Brent petrol murder: Man guilty of killing wife in arson attack

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image sourceMet Police

image captionDenise Keane-Simmons died weeks after the first lockdown started last year

A "controlling and jealous" man who set fire to his estranged wife has been found guilty of her murder.

Damion Simmons, 45, doused Denise Keane-Simmons, 36, in petrol, in Brent, north-west London, early on 16 April 2020. She died later that morning.

Simmons, who was also found guilty of arson with intent, had sent a voice note to his victim that night saying "I really hope you suffer and die", the Old Bailey heard.

He will be sentenced on 22 September.

Giving evidence during the trial, Simmons admitted being a "controlling and jealous" husband who had harassed his wife.

However, he maintained he had not meant for her to die.

image sourceMet Police

image captionDamion Simmons set fire to his estranged wife after dousing her in petrol

The court heard that on 10 February 2020, Ms Keane-Simmons made a formal complaint to police about her husband's behaviour, which included constantly contacting her on social media and sending messages to her workplace suggesting she wanted him "beaten up".

In March, 13 months after their wedding in Trinidad and Tobago, she started divorce proceedings.

On 15 April, a friend received a photograph of Ms Keane-Simmons naked in the bath which the defendant also posted on his own Instagram account, together with his wife's maiden name and details of the school where she worked, the Old Bailey heard.

The defendant later admitted he had sent the photo.

Prosecutor William Emlyn-Jones QC told the jury that 45 minutes after posting the image on Instagram, Simmons went to a garage and bought a petrol canister which he filled up with more than five litres of petrol.

In the early hours of 16 April, the fire brigade were called and forced their way into Ms Keane-Simmons room, but she had suffered significant burns and a brain injury caused by a lack of oxygen, the court heard.

She was later pronounced dead at hospital.

image sourceMet Police

image captionSimmons was caught on CCTV filling up a petrol canister before the attack

Meanwhile, the defendant was found lying on the ground in the back garden underneath an open window and smelling strongly of petrol.

Simmons later claimed he had tried to set himself on fire and was about to pour petrol on himself when Ms Keane-Simmons had knocked it out of his hand.

He told the court he remembered having a lighter in his hand and an explosion before he jumped out of a window.

Insanity defence

A fire expert told the jury that Ms Keane-Simmons' injuries were consistent with petrol being poured over her and ignited.

However, the injuries seen on Simmons matched those of someone turning away from a fireball, the expert said.

The court also heard that less than a month before the incident Simmons had conducted an internet search for: "What is the best way to use a knife and kill someone?"

The 45-year-old had also visited Wikipedia pages titled "Insanity in English Law" and "Cases where the insanity defence worked."

The prosecutor told the jury: "There is no evidence that the defendant suffers with any mental illness so unfortunately for him no such defence is available to him as an excuse."

Simmons had previously admitted charges of manslaughter and disclosing private and sexual photographs by posting a sexual image of his estranged wife on social media the evening before the fire.

He was acquitted of a charge of voyeurism over a spy camera which he had set up while still living at the marital home.

Ms Keane-Simmons' family wept as the verdicts were returned in court.

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