‘Controlling’ husband of Eddy Grant’s niece is found guilty of murdering her

The estranged husband of Eddy Grant’s niece is facing a life sentence for burning her to death in revenge when she threw him out of their home.

Handyman Damion Simmons, 45, broke into the house he had shared with Denise Keane-Simmons, 36, to pour petrol over her head and set her alight.

Simmons escaped by jumping from a bathroom window as flames ripped through the terraced house in Harlesden, northwest London, and a family friend was rescued from her bedroom.

After she had been set ablaze, Mrs Keane-Simmons ran in terror into her room and locked the door behind her.

She died from terrible burns and the effects of smoke inhalation.

Damion Simmons, 45, has been convicted of murdering of his estranged wife Denise Keane-Simmons, after turning up at her home to pour petrol over her head and set her alight

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 fire and left her a voicemail message saying: ‘I really hope you suffer and die’ as he walked to the house with the petrol.

He 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.

The jury convicted the expressionless handyman of murder as Mrs Keane-Simmons’ elderly female relatives sobbed and hugged each other in court.

Mrs Keane-Simmons, a teaching assistant whose mother was married to the Electric Avenue musician's brother, was found on her bedroom floor

Mrs Keane-Simmons, a teaching assistant whose mother was married to the Electric Avenue musician’s brother, was found on her bedroom floor 

Judge Philip Katz said told the jury of five women and seven men that the gruesome case had been so ‘troubling’ he would excuse them from sitting on another trial for ten years.

He said Simmons’ sentence will be ‘a very long one.’

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.’

Forensics at the scene of the fire in Brent, North West London, in April 2020

Forensics at the scene of the fire in Brent, North West London, in April 2020

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.

Ms Keane-Simmons was the niece of Eddy Grant, a founding member of The Equals who had a successful solo career with the hit single Electric Avenue

Ms Keane-Simmons was the niece of Eddy Grant, a founding member of The Equals who had a successful solo career with the hit single Electric Avenue

Another friend who rang up about the pictures was told: ‘Let her suffer like I did and feel humiliated like I do.’

Mrs Keane-Simmons called the police over the Instagram posts and when officers arrived the handyman was already skulking in the front garden with the petrol can.

She told the police: ‘This incident has left me feeling emotionally drained… There seems to be no end to his behaviour, and I do not expect a personal picture of mine be published to publicly.

‘I feel anxious about leaving my house as his behaviour is so unpredictable and just want to live my life without that worry of Damion.’

Around 30 minutes after the officers had left the house, Simmons went to the front door and poured petrol through the letter box.

He then went to the front of the house and smashed a bay window to break in.

Maureen Lalgie, the friend of the victim who was staying at the house heard Mrs Keane-Simmons shouting ‘Who the f*** are you?’.

She then heard the terror in Denise’s voice when she asked: ‘What are you doing?’.

‘I did not hear Denise’s voice again. I heard bangs and explosions which was as if something had been thrown into the house,’ Mrs Lalgie said.

‘Then everything went quiet.

‘I went to look and as I went toward my bedroom door I could see smoke coming under my bedroom door.’

Mrs Lalgie shouted for help from her bedroom window and was rescued after a neighbour fetched a ladder and firefighters helped her down.

Simmons had doused the living room, stairs and upstairs landing with petrol before he was confronted by his wife.

He poured more petrol over her head and shoulders and then flicked his lighter to set her ablaze.

Simmons was burned on the wrist and back of the leg as he turned away from his burning wife and may have thrown the rest of the petrol at her before he ran to the bathroom to put himself out.

He jumped from the window and before apparently groaning to paramedics ‘Just let me die’ when he was found in the garden.

Firefighters battled through flames and thick smoke to reach Mrs Keane-Simmons but she was later pronounced dead in hospital.

Simmons spent 12 days in hospital with police at his bedside after initially refusing treatment.

He told the jury he wanted to burn himself to death in front of his wife but had not intended to harm her.

‘I just wanted to die. She had to see me die…just so she would be tormented by the fact she had seen me kill myself,’ he said.

He said after he broke in he was confronted by Mrs Keane-Simmons on the landing upstairs.

‘I remember taking the petrol can. I was about to pour it. I had the lighter in my left hand,’ he said.

‘As I was about to pour petrol, I don’t know if she grabbed it or hit it out my hand.

‘I remember petrol pouring on me.

‘I remember trying to pick up the petrol can and lighting the lighter. All I can remember as I did so was a big wall of flames.’

Prosecutors said Simmons would not have poured petrol in through the letter box if he wanted to kill himself but he said he ‘could not remember’ doing it.

The court heard he Googled ‘what is the best way to use a knife and kill someone?’, ‘Insanity in English Law’, and ‘cases where the insanity defence worked’.

‘I wasn’t in my right mind,’ he told jurors.

Simmons, of no fixed address, denied murder, voyeurism and arson with intent to endanger life.

He admitted manslaughter and disclosing private sexual photographs of the teaching assistant with intent to cause distress.

The jury cleared him of voyeurism and did not find that the camera he admitted fitting in the bedroom was for sexual purposes.

But he was convicted of murder and arson with intent to endanger life.

Simmons will be sentenced on September 22. 

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