UK

Husband of Eddy Grant’s niece ‘poured petrol over her then set it on fire’, court hears 

Denise Keane-Barnett-Simmons (pictured) died from smoke inhalation and burns in April

The estranged husband of Eddy Grant’s niece poured petrol over her in her bedroom and burned her to death, a court heard.

Damion Simmons, 45, had posted sexual photographs of Denise Keane-Simmons, 36, before he broke into her house in Alric Avenue, Harlseden and set it on fire.

A friend of Mrs Keane-Simmons managed to escape the flames through a bedroom window, the Old Bailey heard.

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

The 36-year-old was rushed to hospital but later died from burn injuries and inhalation of fumes.

Simmons was found in the garden and had also suffered burns in the fire.

He has admitted killing Mrs Keane-Simmons and disclosing private sexual photographs of her but claims she died accidentally when he was trying to kill himself in front of her.

Bil Emlyn-Jones, prosecuting, said Simmons had ‘become a cause of concern’ to the victim since their recent separation and she had called the police several times over his behaviour.

‘In fact, the police had attended the house that very night, in response to a 999 call she had made to report that the defendant had posted a naked image of her on his Instagram account.

‘The two officers had attended, they left at about 1.30am which was about 40 minutes before the fire started.

Simmons was caught on CCTV leaving a north London address he’d been staying at before stopping at a petrol station to buy a petrol can and fill it with 5.5 litres of petrol.

He was then recorded taking a bus to Harlesden before lingering outside of his wife’s home as she was being spoken to by police.

‘Eventually, after the police had gone, the defendant poured some of the petrol he had bought in through the letter box in the front door,’ said Mr Emlyn-Jones

‘He then changed his approach and broke in, smashed the front room window and climbed in. CCTV shows that it was shortly after he did so that the fire started. The fire quickly engulfed the house.

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

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

‘The defendant managed to escape to the back garden via an upstairs window. Denise lived with a friend, a family friend in her sixties who occupied the back bedroom upstairs at the back of the house.

‘She too escaped the fire via her bedroom window, but only after the fire brigade attended and rescued her with the help of a neighbour.

‘But what about Denise? ‘I am afraid that Denise did not escape the fire.

‘Her body was found in her bedroom, upstairs at the front of the address.

‘She had suffered extensive burns, as well as the effects of fire fumes and smoke inhalation.

‘She was taken from the scene to hospital, but emergency medical staff were unable to save her; and she was pronounced dead that same morning.

‘The extent, the nature and the pattern of the burns to Denise’s body have been analysed by a consultant plastic surgeon, in fact a former army doctor who is experienced in and specialises in the treatment of burns.

‘It is his view, and you will hear from him, that Denise’s injuries suggest that petrol had been poured over her head and upper body and then ignited.

‘Although she was found lying down, the pattern of injuries indicates that she had been in an upright position when first exposed to the fire,’ said Mr Emlyn-Jones.

‘At the outset, let me tell you that the defendant does not deny starting that fire, and there is of course no issue that the fire caused Denise Keane-Simmons’ death.

‘The defendant’s case is that he went there to kill himself – he says he meant Denise no harm at all.

The Old Bailey heard Simmons broke into her home, poured petrol over her before setting it alight. Pictured, a charred building with a broken front door following the fire

The Old Bailey heard Simmons broke into her home, poured petrol over her before setting it alight. Pictured, a charred building with a broken front door following the fire

‘His case is that he meant only to set himself on fire, in front of her, so that she would have to watch him die.’

Before the fire Simmons had set up covert video cameras in Ms Keane-Simmons’ home to spy on her and posted a sexual image of her in the bath on social media, it is said.

Ms Keane-Simmons was a year one teaching assistant at Pakeman Primary School in Holloway.

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

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

The victim met Simmons in Trinidad and married him there in 2019 before the two of them moved to the UK.

The couple moved in with Mrs Keane-Simmons’ mother Merl who was ‘not entirely happy’ about the living arrangement or marriage, the court heard.

After Mrs Keane-Simmons’ mother had to go to hospital in 2019, family friend Maureen Lalgie moved into the house and she lived until the night of the fire.

After the blaze, Ms Lalgie – who has since passed away – told police the atmosphere of the house was ‘strained’ with Simmons wanting his wife to change her behaviour and stop seeing friends.

After Mrs Keane-Simmons’ mother died, her husband started an argument with his wife over some ex-boyfriends attending the funeral.

He told his wife he was ‘the man of the house’ and there was ‘no respect’ for him causing the bereaved woman to burst into tears, it is said.

According Ms Lalgie’s after that Simmons’ behaviour ‘began to change’ while his wife became more isolated and stopped seeing friends.

In an argument in January last year a shirtless Simmons drunkenly swore and shouted at his wife and attempted to lock her in the bedroom and police were called, it is said.

At a family gathering later that month officers attended again after Simmons got into a fight with his wife’s uncle.

‘On neither of these two occasions was the defendant charged with any offences,’ the prosecutor said.

‘These incidents are not evidence of him committing any sort of offence or criminal conduct, but they are evidence of the way in which the relationship between him and his wife was deteriorating at that time.

Mrs Keane-Simmons later told Maureen Lalgie that Simmons had been recording conversations at the house and had played some back to her, the court heard.

Ms Keane-Barnett-Simmons taught at Pakeman Primary School in Holloway, north London, as a year one classroom assistant

The 36-year-old was the niece of singer Eddy Grant

Despite efforts from doctors, Ms Keane-Barnett-Simmons was tragically pronounced dead at 6am on Thursday April 16

She told her friend Debbie Debreo that her husband was ‘controlling’, wouldn’t let her go out alone and that she was scared of him.

Ms Debreo witnessed Simmons being aggressive and intimidating towards his wife, physically dragging her and grabbing her by the wrists, only leaving after the police were called.

That night Ms Debreo noticed that the light in her friend’s bedroom was different, she discovered a hidden camera hidden inside the light bulb.

Simmons later admitted to police he had bought the camera but denied he was using it to spy on his wife, claiming he purchased it for the Trinidad and Tobago UK Association.

‘His case is that Denise knew all about it, and that in fact she had even given him money to buy it,’ said Mr Emlyn Jones.

‘The prosecution say this is simply not true. Also recovered from the defendant’s telephone was an exchange of WhatsApp messages between the defendant and his daughter – they are dated 31st January 2020.

‘At that time, he was no longer living at 16 Alric Avenue but his daughter was.

‘In the messages, the defendant told his daughter that something would be arriving for him in the post – he said “can you keep it in your room for me please”, and added “make sure you hide them so she don’t see it”.

After the camera was seized by police, Ms Keane-Simmons made her husband and his daughter move out of her house.

She did all she could to try to avoid her ex, staying at friends’ places changing her number and taking taxis to work.

She confided to friends he was repeatedly contacting her and had become convinced he was following her too.

In a report to the police, she described Simmons’ ‘jealous and obsessive behaviour’, including spreading lies about her in social media and making false allegations to her workplace.

A month later, police were called when Simmons’ turned up at his wife’s house and started banging on her door in March last year.

Earlier in March, Ms Keane-Simmons had spoken to a lawyer about getting a divorce, saying she had reported her ex for ‘unacceptable behaviour’ and ‘harassment’.

Eddy Grant was a founding member of The Equals and had a successful solo career with the hit single Electric Avenue

Eddy Grant was a founding member of The Equals and had a successful solo career with the hit single Electric Avenue

The night of the fire, Ms Debreo received a WhatsApp message from an unknown number containing a picture of her friend.

‘It shows Denise Keane-Simmons, naked in the bath,’ said Mr Emlyn-Jones.

‘It is a photograph which she had sent to the defendant in happier times, earlier in their relationship. Of course, she never intended it to be for anyone other than him to see.

‘You can see the message says – “she is a star now plenty to post before I die tonight,’ said the prosecutor.

Before sending the intimate picture to his wife Simmons posted it to his Instagram along with her maiden name, job and the school where she worked.

When one of wife’s friends messaged him to check on him, Simmons said: ‘I’m just waiting to die like everyone else,’ adding that she would ‘enjoy’ his death in the morning.

He admitted to posting the pictures online, adding: ‘Let her suffer like I did and feel humiliated like I do. Tell her it’s on IG now. Sorry buddy I tried.’

After receiving the picture, Ms Debreo called her friend who tearfully told her that Simmons had been emailing her.

‘Denise and Debbie spoke a few times over the next hour or two,’ said Mr Emlyn-Jones.

‘Denise told Debbie in one of these email that the defendant had told her that he had put pictures of her on Porn Hub which you can guess from the name is the name of a pornography website.

‘Poor Denise, of course, had enough. She telephoned the police to report the defendant for what he had done.

‘You will hear that 999 call during the evidence – but in short Denise told the police that her husband had posted naked pictures of her on the internet – she said she didn’t know where he was but that she would like him found.

‘She also said that in addition to posting the naked image of her to Instagram, he had sent a screenshot of his post to her email address, but she could see that not only had he posted thee naked picture of her, but also included details of where she worked and her maiden name.

‘You can imagine I am sure, or you can imagine, how that would have made her feel,’ said Mr Emlyn-Jones.

Mrs Keane-Simmons called the police who attended her house before leaving, unaware her killer was lurking outside.

The trial continues.


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