An adulterous husband who strangled his wife and set light to her body after taking out more than £300,000 in life insurance is facing life in prison.
Thomas Peter, 50, forced a flannel cloth down his wife Karen’s throat before throttling her at their home in Romford, east London, on August 2.
Just one month earlier, Thomas took out the maximum £310,000 life insurance policy available in the event he or his wife should die.
Thomas Peter, 50, forced a flannel cloth down his wife Karen’s throat before throttling her at their home in Romford, east London, on August 2. He was found guilty of murder at the Old Bailey on February 7, 2019
Peter, a plasterer by trade, claimed to have accidentally strangled his wife when they both ‘fell over during a row in the bedroom.’
He then said he set her lifeless body on fire accidentally after he lit candles to ‘to calm the mood’.
The Old Bailey heard Peter flew into a jealous rage after learning the mother-of-three had finally moved on with a new lover, following years of violent abuse and affairs.
The job centre worker, also 50, had recently ditched her wedding and engagement rings, got a number of tattoos and told friends she had ‘met someone special’.
Prosecutor Gary Patterson said Peter set the series of fires to cover up the injuries and obliterate the tattoos he hated along with the phones his wife used to contact her new man.
‘The deliberate burning shows his rage, and it shows the reason why he murdered her in the first place,’ he explained.
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 but was found guilty today.
Mrs Peter’s parents, Dennis and Margery, clasped hands at the back of the court as the verdicts were announced
The Common Serjeant of London, Judge Richard Marks QC, remanded Peter in custody ahead of sentence on February 11.
He faces spending a minimum of 30 years behind bars due to the fact that the murder was carried out for gain.
Jurors heard the pair married in 1994 but ‘it had been a far from happy relationship for Karen’.
She finally applied for a divorce in February 2010 citing her husband’s adultery and stating that the relationship had broken down irretrievably.
But they continued to live together under the same roof with their three daughters.
Their divorce was granted weeks later, in September 2010, but they remarried in February 2012.
‘Although married again, things were still not easy for Karen,’ Mr Patterson said.
‘His adultery continued.
‘Messages found by police on the defendant’s phone showed that for long periods after the remarriage he conducted a series of relationships with other women, often overlapping with each other.
‘These other relationships involved his having sex with these women and expressing his love for these other women, often at the same time as he was professing his love for Karen, his wife, or at the same time she was expressing in messages her love or showing the efforts she was making in the marriage.’
The prosecutor told jurors that Peter would ‘act in a controlling way towards his wife and in a threatening way towards her’.
During their relationship the couple had ‘hundreds of rows’ and Karen spent years ‘tiptoeing around his ego and his bullying’.
Just weeks before her murder she texted a friend to say: ‘I just need to be careful.’
‘It’s prophetic; she knows he is capable of further violence,’ Mr Patterson said
Peter’s sense of ‘control’ was still there last summer when he discovered his wife’s plans to leave him.
‘His fragile ego couldn’t take it and he was not prepared to let that happen,’ said Mr Patterson.
Karen was killed the day before she had arranged a night out with a friend.
‘What she must have endured in that final hour of her life is difficult to think about,’ the prosecutor continued.
He said Peter’s claim that his wife ran on his hands when they were stretched forward at her as they tussled together was ‘nonsense.’