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Murderer husband who set wife on fire jailed for life

|News, Violent crime

An estranged husband who attacked and doused his wife in petrol before setting her on fire in their former marital home has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 32 years. 

Damion Simmons, 45, murdered 36-year-old Denise Keane-Simmons in her home in Harlesden in the early hours of 16 April last year after she ended their relationship. 

Today (Friday, 8 October 2021) at the Old Bailey Simmons was sentenced to life with a minimum jail term of 32 years. He was found guilty of murder and arson with intent to endanger life following a trial at the same court. He had previously pleaded guilty to one count of disclosing a private sexual photograph with intent to cause distress. 

Ms Keane-Simmons met Simmons in Trinidad and they married there in February 2019. He moved to the UK to live with her later that year, but the marriage became strained when Simmons displayed controlling, possessive and abusive behaviour. Police attended their home on a number of instances in relation to this. 

By the end of January 2020 Simmons had moved out. In March Ms Keane-Simmons had approached a solicitor to act for her in divorce proceedings. She had also changed her phone number, started to take taxis so she could avoid seeing Simmons and put in new locks at the home. 

On the night of the murder police attended the house after Ms Keane-Simmons reported that Simmons had posted a naked image of her on Instagram. Officers left at around 1.30am – some 40 minutes before the fatal fire started. 

Meanwhile Simmons hid in the front garden as he waited for the officers to leave. He then poured some of the petrol in his cannister through the letter box before breaking the front room window and climbing in. Within 30 seconds of being inside, a fire had been started. 

Ms Keane-Simmons suffered smoke inhalation and extensive burns to 60 per cent of her body. She was taken from the scene by firefighters to hospital but was pronounced dead that same morning. Another occupant of the address, a woman in her 60s, was rescued. Simmons jumped out of a window and did not suffer any serious injuries. 

Olcay Sapanoglu, from the CPS, said: “Damion Simmons carried out a jealous campaign of torment and abuse against his wife which culminated in him murdering her in the most horrific of ways – simply because he could not accept that their relationship was over. 

“Simmons claimed that he went to his wife’s home to kill himself so she would have to watch – and that he meant her no harm at all. The jury were able to see through this lie. 

“The prosecution case included testimony from a burns expert who was able to convey that the defendant had intended to cause serious harm as petrol had been poured over the victim’s head and body. We were able to show the jury CCTV evidence of Simmons buying a petrol can and filling it with five-and-a-half litres before carrying it with him on a bus to his wife’s address. He was also caught on camera hiding in wait outside the home while police officers were inside. 

“We presented phone evidence that showed Simmons’ calculated actions given that weeks before the murder he had searched ‘cases where the insanity defence worked’ and visited the CPS page entitled ‘Mental health conditions disorders: draft prosecution guidance.’

“Simmons’ violent actions have resulted in a devastating loss of life. While nothing can bring Denise back, I hope this conviction provides some sense of justice to her family and friends. Our thoughts remain very much with them at this time.

“Everyone has the right to choose their partners and should not be subjected violent reprisals for their decisions. Domestic violence can have a shattering effect on all those involved and the CPS is committed to holding these offenders to account through the courts.”

Notes to editors

  • Damion Simmons (DOB: 29.3.1976) is from Trinidad and Tobago and is of no fixed address in the UK. 
  • Olcay Sapanoglu is a Senior Crown Prosecutor within the pan-London Homicide unit in CPS London North.

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