A serial adulterer who strangled his wife and set her body on fire in order to claim a £300,000 life insurance policy has been given a life sentence for her murder.
Thomas Peter, 50, killed wife Karen just weeks after taking out the policy at their home in Romford, Essex.
The plasterer attacked Karen while their three children were at home – and jurors were told they heard muffled screams coming from their parents’ bedroom.
He was today jailed for life, and told it will be at least 25 years until he is eligible for parole.
Peter claimed he killed his wife by accident but was found guilty of murder and arson following an Old Bailey trial.
Judge Richard Marks QC sentenced Peter to life with a minimum term of 25 years for his “wicked and cruel” behaviour.
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The judge said Peter was “an arrogant, egotistical chauvinistic controlling bully” who treated his wife “abysmally”.
He said: “Karen must have suffered an agonising death in her own home as you squeezed the life out of her as she tried to attract the attention of her three daughters upon whom she doted but was unable because you rammed that cloth down her throat for the express purpose of stopping her doing so.”
The couple’s eldest daughter, Imogen, said after today’s sentencing hearing: “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.
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“I will 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.”
During his trial, prosecutor Gareth Patterson QC said Peter showed “not one ounce of compassion” for his wife of 24 years, who had suffered years of his “controlling” behaviour.
He was anxious she had met someone else, the Old Bailey was told.
Describing the murder, Mr Patterson 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.”
The pair’s daughters – now aged 22, 20 and 14 – were first alerted to their mum’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.