Essex

Maria Byrne murder: Wife 'was victim of gaslighting'

Darren Byrne and Maria Byrne Image copyright Essex Police
Image caption Darren Byrne claimed his wife Maria died after making him a bacon sandwich

A woman killed after discovering her "spoilt" and "selfish" husband was having an affair was the victim of gaslighting, her family told a review.

Maria Byrne, 35, was murdered by Darren Byrne at the couple's home in Theydon Bois, Essex, on 13 February 2016.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse that causes victims to question their own feelings and sanity.

A Domestic Homicide Review into Mrs Byrne's death found it could not have been foreseen or prevented.

Former stockbroker Byrne hit his wife over the head before dousing her body in white spirit and turning on a gas hob, in the hope her body would catch fire, his trial heard. He then went out for a walk.

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

He denied both murder and arson but was convicted by a Chelmsford Crown Court jury and sentenced to life with a minimum of 24 years.

Image caption Mrs Byrne was killed at the couple's home in Morgan Crescent

A report into the mother of two's death commissioned by Epping Forest Community Safety Partnership said that "no friend or relative ever considered [Mrs Byrne] to be at risk in her personal life".

It added her family members have since reflected on the relationship and believed Byrne to be "controlling" and "not happy unless he had [her] full attention and that she was doing what he believed was his priorities".

In May 2015 she had discovered "flirtatious messages" on his phone and he told her it was "all in her mind and that she was imagining things".

Her family said he "would come home deliberately late if he knew that [Mrs Byrne] was going out and that he would deliberately make things difficult for her".

While there were no known instances of violence, the family told the report authors that on one occasion Byrne "deliberately made [her] fear for her life [by] driving up the motorway 100mph eating and drinking" which they believed to be a "controlling mechanism".

Although the report is anonymised, the BBC understands it relates to Mrs Byrne's murder.

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