An abusive husband has been found guilty of murdering his estranged wife by torching her house and pouring petrol on her body.
Damion Simmons, 45, was caught on CCTV buying five-and-a-half litres of petrol from a station in Hornsey Rise in Brent which he later poured through the letterbox of 36-year-old Denise Keane-Simmons’ home in Alric Avenue.
He then smashed a window with a wooden panel to enter the property in the early hours of April 16, 2020, and a fire ignited 30 seconds later.
The victim’s friend, a 60-year-old woman who was also sleeping inside the home, jumped to safety through a bedroom window and did not suffer injuries.
Keane-Simmons was found in her bedroom with extensive burns and smoke inhalation and was later pronounced dead in hospital.
A post-mortem examination suggested Simons had poured petrol over her.
After setting fire to his wife, Simmons escaped out of the window of her home and was found unresponsive and taken to hospital by emergency services where he was later arrested.
In a WhatsApp voice message sent to his wife before the murder, Simmons said: “I hope you suffer and die just like how I suffer and die before I go. I really hope you suffer and die.”
The couple had been married since 2019 but their relationship broke down in the months before Denise’s death.
Simmons then began unleashing a torrent of abuse and torment against his former partner.
As well as sending the horrifying audio message, Simmons posted intimate pictures of Denise on social media, sharing her name, job and the school where she worked before killing her.
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He also emailed her to say that he had posted pictures of her on pornographic website Porn Hub.
The victim reported the threats to the police who attended and left her home 40 minutes before she was set on fire.
During the police visit, the teaching assistant gave a statement saying: “I feel anxious about leaving my house as his behaviour is so unpredictable and just want to live my life without that worry of Damion”.
Simmons, of no fixed abode, also exhibited controlling and aggressive behaviour, preventing his wife from meeting friends.
Prior to this, his wife had found a hidden camera in a lightbulb in her bedroom, placed by her husband to spy on her.
Giving evidence during his trial at the Old Bailey, Simmons said he hoped spying on her would help his relationship.
The assailant said he purchased it “to see who she was talking to, you know? So that I could try to salvage my marriage because I knew a lot of people are talking to her”.
The he stated that on the night of the arson attack he had decided to “set myself on fire because I just wanted to die” and wanted his wife to witness it.
He also admitted researching Crown Prosecution Service guidance on defences in law for murder and “best way to use a knife and kill someone,” but claimed he did not wish to do so.
Simmons was convicted at the Old Bailey on Tuesday (August 31) of murder and arson with intent to endanger life.
Jurors were told at the beginning of the trial that he had admitted manslaughter.
Simmons, of no fixed address, was also found not guilty of voyeurism.
He previously pleaded guilty to disclosing private and sexual photographs with intent to cause distress.
Detective Chief Inspector Neil John, from the Specialist Crime Command, said: “My thoughts remain with Denise’s family and friends and I hope today’s outcome can offer them some degree of comfort, knowing that her killer has been brought to justice.
“Denise was clearly loved by all, and this tragic incident has affected many people far and wide.
“The actions of Damion Simmons that night were calculated, and the jury have come to the conclusion that he set out that night, not to kill himself as he claimed, but to kill Denise.
“His actions were both selfish and reckless. He cruelly took away Denise’s future and could have easily caused serious harm to the other woman inside the property and adjoining households.
“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.”
A referral was made to the Independent Office for Police Conduct in relation to previous police contact with the victim prior to her death. We await the findings of the IOPC’s investigation.
Simmons will be sentenced at the Old Bailey on September 22.