City trader burned wife alive after she discovered affair and then told police she died making bacon sandwich

A former City trader burned his wife alive after she found out he was cheating on her with another woman – and then claimed she died while making him a BLT.

Darren Byrne was found guilty of murdering his 35-year-old wife, Maria, in the kitchen of their home after she discovered a text message from his mistress.

The 40-year-old sat unemotional in the dock as a jury revealed its verdict after deliberating for nine hours and seven minutes.During his trial court was told he knocked out his wife and then poured white spirit on her body and set her alight

Byrne even called 999 and was heard in a recording played to the court claiming he found his wife dead after a horrific cooking accident in their home in leafy Theydon Bois, Essex.

After a verdict was reached Judge Charles Gratwicke told Byrne: “You have been convicted of what can only be described as a wicked and heinous crime .

“I say nothing further at this stage save that you expect an exceedingly long sentence.”

Mrs Byrne, who was also a stockbroker, was killed after a text between her husband and his London osteopath revealed he was still involved in an illicit relationship.

The couple’s two children were not home at the time of the murder.

A jury at Chelmsford Crown Court heard how Maria confronted her husband as he had earlier promised he would stop seeing married Deborah Houlihan.

Police outside the family home shortly after the murder (Photo: Eastnews Press Agency)

Ms Houlihan had told court she carried on seeing Byrne despite both of their partners believing the affair was over, telling the court it was “fun and no more”.

She said: “Deep down in my heart I knew it was wrong but we made each each other feel good and I felt excited by the spark we had between us.”

Byrne had told his wife that the affair was over, but on February 13 this year she discovered a text on a secret phone he used to communicate with Ms Houlihan.

After Mrs Byrne was knocked out during an argument about the affair and set on fire her husband turned on the gas stove in a bid to burn the house down, court heard.

After this failed he moved her body to make it look a tragic cooking accident before called the emergency services, saying: “My wife is dead, she is dead. She’s burnt badly.”

Byrne murdered his wife in their home in leafy Theydon Bois, Essex (Photo: Eastnews Press Agency)

Byrne, who denied murder, told police he been out walking the dog whilst his wife made him a bacon sandwich but returned home to find her lying on the floor – but it was slammed by prosecutor Andrew Jackson as a “calculated lie” in court.

Examination of CCTV footage showed he had walked their dog an hour earlier than he had claimed, said Essex Police.

Mr Jackson told the jury of eight women and four men: “Maria discovered his continued infidelity and challenged him in anger, the prosecution say this defendant then physically assaulted his wife Maria and he knocked her unconscious.

“What he then did was douse her in white spirit, flammable white spirit, and he set his own wife Maria on fire.

“The prosecution say he burned her to death in their own home.

“His intention, we say, was to not only kill her by fire but to burn down the house as well to destroy the evidence of what he had done to her.”

Byrne was found guilty of murder by a majority verdict of 11-1 and arson unanimously.

It is expected he will be sentenced later this week.

Mrs Byrne’s mother, Linda Biggs, described the horrific murder as “beyond any human comprehension”.

She said: “Eight years ago we entrusted Maria, the most precious thing we had to Darren Byrne.

“We loved him and treated him like our own son.

“This person, instead of loving and protecting her, took her life in the most degrading way.”

 

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