Finsbury Park fire killer was a psychiatric nurse in Highgate
PUBLISHED: 11:20 12 May 2011 | UPDATED: 11:30 12 May 2011
A PSYCHIATRIC nurse who turned his girlfriend into a “zombie” by pouring petrol over her head and burning her alive has been jailed for 21-and-a-half years.
Jealous Aiah Tondoneh, 44, who worked at the Highgate Mental Health Centre, in Dartmouth Park Hill, decided to kill 50-year-old Donna Drepaul after she returned home late from a meeting with another man.
She suffered horrific burns over her face and body at her 17th floor flat in Clifton Court, Biggerstaff Street, Finsbury Park.
Neighbours were woken up by her banging on their doors and groaning but were too scared to go out and help. Ms Drepaul’s clothes and hair had been burnt off, and she was so disfigured by burns that no-one could recognise her.
Paramedics who arrived at the scene described her as “almost zombie-like” as she staggered towards them with her arms outstretched.
She was taken to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital but died two days later on July 4 after suffering multiple organ failure.
The Old Bailey heard Tondoneh was married but had been seeing Ms Drepaul – a well-liked senior staff nurse at University College Hospital, in Euston - for around four years.
By the time of her death she was trying to end the relationship because of his jealousy.
Phillip Bennetts QC, prosecuting, said: “He disliked the deceased’s independence. He also considered himself better educated and would openly make reference to that.
“He was jealous, possessive and controlling of her. His persistent telephoning of her to find out where she was, who she was with and what she was doing and his public belittling her amongst family and friends clearly caused the independent and successful Donna Drepaul to conclude the relationship had no future.”
Ms Drepaul had been seeing another man for the previous two years. On the night of July 1 last year she met him for a drink and then went to a hotel with him until around 3.30am.
Tondoneh made 48 phone calls to her during the night without success and at 3am was caught on CCTV walking to the local garage.
He bought a petrol container, cigarettes and petrol and then returned to the victim’s flat.
At 4.15am he set her alight, before creeping away to his own home in Kilburn as paramedics treated her.
She was able to give his name and tell them: “My partner, my partner, he poured gasoline on me and set me on fire.”
At the scene police found the petrol container which bore Tondoneh’s DNA.
Jailing Tondoneh for life with a minimum of 21-and-a-half years, Mr Justice Nicol said: “‘The injuries to Donna were the stuff of a horror movie for the neighbours and emergency services who dealt with her.
“It takes very little imagination to imagine the distress they later experienced when they realised they had closed their doors to a woman in agony, even though there was nothing they could have done to save her.
“I have in mind the horrific nature of her injuries and the intense pain and suffering that she must have endured.”
Ms Drepaul had moved to the UK from Guyana in the early 1990s and was described as “the best mother any son could have wished for” by her son Sherman.
“She had many friends and no person ever had a bad word to say about her,” said Mr Drepaul. “She was my best friend and I now feel completely empty inside.”
Her sister Miriam Drepaul added: “I find it increasingly difficult to cope with the way she died.
“To see what he did to my sister is beyond belief. When Donna died a big part of me died too.”
A spokesman for the Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust said: “At the time of his arrest, Mr Tondoneh was employed by the Trust as part of a team in a highly supervised environment. His employment ceased immediately.
“We were deeply shocked by this tragic event, and we have offered our support and condolences to the families affected.”
Tondoneh, of Claire Court, Shoot Up Hill, Kilburn, pleaded guilty to murder.
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