A controlling husband who murdered his estranged wife before setting her body on fire after she ended their marriage has been jailed for life.
Damien Simmons, 45, had been aggressive towards Denise Keane-Simmons, he tried to prevent her from seeing friends, and installed a hidden camera in a bedroom light to spy on her.
The couple married in February 2019 and Simmons moved to the UK to be with his wife, but within a year their relationship had crumbled.
On the night of the murder, on April 16 last year, police had been called to teaching assistant Ms Keane-Simmons home in Stonebridge, northwest London after Simmons posted an intimate picture of her on Instagram and suggested more pictures were on a porn website.
“I feel anxious about leaving my house as his behaviour is so unpredictable and just want to live my life without that worry of Damien”, she told officers.
Simmons hid in the garden until police officers had left, and was caught on camera pouring petrol through the letterbox before smashing his way into the home.
Within 30 seconds, the property was ablaze and Simmons sent his wife a WhatsApp voice message saying: “I hope you suffer and die just like how I suffer and die before I go. I really hope you suffer and die.”
Simmons denied murder and arson with intent to endanger life, claiming Ms Keane-Simmons had died accidentally when he was trying to kill himself in front of her, but he was convicted by a jury.
Judge Philip Katz QC sentenced Simmons on Friday to life in jail and order him to serve at least 32 years in prison.
“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”, said Olcay Sapanoglu from the CPS.
“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.
“The prosecution case included testimony from a burns expert who was able to convey that the defendant had intended to cause serious harm as petrol had been poured over the victim’s head and body. We were able to show the jury CCTV evidence of Simmons buying a petrol can and filling it with five-and-a-half litres before carrying it with him on a bus to his wife’s address. He was also caught on camera hiding in wait outside the home while police officers were inside.
“We also presented phone evidence that showed Simmons’ calculated actions given that weeks before the murder he had searched ‘cases where the insanity defence worked’ and visited the CPS page entitled ‘Mental health conditions disorders: draft prosecution guidance.’
“Simmons’ violent actions have resulted in a devastating loss of life. While nothing can bring Denise back, I hope this conviction provides some sense of justice to her family and friends. Our thoughts remain very much with them at this time.
“Everyone has the right to choose their partners and should not be subjected violent reprisals for their decisions. Domestic violence can have a shattering effect on all those involved and the CPS is committed to holding these offenders to account through the courts.”
The court heard Simmons had moved out of the home in January 2020, and two months later Ms Keane-Simmons approached a solicitor to act for her in divorce proceedings.
She had changed her phone number, installed new locks at the property, and started taking taxis to avoid seeing Simmons.
After the murder, police discovered a hidden camera in a lightbulb in her bedroom, linking it to Simmons phone. He had even reviewed the product on Amazon, writing: “Faulty, works okay, runs out of charge quickly.”
Simmons, of no fixed address, had pleaded guilty to a charge of disclosing a private sexual photograph with intent to cause distress.