Essex

Maria Byrne death: Husband guilty of murder and arson

Morgan Crescent, Theydon Bois
Image caption Maria Byrne was killed at the couple's home in Morgan Crescent, Theydon Bois, in February

A husband who hit his wife over the head before dousing her body in white spirit and turning on a gas hob has been found guilty of murder and arson.

Maria Byrne, 35, died at the couple's home in Morgan Crescent, Theydon Bois, Essex, on 13 February.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard she had been hit on the head by Darren Byrne, 40, after finding out he had been having an affair.

Judge Charles Gratwicke described Byrne's crimes as "wicked and heinous".

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Byrne, who had denied the charges against him, had doused his wife's body with white spirit and had turned on the hob before going on an hour-long dog walk.

Returning to find his plan had not worked, he concocted a charade, the jury was told.

He called the emergency services to say his wife was "burned" and told the operator: "The stove was on and the frying pan's on the other side of the room. She's not breathing."

The court heard Byrne had told paramedics his wife had been making him a bacon sandwich and when he returned home she was dead.

Mrs Byrne's death was initially treated as unexplained but a murder inquiry started following a post-mortem examination, which identified white spirit on her clothing.

A half-empty bottle of white spirit was also found in the garage, the jury heard.

Byrne, a father of two, will be sentenced later this week.

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