Man ‘murdered estranged wife by pouring petrol over her head and setting her on fire’

A man accused of murdering his estranged wife in an arson attack allegedly set up a camera hidden in a lightbulb in her bedroom in order to spy on her, a court has heard.

Damien Simmons is accused of pouring petrol on Denise Keane-Simmons, 36, and setting her on fire in her bedroom in her home in Alric Avenue in Brent, north-west London.

Prior to the incident, which happened in the early hours of April 16 last year, Simmons posted an intimate picture of the teaching assistant on social media – just hours before she died.

The defendant’s case is that he did not intend to harm Mrs Keane-Simmons but claimed that she died accidentally when he was trying to kill himself in front of her.

READ MORE:Young mum Verphy Kudi, 19, who left 20-month-old baby to die as she went on birthday bender jailed for 9 years

Forensic officers were seen collecting evidence

Jurors were told at the Old Bailey on Friday (August 13) that the 45-year-old has admitted her manslaughter but denies murder and arson with intent to endanger life.

Simmons, of no fixed address, has also denied voyeurism but pleaded guilty to disclosing private and sexual photographs with intent to cause distress.

Prosecutor Bill Emlyn Jones QC told the court that the estranged couple met in Trinidad, where they married in February 2019, and the defendant then relocated to the UK to move in with his wife and her mother.

But their relationship became strained because the defendant wanted Mrs Keane-Simmons to change her behaviour and stop seeing her friends, according to a family friend living there at the time.

Debbie Debreo, another friend of Mrs Keane-Simmons, said she witnessed Simmons being “aggressive” and “intimidating” to his wife in January 2020, physically dragging her and grabbing her by the wrists.

The court heard Mrs Keane-Simmons changed the locks to her home following the incident, in which the police were called and officers escorted the defendant away from the property, although no formal complaint was made.

0 Brentfire1jpeg

Fire ripped through the building

Mr Jones said that later that night, Ms Debreo noticed that the lighting in Mrs Keane-Simmons’ bedroom was darker than usual, and upon closer inspection discovered a camera in the lightbulb and removed it.

Prosecutors claim that the defendant was using the camera to spy on Mrs Keane-Simmons, after police found two photographs taken with the device when his phone was examined in April following the blaze.

Mr Jones said an email exchange was found on the defendant’s phone where he had reviewed the device on Amazon, writing: “Faulty, works okay, runs out of charge quickly.”

Simmons has admitted that he bought the camera but denied he was using it to spy on his estranged wife, instead insisting he bought it for the Trinidad and Tobago UK Association.

On the night of the fire, the jury heard that Simmons posted an intimate image of Mrs Keane-Simmons on Instagram, along with her maiden name, job and the school where she worked.

Mr Jones said that Simmons, who does not dispute that he posted the image on social media, also emailed his estranged wife telling her he had put pictures of her on the website PornHub.

In a statement to officers after calling the police, Mrs Keane-Simmons said: “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.”

0 brentfirejpeg

A large cordon was placed around the house where the fire occurred

On the same night, Mr Jones said CCTV from a petrol station showed the defendant filling a cannister with five-and-a-half litres of petrol, while separate footage later showed him lingering outside his wife’s house while the police were in attendance.

Prosecutors allege that after officers had left the property, Simmons poured petrol through the letterbox of the front door and smashed a window to break into the house, with CCTV showing a fire igniting some 30 seconds later.

The flames then “quickly engulfed the house” and the defendant managed to escape out of a window, as did a family friend who also lived in the house with the help of a neighbour and the fire service, Mr Jones told the jury.

Simmons suffered burns in the blaze and was found unresponsive in the garden by emergency services, before being taken to hospital where he was later arrested.

0 GettyImages 1028621910

MyLondon’s brilliant new newsletter The 12 is packed with news, views, features and opinion from across the city.

Every day we’ll send you a free email at around 12pm with 12 stories to keep you entertained, informed and uplifted. It’s the perfect lunchtime read.

The MyLondon team tells London stories for Londoners. Our 45 journalists cover all the news you need – from City Hall to your local streets.

Never miss a moment by signing up to The 12 newsletter here.

Mrs Keane-Simmons was found on her bedroom floor and had suffered extensive burns, as well as smoke inhalation, and was later pronounced dead in hospital.

Mr Jones told the court that “the nature and the pattern” of the burns to her body had been analysed by a consultant plastic surgeon experienced in the treatment of burn injuries.

“It is his view that Denise’s injuries suggest that petrol had been poured over her head and upper body and then set on fire,” Mr Jones told the court.

“Although she was found lying down, the pattern of injuries indicates that she had been in an upright position when first exposed to the flames.”

The trial continues.

Read More
Read More

Recommended For You