An “evil and controlling” man has been jailed for life for strangling his wife and setting her body on fire weeks after taking out a life insurance policy.
Serial adulterer Thomas Peter, 50, attacked “bubbly” Karen Peter last August because he feared she had met someone new, the Old Bailey heard.
Weeks before, the “wicked and cruel” plasterer took out a life insurance policy of £310,000 in her name.
He shoved a flannel into his 50-year-old wife’s mouth to prevent her from screaming to their three daughters as he attacked her at their home in Romford, Essex.
Peter dragged her by the hair and set her body alight to disguise what he had done, jurors heard.
Previously, he had throttled his wife of 24 years and called her “fat” and a “bad mother” during arguments, and showed “not one ounce of compassion” during the trial, Gareth Patterson QC said.
Firefighters found Mrs Peter’s body heavily burned around the groin and thighs, with marks to her head and neck.
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She had bitten her husband’s hand and a piece of skin was retrieved from her mouth, the court heard.
Thomas Peter showed no remorse for killing his wife. Pic: Met Police
Mrs Peter’s mother told the court she stood outside the burning house in Valentines Way and “watched helpless as it burned”, without knowing her daughter was trapped inside because Peter had said she was out.
Peter claimed he killed his wife by accident, but was found guilty of murder and arson and was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 25 years for murder and seven years for arson, to run concurrently.
Judge Richard Marks QC called him “wicked and cruel”, adding that he 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.
“You pleaded not guilty to these offences and put your daughters and your mother-in-law through the ordeal of giving evidence.
“I observe that you have shown absolutely no remorse for what you did and for the fact that you have shattered their lives.”
Karen Peter, 50, had her mouth stuffed with a flannel. Pic: Met Police
Mrs Peter’s daughter, Imogen Peter, 22, said she always saw her father as her “protector” but actually, they “needed protection from” him.
“We are young, we do not want to be engulfed in sorrow, we still have our lives to live,” she said.
“When we remember mum we want to remember her funny capers, her laughter, not that tragic day. Our mother deserves to be remembered for the special person she was.”
Mrs Peter’s mother, Marjorie McDonald, 80, said she had now lost two “amazing” children, after her son Daryl died 22 years ago.
She said Mrs Peter was her “best friend”, adding: “I knew her marriage to Thomas wasn’t right but she never talked about it and I never pried.
“I look back now and I wish I had asked more questions.”
Karen Peter was attacked in her home in Romford. Pic: Met Police
Kerim Fuad QC, mitigating, said the three daughters, described as “bright and lovely”, had not just lost their mother, but their father as well, as he was “likely to die in jail”.
Detective Sergeant Perry Benton said: “Even today he came into court smiling as if this was another part of the case. No remorse, no compassion for what he had done.”