Drifter who strangled British tour guide then hid her body in cupboard inside smiley-face bag is JAILED for twenty years
Lianne Burns, originally from Essex, murdered in Caribbean island St MartinJealous boyfriend Younes El-Mami strangled her and hid body in cupboardJailed for 20 years after devoted sisters spent years campaigning for justice
10:25 GMT, 12 March 2013
11:08 GMT, 12 March 2013
Tour guide Lianne Burns was found strangled in a cupboard with her head covered in a bag covered in a smiley face and the word 'merci'
A drifter who strangled a British tour guide on a paradise Caribbean island then hid her body in a cupboard has been jailed for 20 years.
Younes El-Mami wrapped the body of Lianne Burns, originally from Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, in tape and left her head covered by a bag with the smiley face logo on it and the word 'Merci'.
Lianne, 43, had moved to French-controlled Saint Martin in 1999 after visiting it on a cruise ship and falling in love with the idyllic island.
Late in 2010 she started a relationship with El-Mami, 32, and gave him a home when he arrived on the island with no prospects.
But four months into the romance the jealous Italian-Moroccan murdered her after another man complimented her at an awards do in April 2011.
Lianne had collected an honour for her company Rendezvous Travel and witnesses saw controlling El-Mami become agitated.
He killed her at her home then withdrew money from her account and went out drinking for the night.
Lianne's body was found the following day when she failed to turn up for work and El-Mami confessed to her murder.
He was jailed for 20 years on March 1 on the neighbouring island of Guadalope but despite a full trial his motivation for the killing remains unclear.
Lianne's devoted sisters Kim Spooner, 34, and Lisa Burns, 45, both gave up their jobs and spent 45,000 on legal fees to ensure Lianne was given justice.
Kim, a former communications manager, said: 'El-Mami was a drifter. He had just arrived on the island and she offered him a roof over his head. It was her kindness that was her undoing.
'The awards ceremony was a really happy day for Lianne. The next day she was in the local paper accepting the award.
'By that time Lianne was already dead. The witnesses said El-Mami got more and more agitated throughout the evening.'
Younes El-Mami has been jailed for twenty years after being found guilty of murder but his motives for the killing remain unclear
'A 65-year-old man said Lianne looked lovely, as she was all dressed up for the ceremony, and he got angry about that.
'He had about eight to ten interviews with the police and in each one his story changed and he remembered different parts of the evening.
El-Mami had been taken in by Lianne Burns and the pair began a relationship before he murdered her in 2011
'He said he was playing a game where he pretended to strangle Lianne. But she did not find it funny.
'He said when she tried to walk away he killed her. We do not know what triggered it or why he killed her. He must have had so much pent up aggression to go from zero to murder.
'Not only did he kill her but he used two full rolls of tape to tie her up.'
She added: 'The smiley face was Lianne’s symbol. She collected things with it on. Putting the bag on her head is a really macabre thing to do.
Lianne worked as a fitness instructor in the UK and on board cruise ships before falling in love with Saint Martin and moving there in 1999.
She was very close to her family and visited her mother Vivienne Spooner, 70, father Brian Burns, 73, and sisters in Britain at least once a year.
Lianne's identical twin sister Lisa is a former hedge fund office manager who lives in Hong Kong.
Kim added that the family were 'painfully happy' with the sentence on El-Mami.
She said: 'El-Mami wanted to be financially dependent on women, but he also wanted to dominate them.
'Lianne was a successful career woman – she was never going to be dominated. So many people knew Lianne on the island – her death has had a huge impact.
'Our retribution is his sentence. 20 years feels like a fair sentence. We are painfully happy with it.'
St Martin, population 75,000, is subject to the French legal system.