Businessman who killed his wife and tried to burn down house jailed for life


A former City trader who knocked his wife unconscious, set her body on fire and then took his dog for a walk as an alibi has been jailed for life today.

Darren Byrne, 40, murdered his wife Maria at their home in Theydon Bois, Essex, in February this year. A jury at Chelmsford Crown Court found him guilty of murder and arson on Monday (December 12) following a three-week trial.

The court heard how after dousing Maria in white spirit and setting her body alight, Byrne had turned on the gas hob and left the property with his dog in the apparent hope the house would explode or burn down. However, on his return Byrne found the house intact and instead told police there had been an accident.

At Chelmsford Crown Court today, Byrne was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum tariff of 24 years.

Punam Malhan, CPS East of England Senior District Crown Prosecutor, said: "Darren Byrne concocted an elaborate alibi to cover up that he was responsible for the murder of his wife after she discovered he was continuing with an affair he had promised was over.

"Finding his plan had failed he claimed there had been an accident and his wife had burned to death while cooking him a bacon sandwich.

"Initially he was treated as a grieving husband but tests showed his wife was unconscious when the fire started and white spirit was found on her body.

"He had the motive, means and opportunity and we were satisfied there was sufficient evidence to prosecute him for murder and arson being reckless as to whether life is endangered.

"Our thoughts are with the family of Mrs Byrne and we hope the sentence imposed can give them some comfort."