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[JAILED: Damion Simmons]
[JAILED: Damion Simmons]

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Man jailed for minimum of 32 yrs for murdering wife in Harlesden

A man who killed his estranged wife in a house fire in Harlesden has been jailed for more than 30 years following a sentencing hearing.

Damion Simmons, 45 (29.03.76) of no fixed address, was sentenced at the Old Bailey on Friday, 8 October to life imprisonment, with a minimum term of 32 years for the murder of Denise Keane-Simmons.

Simmons was also handed a sentence of 20 years imprisonment for arson with intent to endanger life and 12 months imprisonment for disclosing sexual images – these sentences will run concurrently.

He had been found guilty following the conclusion of a trial at the same court on Tuesday, 31 August.

In a statement read out during the sentencing hearing, Helen Keane, Denise’s aunt, said:

“Never in our wildest dreams would we expect to be sitting here in court discussing the passing of Denise.

“Words cannot really express how devastated we are, it is a pain that is indescribable and one that we will never forget.

“Over the past year and to this very day, Denise’s family and friends are still experiencing the effects of her death. From shock, denial, anger to heartbreak.”

The court had heard evidence of 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 22:31hrs 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 02:10hrs, 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 Simmons 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: "While the sentencing handed down demonstrates the gravity of Damion Simmons’ offending, I realise it will do little to ease the pain and suffering endured by Denise’s family and friends.

“Denise was clearly loved by all, and this tragic incident has affected many people far and wide who knew her – my thoughts remain with them.

"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."

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