A MAN who strangled his wife then burnt her body as his three daughters were in the house has been given life imprisonment.
Thomas Peter, 50 years old, of Valentines Way, Romford, carried out the wicked crime on 2 August 2018 while his three daughters were still in the family home.
Peter was sentenced at the Old Bailey on Monday, 11 February to life imprisonment to serve a minimum of 25 years for the murder of his wife Karen Peter. He was also sentenced to seven years for arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered, to run concurrently. He was found guilty of both offences on 7 February.
The couple’s eldest daughter, Imogen, said: “I find it hard to describe the devastation that blew our world apart on the 2 August.
“When they told us our mother’s body had been found inside the house, time stood still, frozen, people talked but nothing made sense.
“How can I describe in words our loss, the effect will be felt throughout our lives for the forthcoming years.
“When I think to the future it’s hard to imagine it without her. I will expect mum to walk through the front door and my heart aches when she fails to appear, a pain I’ve never felt before.
“I long for her to hold me, one more evening of cuddles on the sofa. I miss her smell. I searched the house for something of mum’s so I could hold onto her but everything was gone, destroyed due to fire damage, just like her, gone, no more.”
Karen’s mother, Marjorie McDonald, said: “I married Dennis McDonald 57 years ago and we had two amazing children, Daryl and Karen. Our son left us 22 years ago, he passed away at the age of 30. I visit his grave every week without fail. Karen and I supported each other through our bereavement. I could talk to Karen and we would relive childhood memories of her and Daryl.
“Without realising it through the years we became inseparable. Karen would say to me, ‘I don’t need a best friend mum when I have you.’ Karen would pop round most days.
“She would sit in the armchair by the telly, Dennis would sit next to her. So many times I would come into the room and find them giggling away to themselves, they were always laughing. Karen would turn up at all hours with the girls, I didn’t mind, I would always rustle them up egg and chips. We would sit around chatting and laughing, those memories I will keep close.”
The court heard that Karen’s death involved having cloth forced deep in her mouth, probably to muffle her screams before Peter strangled her. The pathologist reported that the strangulation had been for a ‘sustained and significant period’.
Peter had then moved her body and set fire to it, also setting fire to the bedroom where the attack took place.
The jury was also told that on 2 July 2018, Peter took out life insurance for both himself and his wife, opting for a policy where he would get a £310,000 pay out if Karen died.
Detective Sergeant Perry Benton, the investigating officer from the Met’s Homicide and Major Crime Command, said: “Peter is an evil man and I am delighted he has been convicted and jailed 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.”