A “controlling bully” who strangled his wife and burned her body after taking out £310,000 in life insurance has been jailed for life.
Thomas Peter was found guilty of murdering Karen Peter in their home in Romford, east London, on 2 August 2018, after a trial at the Old Bailey.
He was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 25 years for murder and seven years for arson, to run concurrently.
Judge Richard Marks said Peter’s behaviour was “wicked and cruel”.
He called him “an arrogant, egotistical, chauvinistic controlling bully” who treated his wife “abysmally”.
Peter strangled his 50-year-old wife, rammed a flannel into her mouth and dragged her by the hair while their three children were at home. The serial adulterer feared his wife had met someone new and went on to set fire to her body to disguise what he had done.
The judge 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.”
Pete, who claimed he killed his wife by accident, took out the life insurance policy just weeks before the killing, the court was told.
Their three daughters all gave evidence in the trial against their father.
Imogen Peter, 22, said she longed for “cuddles on the sofa” with her mother as she recalled treasured memories.
She always saw her father as her “protector”, but said: “The irony is it was him we needed protection from.”
She added: “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.”
Det Sgt Perry Benton, of the Met Police, said: “Peter is an evil man and I am delighted he has been convicted and jailed and will face the consequences of his heinous crime.
“This was a vicious and merciless murder. Peter’s actions were sustained and deliberate, he meant to kill Karen. He then callously set fire to her body and the house in a bid to destroy evidence, also putting his daughters’ lives at risk.
“Peter refused to admit his guilt and has selfishly forced his daughters to re-live that awful morning at trial.”
His defence lawyer Kerim Fuad QC said the daughters had not just lost their mother, but had also their father.
“It is likely he will die in prison,” he added.
Mrs Peter’s mother Marjorie McDonald, 80, said: “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.”