BREAKING LONDON

A man who killed his estranged wife in a house fire in Harlesden has been found guilty of murder and arson with intent to endanger life

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Damion Simmons, 45 of no fixed address, was convicted at the Old Bailey on Tuesday, 31 August. He will be sentenced at the same court on 22 September.

The jury heard how Simmons deliberately started a fire at a residential property in Alric Avenue in the early hours of Thursday, 16 April 2020.

Denise Keane-Simmons, who was aged 36, was inside the property at the time and was found suffering serious injuries. She was taken to hospital, but was sadly pronounced dead at 06:07hrs.

The pair had been married since 2019 and were in a relationship which broke down in the months before Denise’s death. The separation caused Simmons to begin a campaign of abuse and torment against his former partner.

In the hours before her death, on the evening of Wednesday, 15 April 2020, Simmons had posted an intimate photo of Denise on Instagram.

At 10.31pm he was captured on CCTV buying a can of petrol from a petrol station in Hornsey Rise.

Denise had reported the Instagram image to police and officers went to her address shortly after midnight on 16 April 2020 to take a statement from her. They stayed for around an hour, leaving Denise in the care of a friend who was staying at the property.

During this time, Simmons had boarded a bus and travelled to Harlesden where he was hiding near to Denise’s property. At 2.10am he was seen on CCTV pouring petrol through the letterbox into the house.

He also used a panel of wood to smash a glass window before climbing into the property. A short time later the fire had started and was spreading throughout the address.

Emergency services were called and firefighters entered the property. They found Denise suffering serious injuries in an upstairs bedroom. She was taken to hospital and subsequently pronounced dead.

A post-mortem examination carried out on 22 April 2020 gave her cause of death as severe burns and smoke inhalation. Further analysis suggested Simons had poured petrol over her body.

Denise’s friend, a woman aged in her 60s, who was also sleeping inside the property, was able to escape through a bedroom window and jumped to safety. Fortunately, she did not suffer any serious injuries.

Simmons was found lying in the garden beneath a bathroom window. He is also thought to have jumped from the property. He was arrested at the scene and was taken to hospital with minor burn injuries before being taken into custody.

He told officers and various doctors that he had only intended to harm himself when he started the fire.

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.