A manipulative man who strangled his wife and set light to her body after taking out more than £300,000 in life insurance has been found guilty of murder.
Serial adulterer Thomas Peter, 50, had throttled his job centre worker wife Karen in the past and took out the policy just weeks before the killing at the family home in Valentines Way, Romford, the Old Bailey was told.
The plasterer attacked 50-year-old Mrs Peter while their three children were at home on August 2 last year because he feared she had met someone new, jurors were told.
Gareth Patterson QC said he showed “not one ounce of compassion” for his wife of 24 years, who was just starting to grow in confidence after suffering years of his “controlling” behaviour.
Describing the murder, the prosecutor said: “He forced a flannel cloth deep into his wife’s mouth, possibly trying to silence her.
“With one or both hands he strangled his wife to death.
“After murdering her, and despite the presence of his daughters, he started at least two fires in the house. He set fire to his wife’s body and left it in a locked first floor bedroom.”
Their children were first alerted to their mother’s plight when they woke to a “muffled scream” coming from the bedroom, jurors heard.
Asked what was going on, Peter said she had gone out, even asking his children if they had done something to upset her, jurors heard.
Firefighters found Mrs Peter’s body heavily burned around the groin and thighs, with marks also to the head and neck.
The court heard there was evidence Mrs Peter had bitten her husband’s hand and a piece of skin was retrieved from her mouth.
Peter had denied murder and arson, saying his wife died in an accident.
That night, he said he had lit candles to “lighten the mood” before they argued and his wife kicked him to the knee.
The jury rejected his claims and unanimously found him guilty of murder and guilty of arson by a majority of 11 to one.
Mrs Peter’s family wept in court as the defendant was remanded into custody to be sentenced on Monday.
Detective Sergeant Perry Benton of Scotland Yard said: “Peter is an evil man and I am delighted he has been convicted and will face the consequences of his heinous crime.
“This was a vicious and merciless murder carried out by Peter in the family home while his three daughters slept in nearby rooms.
“Peter’s actions were sustained and deliberate, he meant to kill Karen. He then callously set fire to her body and the house in a bid to destroy evidence, also putting his daughters’ lives at risk.
“Throughout this whole period, Peter did not demonstrate one ounce of compassion or concern for his wife or children.
“Peter refused to admit his guilt and has selfishly forced his daughters to relive that awful morning at trial.”