Ian Stewart: Bassingbourn murder not 'exceptionally high-seriousness case'

Court of Appeal judges, including Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, will consider the sentences of five killers

Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, Dame Victoria Sharp, Lord Justice Holroyde, Mr Justice Sweeney and Mr Justice Johnson will consider whether to alter the sentences of five killers - Credit: Elizabeth Cook/PA

Double murderer Ian Stewart would die in prison regardless of his sentence, his barrister has said.

Amjad Malik QC represented Stewart at an appeal in London which could see the killer's whole-life order replaced with a new sentence.

Stewart, aged 61, was sentenced to 34 years in prison in 2017 after he was found guilty of murdering his fiancée, Royston children's author Helen Bailey, one year earlier.

He was handed a whole-life order in February 2022 when he was found guilty of murdering his first wife in Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire, in 2010.

Children's author Helen Bailey, from Royston, who Ian Stewart murdered in 2016

Children's author Helen Bailey, from Royston, who Ian Stewart murdered in 2016 - Credit: Archant

Diane Stewart, who lived with Stewart in Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire, before her death in 2010

Diane Stewart, who lived with Stewart in Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire, before her death in 2010. A murder investigation into her death concluded with a whole-life tariff for Ian Stewart in February 2022 - Credit: Supplied

The murderer was absent for a Court of Appeal hearing today (Wednesday, May 4), where judges are reviewing his sentence along with four others.

Mr Malik said Stewart's whole-life order for murdering his first wife is not justified given the circumstances surrounding the case.

"A man who is going to die in prison because of natural age even with the sentence that he has received of 34 years," Mr Malik said, referring to his original sentence.

"It could be said that there was just punishment and retribution imposed on Mr Stewart."

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The barrister said Stewart's two killings do not "fall in any way shape or form as an exceptionally high-seriousness case."

He argued that there were many cases of "serial killers" who received lifelong sentences, but that Stewart's does not fall into that category.

Ian Stewart, from Letchworth, was convicted of murdering his wife in 2010 and his new fiancée in 2016

Ian Stewart, from Letchworth, was convicted of murdering his wife in 2010 and his new fiancée in 2016 - Credit: Hertfordshire Constabulary

A court sketch showing Wayne Couzens, 41, the former Metropolitan Police officer who murdered Sarah Everard (right)

A court sketch showing Wayne Couzens, 41, the former Metropolitan Police officer who murdered Sarah Everard (right) - Credit: Elizabeth Cook/PA

Former Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, 49, from Deal in Kent, is also appealing his whole-life tariff in the same court.

He kidnapped, raped and murdered 33-year-old Sarah Everard in March 2021, which he admitted in court last September.

Jim Sturman QC represented Couzens.

He said: "Mr Couzens accepts that his crimes are abhorrent and nothing I say in any way is intended to minimise them or to minimise the impact of these crimes on Sarah Everard’s family and huge circle of friend."

Mr Sturman added that the judge's original finding that Couzens was not remorseful is "untenable".

He said: "He was too ashamed to meet anyone’s eye.

"He was not brazen, staring down at the court in the way sometimes seen.

"The combination of his remorse and his guilty pleas should balance out that aggravating factor which clearly exists, of him being a police officer, albeit off-duty in half uniform."

But Tom Little QC, representing the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said of Couzens: "His criminality was, as found by the judge, a fundamental attack in reality on our democratic way of life.    

"A police officer is in a uniquely powerful position."

Mr Little said the judge who sentenced Couzens, Lord Justice Fulford, provided a "clear and coherent justification" for imposing a whole-life order in September 2021.

Thomas Hughes, 29, of Cranmore Road in Solihull, attempted to appeal his 21-year sentence following his involvement in the murder of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes in 2020.

The Attorney General's Office is trying to extend his sentence, arguing that it is too lenient.

The Attorney General's Office also argued that the sentences of Hughes' accomplice Emma Tustin, 32, and murderer Jordan Monaghan, 31, of Belgrave Close, Blackburn, are "unduly lenient".

Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, Dame Victoria Sharp, Lord Justice Holroyde, Mr Justice Sweeney and Mr Justice Johnson retired to make their decisions shortly before 3.30pm.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett said: "We propose to take time to consider our decisions in these very difficult and tragic cases."