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Ex-soldier guilty of killing BGT singer in explosive rage

Desmond Sylva, who served in Iraq and Kosovo, was convicted of murder after the jury deliberated for three days.

Simonne Kerr, 31, a nurse who performed on Britain’s Got Talent as part of an NHS choir (NHS Press Office/PA)
Simonne Kerr, 31, a nurse who performed on Britain’s Got Talent as part of an NHS choir (NHS Press Office/PA)

An Iraq war veteran has been found guilty of stabbing a Britain’s Got Talent finalist to death in a violent rage.

Desmond Sylva, 41, knifed his on-off girlfriend Simonne Kerr, 31, more than 70 times at his flat in Clapham, south London, on August 15 last year.

The former soldier, who served in Iraq and Kosovo, admitted manslaughter but denied murder, citing depression.

But prosecutor Oliver Glasgow QC told jurors it was an all too familiar case of “sexual desire, appalling violence and desperate lies”.

He said: “He wanted to restart a sexual relationship with Simonne Kerr. When he did not get what he wanted, he could not control his anger and he exploded.”

Sylva made no reaction as the Old Bailey jury delivered its guilty verdict after three days of deliberations.

Judge Wendy Joseph QC adjourned sentencing until June 28.

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Desmond Sylva, 41, was said to be ‘pre-disposed to violence’ (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Ms Kerr, whose six-year-old son Kavele tragically died of sickle cell disease, shot to fame in the NHS choir B Positive on the ITV show Britain’s Got Talent.

She met Sylva through dating app Tinder and arranged to visit his flat after finishing her shift at Guys and St Thomas’s Hospital on the morning of August 15.

Sylva attacked her in bed with a 20cm kitchen knife, slashing her throat and repeatedly stabbing her face and neck.

Afterwards, he called 999 and said: “I’ve just committed a murder. I’m ex-Army and I’ve got lots of mental health issues.”

Mr Glasgow told jurors: “It is hard to imagine how terrifying the last few minutes of Simonne Kerr’s life must have been as she struggled to prevent the man who was supposed to care for her from murdering her.

“The moment she realised the man who had been pursuing her wanted more than a relationship and in fact wanted to kill her must have been utterly horrifying.”

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Forensics and a police officer at the scene of Simonne Kerr’s death (John Stillwell/PA)

Sylva had a history or depression, bipolar disorder and post traumatic stress disorder – but also had problems controlling his temper, jurors heard.

Before he joined the Army, Jamaican-born Sylva had cut his neck while working in a bakery.

The divorced father-of-one served 10 years in the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers before being discharged on medical grounds.

In 2010, Sylva throttled his mother Patricia King, telling her repeatedly: “You’re dead,” jurors heard.

Ms King reported the assault to police, but later withdrew the complaint because he had been depressed and suicidal.

Sylva’s ex-wife had also accused him of being violent, but jurors were told the allegation was unproven.

On August 9 last year, Sylva was admitted to hospital after he took an overdose.

The day before the killing, the security guard told his brother Damian, a serving Signalman, he feared he would kill himself or someone else.

Giving evidence, Sylva said: “I did not mean to kill her. I had deep feelings for her.

“When I slashed the knife across her throat at that split second I thought I had a mental breakdown.”

Psychiatrist Dr Philip Joseph told jurors Sylva suffered from moderate depression, but did not report having flashbacks of Iraq during the killing.

He said Sylva had told him they argued and she called him a “good for nothing” before threatening him with a knife.

The defendant claimed he must have lost control as he disarmed her, but said he could not remember the stabbing.

Dr Joseph questioned whether it had anything to do with being depressed, suggesting Sylva was “pre-disposed to violence”.

He added: “It may be his attack on Simonne is all to do with battling with feelings and angry outbursts leading to an enraged state of mind.”

Louise Attrill, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “This was a shocking attack on a woman who was busy dedicating her life to worthwhile causes. Having lost her six-year-old son to sickle cell disease, she was campaigning to raise awareness of the illness, and her charitable work also led her to sing in an NHS choir that performed on ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent.

“The fact that her partner, a man she should have trusted without doubt, could end all of this in a fit of rage makes this even harder to comprehend.”

Ms Kerr’s family said in a statement: “The 15th August will forever be a day our family will remember and we will mourn our loss. A beautiful butterfly will forever remind us of Simonne.”

Detective Chief Inspector John Massey, of Scotland Yard, said: “I’d like to pay tribute firstly to the family of Simonne Kerr. Simonne was murdered on 15 August 2018 by a man she trusted and with whom she wanted to rekindle a trusting, loving relationship.

“Desmond Sylva stabbed Simonne almost 70 times and then sought to reduce his guilt and responsibility for what he had done.

“Simonne’s family have shown incredible courage and dignity while listening to Desmond Sylva’s self-serving version of events. I hope today’s verdict goes some way to providing them with the sense of justice and closure that they need to go forward with their own lives.”

PA

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