Man guilty of killing wife in fire he started in Harlesden house

Damien Simmons will be sentenced on September 22.

Damion Simmons will be sentenced on September 22. - Credit: Met Police

A man has been found guilty of murdering his estranged wife in a Harlesden house fire. 

Damion Simmons, 45, of no fixed address, was also convicted of arson with intent to endanger life at the Old Bailey today (Tuesday, August 31). 

Denise Keane-Simmons, who was aged 36, was inside a house in Alric Avenue on April 16 last year and was found alive but with serious injuries. She was taken to hospital but pronounced dead shortly after 6am. 

The defendant pleaded not guilty to murder but a jury found him guilty after a trial of several weeks. He will be sentenced at the same court on September 22. 

Simmons and Denise had been married since 2019 but after the relationship broke down, the defendant became abusive, admitting he was “controlling” and “jealous”. 

Simmons, a Trinidadian former oil industry worker, was found to have set up a camera in his wife’s bedroom. He also posted an intimate picture of her on Instagram. 

In a previous hearing, he admitted making “inappropriate” posts about Denise on a Facebook group for local Trinidadians, and taking her gold chain, saying it was to get her to talk to him.

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He also admitted making a series of internet searches, including CPS guidance on defences in law for murder and “best way to use a knife and kill someone”, but said he had no intention of doing that.

Accounting for the night of April 15 last year, Simmons had told the court he was resolved to “set myself on fire because I just wanted to die” and wanted his wife to witness it.

Denise had reported the Instagram post to the police and officers took a statement from her shortly after midnight on the night of her death. The officers left Denise in the care of a friend. 

Shortly after 2am, Simmons was seen on CCTV pouring petrol through the letterbox into the house. He also used a wooden panel to smash his way through a window before climbing inside, as the flames began to take hold of the house. 

Emergency services were called and firefighters found Denise, while her friend, a woman in her sixties, was able to escape through a bedroom window.

Simmons was found outside the property, having apparently jumped himself, and was treated for minor burns in hospital before being taken into custody. 

Denise's cause of death was listed as smoke inhalation, but further checks suggested Simmons had poured petrol onto her. 

Detective Chief Inspector Neil John 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.” 

- A referral has been made to the Independent Office for Police Conduct in relation to previous police contact with the victim prior to her death. 

Additional reporting by PA.