A judge in Northern Ireland has sentenced a man, who set his wife on fire, in a car at the family farm, to a minimum period of 18 years in prison.

Thomas Rainey, aged 61, pleaded guilty to the murder of his wife Katrina Rainey at the family farm on Quarry Road in Knockloughrim, County Derry on October 12, 2021.

In a summary of the judgement it was stated that Katrina Rainey was found lying beside a car that was on fire. Her children were putting wet towels on her as she had been in the car when it had been set alight.

She had suffered severe burns over large parts of her body from which she died that night. The police recorded a statement from her on body-worn-video in which she said her husband had
opened the passenger door, threw something in a bucket over her, held her fleece so she could not get out of the car and set light to her.

Woke her children

Katrina Rainey was unable to get out of the car initially as she had her seatbelt on but then got out and sounded the horn which woke her children.

She had told the police that she had been to see a solicitor earlier in 2021 to initiate divorce proceedings and she had told her husband that she wanted him out of the house.

Katrina Rainey also told police at the scene that she believed the pending divorce was the cause of the attack on her.

The court had heard that Thomas Rainey had had a serious road traffic accident in 1990, and one of their children had died at the age of six in an accident on the farm for which he felt some responsibility.

The death of the child had had a serious negative impact on both parents and the marriage. Thomas Rainey had a recurring depressive disorder for over 35 years.

The court also heard that he was facing the prospect of divorce which may have led to the sale of the family farm to which he was especially attached and that this added to the existing significant stressors in his life.

The court rejected the defence submission that Thomas Rainey’s culpability was significantly reduced because the case came close to the borderline between murder and manslaughter.

The court also recognised the following major aggravating features

  • The murder was the ultimate act of domestic violence – counsel for the defendant submitted that on the evidence there was no history of domestic violence but the court said the murder of a wife who is seeking a divorce is in itself a definitive act of domestic violence;
  • It was witnessed by the children who heard the screams and ran out to see something they will never be able to forget, their mother in flames.


In terms of mitigating factors, the court recognised Thomas Rainey’s age, his history of depression and the remorse which he has expressed.

At Belfast Crown Court today (Wednesday, July 5) Justice O’Hara stated: “In my judgment the normal starting point cannot possibly apply in this case despite the submissions on behalf of the defendant.

“This murder was not remotely akin to one where there was a quarrel or loss of temper. To spell it out, the defendant planned this murder to the extent that he put petrol in the bucket, he had the bucket to hand as his wife went to drive off to work and he threw the petrol over her.

“He also had a lighter to hand which he used to start the fire in the confined space of the car which she was strapped into.”

The court concluded that Thomas Rainey should serve a minimum sentence of 18 years in prison before the Parole Commissioners consider whether he should be released.