‘Spiteful’ Migrant Who Set Up Cameras to Spy on UK Wife and Then Set Her on Fire Jailed For Life
11:57 GMT 08.10.2021 (Updated: 12:57 GMT 01.03.2022)
Denise Keane-Simmons was set on fire at her home in north west London by her estranged husband in April 2020. Despite being turned into a fireball, she locked herself in her bedroom before succumbing to her injuries.
An immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago has been jailed for life for pouring petrol over the head of his estranged wife and setting her on fire after spying on her for months using hidden cameras.
Sentencing Damion Simmons to a minimum term of 32 years, Judge Philip Katz said: “You may not be able to acknowledge the horror and humanity of what you have done but you have shown no remorse.”
He said Simmons’ “spiteful and humiliating” behaviour towards Denise in the run-up to the murder was an aggravating factor.
Simmons, 45, was convicted of murdering Denise Keane-Simmons, 45, arson with intent to endanger life, criminal damage endangering life and disclosing private and sexual photographs with intent to cause distress, but was acquitted of voyeurism.
He had admitted to manslaughter, claiming he intended to set himself on fire on the night Denise died and killed her by accident.
Prosecutor Bill Emlyn-Jones QC said at the trial Simmons sent Denise an eight-second voice note at on 15 April 2020, just as he was arriving in Harlesden.
In it he told her: "I hope you suffer and die just like how I suffer and die before I go. I really hope you suffer and die.”
Simmons had posted a naked image of Denise on his Instagram account and she called 999. Police officers arrived at her home in response to that call.
Two police officers left at 1.30 a.m., 40 minutes before she was killed.
The jury was shown CCTV footage showing Simmons arriving outside the house at around midnight.
Mr. Emlyn-Jones said: “Remarkably – and you may think rather chillingly - he was still in that front garden, crouching down out of sight, when two uniformed police officers arrived in response to Denise’s 999 call made that night. The two officers therefore walked right past him on their way up the path to the front door.”
When firefighters arrived at the house, they found it ablaze but managed to rescue Denise’s friend, Maureen Lalgie, from an upstairs bedroom window. However, they were unable to save Denise.
Mr. Emlyn-Jones said: “The door to Denise’s bedroom was found to be locked from the inside. It required 8 to 12 kicks for it to be opened. The room was completely black, and smokelogged…Denise was found curled on her right side in a foetal position on the floor between the bed and a wall. Denise was not moving and was limp to touch like a rag doll.”
Denise, a primary school classroom assistant, died in hospital a few hours later.
The trial heard
despite being on fire, Denise had run into her bedroom and locked the door from the inside before being overcome by the smoke and flames.
Denise met Damion while on holiday in the Caribbean in February 2019 and they came back to London with his daughter, after getting married. However, the relationship soon soured.
The trial heard that Simmons’ behaviour changed after the funeral of Denise’s mother Merle Grant in December 2019 and he became controlling, possessive and aggressive.
Eventually, after an incident on 31 January 2020, Simmons was escorted away from the house by the police and Denise changed the locks.
But Mr. Emlyn-Jones said: “Later that same night, [Denise’s friend] Debbie Debreo noticed that the lighting in Denise’s bedroom was different and that the room seemed dark. She looked at the light and noticed something funny about it. It had a camera in it. She removed it.”
The following day the police arrived and seized a hidden camera disguised as a light bulb.
Mr. Emlyn-Jones told the jury: “Simmons installed that covert camera, disguised as a light bulb for his own sexual gratification, and that he installed it without Denise Keane-Simmons’ consent.”
The prosecutor said Simmons has admitted he installed the light bulb camera, which he had bought on Amazon. He had even given it a review, in which he criticising it for running out of charge too quickly.
In March 2020 Denise went to see a solicitor to begin divorce proceedings but they ground to a halt when the coronavirus hit Britain, leading to the first lockdown.
Enraged by her plan to divorce him, and fearing he would be deported back to Trinidad, Simmons decided to kill her.
Denise’s aunt, Helen Keane, gave a victim impact statement in which she said: “Our hearts are broken and we are left in so much pain.”
She added: “Due to COVID-19 and the lockdown none of our family could even go to the mortuary to see Denise and say our final goodbye to her. To make matters worse, even as a family we were not allowed to have a funeral or family burial service.”
Ms. Keane said: “We have seen and heard Simmons give evidence in court, that he is going to live the rest of his life with some minor burns, scars and a tingle in his leg due to the fire he caused. What about our family loss?!”
Denise's family reacted in court with a mixture of tears and jubilation when they heard the length of Simmons' sentence.