The 41-year-old woman died from her injuries on Sunday at the Keningau district hospital, 16 hours after the incident at the house in Kampung Tinagalan on Saturday night.
The couple’s 16-year-old daughter, who was in the house, managed to save her younger siblings from the fire that razed their wooden home.
Police have arrested the 50-year-old man and are investigating the case for murder.
Keningau district police chief Superintendent Yampil Anak Garai said the incident apparently occurred during an argument between the couple while drinking tapai, an alcoholic drink derived from fermenting rice or other starchy foods.
He said initial police investigations found that the couple were in an intoxicated state when their verbal argument took place – before it got out of hand when the wife challenged the husband to set her on fire.
Yampil said that the husband had earlier threatened to set his wife on fire.
“The suspect reportedly doused his wife with petrol before lighting a match,” he said. “The couple’s 16-year-old daughter immediately took her two younger siblings out of the house.”
Yampil said the teenager tried to put out the fire on her mother’s body before getting help from her uncle.
He said the suspect then took the victim to a clinic for initial treatment before being referred to the Keningau Hospital for further treatment.
“However, the victim was confirmed dead by the Keningau Hospital at 1.41pm on Sunday,” Yampil said.
Yampil said the suspect, who did not have any previous criminal record and whose urine screening test was found to be negative for drugs, had been remanded until February 9 for further investigation.