Man who killed wife and attempted to burn down house is convicted of murder

Dec 12, 2016, 04:36 PM

A former stockbroker who killed his wife then attempted to burn their house down to cover up what he had done has been convicted of murder.

Darren Byrne assaulted Maria Byrne during an argument on Saturday, February 13 after she discovered he had rekindled an affair with another woman.

He then set fire to her by using white spirit and then turned on the gas in the kitchen of their home in Morgan Crescent, Theydon Bois. Byrne rang 999, claiming he had come home from walking their dog to find her on fire in the kitchen.

When paramedics arrived, they found Maria lying on the floor with severe burns to her upper body and face. She was sadly pronounced dead at the scene.

Police launched an investigation to establish how she died and Byrne told officers they had spent the day together at home while their two young children were staying with grandparents.

He claimed to have then gone out at 2.40pm to walk their dog and returned home at about 3.30pm to the smell of gas and the smoke alarm ringing.

He told police he found his wife in the kitchen and called for an ambulance. He was instructed to give her CPR until help arrived.

However, during the course of their enquiries, officers discovered Byrne, 40, had had an affair the previous summer involving a series of flirtatious text messages. When Maria found out, she no longer trusted him and would check on his whereabouts and messages on his mobile phone and email, a jury at Chelmsford Crown Court heard.

She discovered her husband had rekindled the affair on the day she was murdered, after finding he had a second mobile phone, which he used to contact his mistress.

The couple also had financial worries as Byrne, 40, was made redundant from his job as a stockbroker a couple of weeks before Maria’s death.

Byrne was arrested after a preliminary post mortem examination showed an accelerant had been used and that Maria had been assaulted or restrained. White spirit was found on her clothes.

Examination of CCTV footage also showed he had walked their dog an hour earlier than he had claimed.

He refused to comment in subsequent police interviews and denied a charge of murder.

He stood trial at Chelmsford Crown Court on Monday November 21 and was found guilty on today. He will be sentenced later this week.

Senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Stephen Jennings said after the hearing: “Byrne brutally killed his wife before dousing her in white spirit and turning the gas on in the kitchen to cover up what he had done.

“He was motivated by his own selfishness and anger, needlessly ending Maria’s life in a most horrific way and tearing apart his own family.

“Two young children have been robbed of their mother by their own father and my thoughts are very much with them and Maria’s family as they continue to come to terms with their loss.

“Byrne has not shown any remorse and will now have to live with the consequences of what he has done and the devastating impact of his actions.”

Maria’s mother Linda Biggs described what Darren Byrne did to her daughter as “beyond any human comprehension”. She said: “Eight years ago we entrusted Maria, the most precious thing we had to Darren Byrne. We loved him and treated him like our own son.

This person, instead of loving and protecting her, took her life in the most degrading way.”