Murder by gaslight

A stuntman who strangled his besotted girlfriend and buried her in a flowerbed after ‘gaslighting’ her for 10 years has been jailed for life.
Kirill Belorusov, 32, ‘calmly and methodically’ throttled French filmmaker Laureline Garcia-Bertaux, 34, with a ligature for four minutes before binding her hands and feet.
He wrapped her body in bin bags and buried it in a shallow grave in the garden of her flat in Kew, southwest London before settling down to watch porn videos.
Belorusov was likened to a ‘Bond villain’ by his own barrister after he admitted he had ‘psychologically waterboarded’ Ms Garcia-Bertaux, who he boasted was his ‘product’.
He repeatedly mocked her about her weight and sagging breasts while winning her sympathy by pretending he was being treated for cancer.
In the days before her murder Belorusov promised Ms Garcia-Bertaux they could move into a new house together while he manipulated a string of other women.

Belorusov and Laureline 

His hold over her was so complete that he she excitedly texted her friends about her new home while sending him the nude pictures of herself he demanded.
Belorusov had swindled another lover called ‘Agnes’ out of £11,362 and used £400 of the money to wine and dine a third woman while claiming he was at a clinic getting emergency treatment.
The killer had a relationship with barmaid Sabrina Severino in the months leading up to the murder and treated her to dinner at luxury Russian restaurant Novikov and a night at a casino.
Belorusov had previously bragged of his knowledge of death holds to her and choked her until she almost passed out when they worked together at nightclub Egg London.
He had borrowed thousands of pounds from Ms Garcia-Bertaux and was desperate to move out of her flat into their new home.
Belorusov had been promising to send her the address for weeks and murdered her when he ran out of lies and the victim became ‘a problem that had to be removed.’
Ms Garcia-Bertaux had booked a removal van and packed her belongings to move out the day after he strangled her.
Belorusov prepared for the killing by purchasing duct tape plastic clogs, rubble sacks, an axe and compost from Homebase.
The stuntman, who claims to have appeared as Brad Pitt’s double in action movie World War Z, crept up on the naked victim from behind before strangling her with ‘brutal and clinical precision.’
Belorusov denied murder but was convicted by an Old Bailey jury after 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Ms Garcia-Bertaux’s mother Frédérique Bertaux looked on in court as Belorusov was told he would serve a minimum of 24 years.
Prosecutor Oliver Glasgow said: ‘It is difficult to conceive of someone behaving in a more calculated or callous manner.
‘The last few moments of Laureline’s life must have been truly terrifying as he squeezed the life out of her.
‘She realised the man who cared for her was a cheat and a killer.
‘The killing itself was four slow minutes in which he calmly and methodically killed the woman he claimed to care for.
‘It was the kind of calculated and selfish callousness that only a man who would lie about his impending death could show.
‘Anyone who can lie to people who care about them just to punish them can only think about himself.
‘There was no way he could play out his lies to a successful conclusion as Laureline was a problem that had to be removed and the only way to do that was to silence her once and for all.
‘And as a bonus he walked away with the money he owed her.
‘A talented young woman who was loved by all who knew her was killed with brutal and clinical precision and then disposed of with utter disdain.’
Mr Glasgow said Belorusov ‘lied his way from woman to woman.’
‘He is someone who has tricked them into caring for him, someone who has deceived them into shedding tears for an illness he may never have had.
‘He pitied her, he rubbished and demeaned her whenever he could.
‘He called himself a monster and tried to make a joke out of how the messages made him look.
‘He said he poked her because he’s cruel and mean he took advantage of what she was most vulnerable about, her appearance, money, a roof over her head.

Frédérique Bertaux,  mother of Laureline arrives at court

‘She was, as he told you, his product – he worked on her for ten years.
‘In his pity he crushed her neck with such force that the pathologist had never seen such severe signs of asphyxia is was he said as if something had fallen on her chest – until his arms ached.’
The killer correctly guessed his victim’s WiFi password to be his own name, kirillbelorusov1′ and used it to watch Pornhub in the hours after the murder.
The Russian used Ms Garcia-Bertaux’s phone to mimic her in texts sent to her best friend Beth Penman in a bid to cover his tracks.
He translated messages into French to send to her family as he made his plans to escape to Tallinn in Estonia from where he was extradited.
Ms Garcia-Bertaux, was reported missing on March 5 after failing to turn up for work.
Her body was found the following day in the back garden of her home in Darell Road, Kew.
The court heard he was born in northern Russia where his father Oleg was stationed in the military.
He served in the navy for four years before joining his best friend in London to practice his English in 2009.
Belorusov worked as a nightclubs bouncer and was cast as extra in films, progressing to fight choreography for two years.
Ms Garcia-Bertaux was originally from Aix-en-Provence and had worked in the film and producing industry.
At the time of her death she was employed as an executive assistant for PR firm Golin.
The couple met at a gig in London in 2009 and began dating shortly afterwards.
He told the court: ‘We spent the whole of the night walking and walking and walking, and in the morning I decided to get to her place and she invited me over. She said ‘yes’ and I never left,” he said.
Belorusov said they had separated in 2016 after ‘a slow build-up over years’ and at the time their dog Jazz was ‘the only thing connecting us.’
The victim’s mother sat in the well of the court helped by a French translator as Belorusov giggled while messages he sent to her daughter her were read to the court.
‘Will it be possible for some nudies to keep me motivated and happy until Friday?’ one read.
‘I wanna see all of you, please be kinky.
‘Me want booby and you naked and pretty. I miss your soft curvy self.’
Asked why he was laughing the killer said: ‘I guess we just find different things funny.’
He said he had sent messages to ‘poke and annoy’ her and had been emotionally ‘waterboarding’ the victim for more than a year while he spun a web of lies about the house he had found.
‘Waterboarding is a technique of torture is it? What does it mean to you?’ Mr Glasgow asked.
The Estonian replied: ‘Just mental nagging, I guess.
Belorusov said he gaslighted the victim in order to ‘force-feed her maturity’ and ‘teach her a lesson’ but insisted a mystery person was responsible for the killing.
Phone evidence placed him in the area but at the time but Belorusov claimed he sat on a park bench at the end of Ms Garcia-Bertaux’s road eating pork scratchings and drinking beer all night until 7.30am.
‘I got to the park and I saw a bench and I just couldn’t resist sitting on it,’ Belorusov told jurors.
‘Sitting there with his shaved head he looked like an archetypal Bond villain,’ his barrister Martin Rutherford told the court.
The barrister added Belorusov might have behaved like an ‘arsehole’ but that did not necessarily mean he was a killer too.
Belorusov, of no fixed address, denied but was convicted of murder.
He was sentenced for life with a minimum of 24 years.
Prosecutor Oliver Glasgow QC  described the murder as a ‘hand in glove’ enterprise from which the Estonian had derived ‘sexual and sadistic’ pleasure.

The victim’s mother burst into tears and sobbed as Belorusov was jailed.

Belorusov leaves the UK 

But the remorseless killer rolled his eyes at Judge Nicholas Hilliard and gave a loud, theatrical sigh as sentence was passed.

‘Laureline was 34 years old when you took her life by compressing her neck.

‘She was a lovely and loved daughter, sister and friend.

‘She was talented loyal caring and vivacious.

‘Her murder by you has left her family and friends overwhelmed by grief.

‘They will always suffer her loss.

‘You and Laureline had a relationship together and over the course of it you became indebted to her, I’m sure for several thousand pounds.

‘It’s plain that you didn’t intend to repay her money.

‘Your claims to have worked as a stuntman or for Warner Brothers or in international gambling were obviously untrue as was much of what you said about yourself.

‘One of the excuses you used when you failed to show up for things was that had terminal cancer.

‘Laureline was not the only person you told these stories to, you told her friends and family.

‘Even you must have felt a degree of embarrassment when the lies and deception were exposed during the course of your trial.

‘I’m sure you didn’t have pancreatic cancer.

‘There came a time when you claimed you had to return to Russia to die among your people.

‘You were here for four days in November 2018 and then you came here again in 2019.

‘By this time Laureline was desperately in need of the money you owed her.

‘She was coming to the end of a tenancy and you claimed to have found through a colleague of yours an attractive flat.

‘In truth pictures you sent her of the flat had been taken from a property website.

‘Laureline was going to move out of her flat on 2 March 2019.

‘She believed you had arranged for a removal van to come and collect her.

‘It was a horribly cruel deception to practice upon her and all against the background of fooling her to think you had a terrible cancer which fooled her to show you considerable forebearings.

‘Perhaps it was because the only fun you could have, because you said you were cruel and mean and wanted to hurt her.

‘She most of spent most of Saturday packing up her things and then she waited for a removal van which never came and which never was going to come.

‘You gave her a number of false explanations for the failure of the van to arrive, eventually leading her to believe the van would arrive on the Sunday morning, now 3 March.

‘It must finally have dawned her that there was no van and no flat.

‘At last she must have seen you as a complete and heartless fraud.

‘I’m sure the explanation for Laureline’s murder is that you could not bear the thought of being exposed as the total and cruel fraud she had discovered you were.

‘You would have been exposed as an impostor and a fraud.

‘Rather than have that happen you murdered her.

‘It was, I’m afraid, all about you.

‘You strangled her with your hands or your forearm.

‘Mercifully she would have been rendered unconscious after 15 or 30 seconds.

‘You sent messages on her phone pretending to be her.

‘You went out to buy items which could be used to dispose of her body, you bought an axe and you must have at least considered dismembering her body.

‘You contented yourself with burying her in the garden of her flat which is no resting place for anyone.

‘You put clingfilm on her head and bound her wrists loosely with the duct tape you bought after her death.

‘You did what you could to make it look like there had been a sexual motive to her asphyxiation by putting the cling film on head and duct tape on her wrists.

‘You used her phone to say she had met an attractive stranger.

‘The messages that said you had given her money and she had been out buying clothes.

‘There was in fact no truth to the messages and it was you laying false trails.

‘You then pretended to her friends and family that you were as concerned as they were about her disappearance but it was soon realised that you were in fact responsible for her disappearance and death.

‘You were arrested in Estonia and returned to this country.

‘You took out money from your account which was borrowed from another girlfriend.

‘You said you gave Laureline money but I’m not ready to believe anything you say unless it is supported or confirmed independently.

‘You were only in her flat because you were pretending to help her with the move and because as her former partner she trusted you.

‘Instead you murdered her in her own home where she was supposed to be safe.

‘You are a very calculating person by nature.

‘The time taken to kill her distinguishes this case from other cases where the act was much shorter in duration.

‘Even now you have no remorse for what you did.

‘By 4pm you were watching pornography on the premises where Laureline’s dead body lay.

‘The only previous conviction you have is for possessing knuckledusters which you said you were carrying for protection.’

His barrister Ian Rutherford admitted: ‘He has told brazen lies to this court room over and over again.

‘He clearly is someone who believes in his power to tell lies and to be believed

This is somebody who believes he can talk his way out of any situation he’s in’.