified as being Laureline.
She had been buried without clothes, with a cable around her neck, her arms were bound behind her back and she had been wrapped in bin bags secured with duct tape. Officers later found forensic evidence linking Belorusov to the scene - the cable around her neck had his DNA on it.
A post-mortem examination was held at Uxbridge Mortuary on Saturday, 9 March and the cause of death was given as consistent with compression of the neck.
Belorusov had created a complicated series of untruths in a bid to cover his tracks and convince her friends and police that he had left Laureline alive and well on Sunday, 3 March - including sending texts from her mobile phone which he had in his possession (and was never recovered) and his own phone.
The messages included a false story that she had met a new man and had gone out on a date with him in central London that weekend, offers to help the police from Estonia, as well as concerned texts to Laureline's brother and best friend claiming he was out of his mind with worry over her disappearance.
Meanwhile, he was also messaging the other woman in his life – he had created a complicated double life sustaining relationships with both women in London despite long absences. Neither of whom were aware of the other.
During the trial, the jury were taken systematically through a mass of messages recovered by police that the former club worker had deleted from his phone, attesting to the tensions in the relationship between himself and Laureline over the previous months. Although they had officially split up after ten years together, they were in close contact and Laureline told friends she still loved Belorusov.
She repeatedly tried to get him to return large sums of money he owed her, growing increasingly anxious as she was due to be evicted from her flat the weekend of her death – pleas which he ignored, or changed the subject as she grew more insistent.
It was only at the eleventh hour he finally gave her a sum of money and persuaded her that he had pulled out all the stops to secure a lovely new home to rent in south London. He repeatedly made excuses when she asked for pictures, details of the address, and to speak herself to the contact he alleged had set it up.
He spent the Friday night and Saturday daytime shopping with Laureline, still keeping up the pretence that a removal van would arrive on that same day to move her belongings – which he had promised to help with.
Instead, Belorusov ordered take-away food and officers believe he murdered her in the late evening of the Saturday, 2 March.
During the trial, the extent of Belorusov's deceptions about his supposed terminal disease, glamorous jobs such as a Hollywood film stuntman and the state of his finances was made clear.
Over a period of years, he had told Laureline, her friends and his other girlfriend that he was being treated for pancreatic cancer abroad and at various clinics and hospitals in London - all of which police could find no trace of.
Prosecutors confronted Belorusov in the witness box about what he had said and he admitted on several occasions that many of statements were indeed lies, while still obscuring the true state of his health.
Belorusov was arrested on Wednesday, 13 March at an address in Tallinn, Estonia, on suspicion of murder after the Met’s homicide team in charge of the investigation issued a European Arrest Warrant in conjunction with the Criminal Prosecution Service on 12 March.
Met homicide detectives worked with Eurojust in the Hague and police colleagues in Europol to trace and detain Belorusov successfully. After being escorted back to the UK, he appeared at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court on the morning of Thursday, 21 March to answer charges of murder.
Detective Chief Inspector Simon Harding, from the Met’s Specialist Crime command, who led the investigation, said: “As the senior investigating officer in this case, I am satisfied that this sentencing has brought some justice for Laureline and her family, but of course it will never bring her back. She was a vibrant young woman who had a good career, great friends, a loving close family and everything to live for - all cruelly snatched away by the calculating murder committed by a man she loved for over a decade.
“I cannot imagine what thoughts were going through Laureline's mind when the man she trusted, who had promised to help her move to a beautiful new home after months of worry over her housing situation, turned instead into a killer who took away her life.
“He compounded her family's misery by lying about his movements and pretending to share their fear and concern over her mysterious disappearance - while all the time he knew exactly what had become of her. To make matters worse, he fled to Estonia in a bid to escape justice.
“I cannot thank Laureline’s family enough for their support and the dignity maintained throughout the trial. I am also grateful to the French and Estonian authorities and the European criminal justice agencies for their important assistance.
“I would also like to highlight the excellent work of the first responding officers, my investigation team, the CPS and prosecution counsel. All were committed to getting justice for Laureline and her family.”