Controlling husband jailed for at least 32 years for murder of estranged wife

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A jealous and controlling man who murdered his estranged wife in a “horrific” way by setting her on fire has been jailed for life.

Damien Simmons poured petrol over Denise Keane-Simmons and set her alight at her home in Harlesden, north London, on April 16 last year.

Mrs Keane-Simmons, 36, suffered horrific burns and died in hospital.

Denise Keane-Simmons was killed by her jealous and controlling husband (Family Handout/PA)
Denise Keane-Simmons was killed by her jealous and controlling husband (Family Handout/PA)

The 45-year-old, who is of no fixed address in the UK, has been handed a sentence of life imprisonment, with a minimum term of 32 years, the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said.

During his sentencing hearing at the Old Bailey on Friday, Mrs Keane-Simmons’s family told of the devastation of their loss.

The Metropolitan Police said a statement from her aunt Helen Keane was read to the court, which said: “Never in our wildest dreams would we expect to be sitting here in court discussing the passing of Denise.

“Words cannot really express how devastated we are, it is a pain that is indescribable and one that we will never forget.

“Over the past year and to this very day, Denise’s family and friends are still experiencing the effects of her death. From shock, denial, anger to heartbreak.”

Shortly before her death, Simmons had posted a naked picture of his wife on Instagram.

His trial heard that when his phone was examined, police also found images from a camera in a lightbulb set up in the victim’s bedroom.

Giving evidence, he admitted having been a “controlling” and “jealous” husband who had harassed his wife after their relationship went “downhill”.

The CPS said that police attended the house on the night of the murder after Ms Keane-Simmons reported the image having been posted online.

Her husband hid in the front garden as he waited for the officers to leave and then poured some of the petrol in his cannister through the letter box before breaking the front room window and climbing in, the CPS said.

Within just 30 seconds of being inside, a fire had been started, prosecutors added.

His trial heard that Simmons had previously set up a voice recorder to catch conversations between Mrs Keane-Simmons and her friend.

The Trinidadian former oil industry worker described during his trial how he met Mrs Keane-Simmons through Facebook after his first wife died from sepsis in 2014.

Mrs Keane-Simmons visited him in Trinidad for the first time in February 2018, for the carnival.

After they married in 2019, he sold his car, land and sheep for around £10,000 so that he could join her in London.

At trial, he claimed he had intended to kill himself, saying that after breaking into the property armed with a petrol can his wife had come out of the master bedroom.

He told the court: “She came and shouted at me: ‘What are you doing here?’ And I said: ‘I’m going to kill myself.’

“I took the petrol to pour it, with the lighter in my left hand. As I was about to pour the petrol she grabbed it or hit it out of my hands.”

He said he reached down, lit the lighter and there was a “big wall of flames”.

Simmons told jurors he did not know that his wife had been set on fire.

Olcay Sapanoglu, from the CPS, said Simmons “carried out a jealous campaign of torment and abuse against his wife which culminated in him murdering her in the most horrific of ways – simply because he could not accept that their relationship was over”.

The senior prosecutor added: “Simmons claimed that he went to his wife’s home to kill himself so she would have to watch – and that he meant her no harm at all. The jury were able to see through this lie.”

Simmons was also given a 20-year jail sentence for arson with intent to endanger life and 12 months behind bars for disclosing sexual images, the Met said. The sentences will run concurrently.

The CPS said they hope the conviction and sentence provides “some sense of justice to (Mrs Keane-Simmons’s) family and friends”.

Detective Chief Inspector Neil John, from the Met’s specialist crime command, said while the sentencing demonstrates the “gravity” of Simmons’ offending, “it will do little to ease the pain and suffering endured by Denise’s family and friends”.

He added: “Denise was clearly loved by all, and this tragic incident has affected many people far and wide who knew her – my thoughts remain with them.

“This type of behaviour unfortunately epitomises extreme domestic violence and I would urge anyone who feels they may be in such a relationship to contact the police or our partners who will be able to take positive action and provide the necessary support and advice.”

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