Man killed estranged wife by pouring petrol over her and setting her on fire, court hears

·3-min read
Denise Keane-Simmons, 36, whose mother was married to singer Eddy Grant's brother, died in the house fire at around 2.15am. She was taken to hospital with serious injuries, but was pronounced dead just after 6am on Thursday morning. A man in his forties has been arrested on suspicion of arson and murder and is now in custody as police said the victim and the suspect knew each other.
Denise Keane-Simmons' husband is accused of killing her by setting her on fire. (SWNS)

A "controlling" husband burned his estranged wife to death after posting nude pictures of her online and installing a spy camera in her bedroom, a court has heard.

Damien Simmons, 44, broke into 36-year-old Denise Keane-Simmons' house before allegedly pouring petrol over her and setting the house alight in April 2020.

Simmons denies murdering his wife but has pleaded guilty to manslaughter, saying he meant to burn himself to death in front of her "so that she would have to watch him die". He is standing trial at the Old Bailey. 

Keane-Simmons died in hospital at 6am on April 16 last year after being found in her bedroom at her home in Harlesden, north west London with burns over 60 per cent of her body following a fire. 

Doctors found she had suffered a fatal brain injury from lack of oxygen during the blaze and the court has heard that an analysis of her injuries suggested she had been set alight.

A general view of the Old Bailey, London.   (Photo by Sean Dempsey/PA Images via Getty Images)
Simmons is standing trial at the Old Bailey in London. (PA)

Simmons, 45, was found unconscious in the back garden of the property. He was resuscitated by emergency services and was later charged with her murder.

A family friend, Maureen Lalgie, who was staying at the house was rescued from a back window by firefighters.

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The court has heard that the couple married in Simmons' home country of Trinidad and Tobago in June 2019 but started having marital problems after their return to the UK because Keane-Simmons' mother disapproved of him and in March 2020, Keane-Simmons had instructed a solicitor for divorce proceedings.

The court heard how, in the run up to the fire in the early hours of April 16 last year, Simmons posted nude pictures of his estranged wife online.

The fire happened at Alric Avenue, Harlesden, north west London in April 2020. (Google Maps)
The fire happened at Alric Avenue, Harlesden, north west London in April 2020. (Google Maps)

He also sent her a voice message two hours before the fire, saying: "I hope you suffer and die just like how I suffer and die before I go.'

In the months before the fire, "controlling" Simmons had also placed a hidden camera in a lightbulb in her bedroom, and had also been audio-recording her conversations and "constantly" sent her messages on WhatsApp and Facebook as well as emailing her and leaving numerous voicemails.

The court also heard how internet history, recovered after the fire, revealed that Simmons had searched “what is the best way to use a knife and kill someone?” as well as viewing pages relating to how a defence of insanity would work in English law. 

On the night of the fire, "chilling" CCTV footage showed him hiding in his wife's front garden with a petrol canister as police interviewed her about him posting the photos online, the jury was told.

The video was also said to show him pouring petrol through the letterbox and then breaking into though a window.

A fire expert has told the court that petrol was found throughout the house and damage to Simmons' clothing did not suggest he had poured petrol over himself in an attempt at suicide.

Simmons told police and medical staff in hospital that he planned to kill himself in front of his wife so she could watch him die, the court heard.

He also repeatedly claimed that his wife had sent people to beat him up, prosecutor William Emlyn Jones QC told the jury.

Simmons, of no fixed address, denies murder and arson with intent to endanger life, but has admitted a charge of manslaughter.

He also denies a charge of voyeurism, but has pleaded guilty to disclosing private and sexual photographs with intent to cause distress.

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