A 32-year-old Estonian citizen was convicted of the murder of Laureline Garcia-Bertaux at London's Old Bailey on Monday, according to UK paper the Evening Standard.
A jury of seven women and five men found Kirill Belorusov, who will be sentenced Friday, guilty after deliberating for less than two hours at the U.K.'s highest criminal court, the article states; Belorusov's reaction was to close his eyes and nod at the jury.
Belorusov committed the murder at Garcia-Bertaux's home in Kew, southwest London, in early March, and was arrested in Tallinn six days later on a European Arrest Warrant (EAW), then extradited to the U.K. for trial, which began in September. The pair had previously been in a relationship for several years.
According to the charges, Belorusov had strangled Garcia-Bertaux, who was originally from Aix-en-Provence, France, but had been living in the U.K. for several years, to death, then bound her hands and feet, wrapped her body in trash bags and buried it in a flowerbed in the garden.
Caught on CCTV and by DNA tests
Garcia-Bertaux's body was found by police after friends raised concerns over messages which Belorusov sent from her phone purporting to be from her, and after she was missed at the PR agency where she had worked.
Belorusov denied the crime when arrested, stating he wanted the investigation to prove his innocence as quickly as possible.
However, Belorusov's DNA was found on the ligature tied around her neck after he was arrested, and he was also captured on CCTV at a hardware store buying items including an ax and rubble sacks, to dispose of her body, jurors heard.
Prosecutor Oliver Glasgow QC said: "The last few minutes of Ms Garcia-Bertaux's life must have been truly terrifying as this defendant squeezed the very life out of her...The killing itself was the work of three to four long slow minutes in which he calmly and methodically killed the woman he claimed to have cared for and then went shopping for the items he needed to help him dispose of her body," according to the Evening Standard.
Glasgow had said earlier in the trial that Belorusov tricked Garcia-Bertaux into believing that he was going to help her, deceiving her about repaying substantial debts he owed her and that he had found a suitable apartment for her.
"It was only inevitable that Laureline Garcia-Bertaux would get suspicious about what was going on — after all, she had only been given very limited details about the property and no [moving] truck ever turned up," Glasgow said earlier in the trial.
"Quite how Kirill Belorusov thought he was going to play out this charade remains to be seen, but clearly at some point he decided to kill Laureline Garcia-Bertaux," he continued, adding that nonetheless he tried to conceal his crime: "He buried her body in the garden in order that he could leave the country before she was found; he sent messages to her friends in order that they might believe she was alive and well," Glasgow said.
Sent messages posing as victim
"He expressed concern to those same friends when they contacted him to ask if he knew where she was, he sent messages to her phone begging her to get in contact with him, and he told everyone who got in touch with him that he would do all he could to help find her," the prosecutor went on, noting that the messages were "clearly a lie."
He added that Garcia-Bertaux's friends found the messages Belorusov sent from the victim's phone, posing as her, uncharacteristic, particularly the description of how she planned to spend the money, namely on liposuction and other cosmetic procedures.
In November last year, Garcia-Bertaux had, according to the Evening Standard, begged Belorusov to give her money owed in a text message which read: "I don't think you realize how bad the situation is! I can barely pay my rent this month and food for myself and the dogs!"
Belorusov was raised in Tallinn and served in the Estonian Navy, moving to the U.K. approximately 10 years ago, and said he had worked as a stuntman, as well as a barman.
The couple first met in 2009 and split up in 2017, after Garcia-Bertaux complained that he was a "slob" and would "needle her about her weight."
Editor: Andrew Whyte