Damien Simmons, 45, was found guilty of murdering Denise Keane-Simmons in a house fire in Harlesden, and arson with intent to endanger life
Image: Met Police)
The husband of Eddy Grant’s niece was jailed for 32 years today for burning her to death in revenge when she threw him out of their home.
Damien Simmons, 45, was found guilty of murdering his estranged wife in a house fire in Harlesden, and arson with intent to endanger life.
Simmons broke into the house he had shared with Denise Keane-Simmons, 36, to pour petrol over her head and set her alight.
He leapt from a bathroom window as flames ripped through the terraced house in Harlesden, northwest London.
Mrs Keane-Simmons ran in terror into her room on fire, still so terrified of Simmons that she managed to lock the door behind her.
She hid beside her bed and died from terrible burns and the effects of smoke inhalation.
Simmons admitted he was ‘jealous and controlling’ but insisted he wanted to die in front of his wife when he started the fire.
But the Old Bailey heard how he posted naked pictures of her on Instagram hours before the blaze.
He left her a voicemail message saying: “I really hope you suffer and die” as he walked to the house with the petrol.
Simmons had poured the accelerant through the letter box first then broke into the house when he could not reach far enough to set it alight.
Today Judge Philip Katz said: “Denise Keane, still grieving the death of her own mother, was burnt to death in her own home.
“Denise’s aunt Helen describes her as happy, fun, free-spirited and charismatic individual who led with her heart.
“Denise had worked for over ten years as a teaching assistant, working with young children and with a special focus on the arts.
“No doubt she was hoping for a family of her own when she married in February 2019.
“Denise’s family, the jury and I listened to the desperately sad story of the final months of her life as she had to endure the possessiveness and cruelty of the man she had just married.
“The quiet dignity shown by Denise’s family and friends who listened to her killer’s attempt to avoid responsibility for killing their woman they loved is to their immense credit.
“On a number of occasions during the early months of 2020 the police had been called to help her and Denise had finally been to see a lawyer to end this short but disastrous marriage.
“Perhaps the most poignant evidence in the trial is the footage from the body worn camera of one of the police officers who were with Denise just over an hour before she was murdered.
“She looked ground down, and defeated by the persistent, spiteful and humiliating conduct of the man who at that very time was on his way across London intending to kill her in the most horrible way imaginable.
“You, Damien Simmons, were that man.”
The judge added: “From beginning to end it was all about you.”
The court heard the couple had met online in 2017 when he was living in Trinidad and Mrs Keane-Simmons flew out to marry him there a year later.
Petite English graduate Mrs Keane-Simmons, who was 4ft 11 ins tall and weighed just eight stone, worked as a teaching assistant.
Mrs Keane-Simmons has been married before but that relationship ended when her husband was convicted of robbery and deported.
Her mother was married to the Electric Avenue musician’s brother.
Simmons had a young daughter from his previous marriage and he jumped at the chance to move in with his wife at her mother’s home in Alric Avenue, Harlesden.
But he soon became surly and manipulative and he tried to stop his wife going out on her own or dancing with other men at parties.
He was critical about the money she spent while making her pay for his mobile phone and demanding up to £300 a time from her for ‘a drink.’
The problems got worse after Mrs Keane-Simmons’s mother died and left the house to her daughter in December 2019.
At a wake held for the mother in her old home, Simmons drunkenly objected to his wife’s former boyfriends being present shouting: ‘I’m the man of the house.’
After the police were called to a violent incident at the end of January, Mrs Keane-Simmons threw him out of the house and changed the locks.
She found that night that before he left Simmons had fitted a secret camera disguised as a lightbulb in the bedroom.
Simmons was forced to move into a one-bedroomed flat with his mother and conditions were so cramped he had to share her bed.
He spent the months leading up to the fire on the night of April 15 last year harassing his wife by bombarding her with emails and text messages from his and other’s people’s phones.
Simmons turned up at her school in Holloway, banged on her front door and badgered her friends.
On the night of the fire he posted the naked pictures as he travelled to Alric Avenue with a gallon of petrol.
When her friend called him to complain about the pictures he cackled down the phone and hung up.
Another friend who rang up about the pictures was told: ‘Let her suffer like I did and feel humiliated like I do.’