Helen Bailey murder: A look back at the trial as Ian Stewart found guilty of ‘cold-blooded, financially motivated murder’ of Royston children’s author
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Ian Stewart has today been found guilty of murdering his partner Helen Bailey who he shared a home with in Royston – here we take a look back at the key points in the St Albans Crown Court trial.
Stewart, 56, drugged 51-year-old Helen for months before dumping her body in a cesspit beneath their home in Baldock Road, along with her beloved miniature dachshund Boris.
A jury at St Albans Crown Court today returned a verdict of guilty on charges of murder, fraud, preventing legal burial and three counts of perverting the course of justice.
Stewart, who is originally from Letchworth, had reported Helen missing on April 15 and was arrested on suspicion of murder on July 11.
He told the court that two men he identified only as ‘Joe and Nick’ – associates of her late husband John Sinfield, he said – had kidnapped Helen on April 11 before returning and dumping her body in the cesspit without his knowledge.
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Stewart reported his partner missing at 3.37pm on April 15 – after Joe and Nick told him not to contact police, he said – and told officers she had left a note saying she needed space and had gone to their holiday home in Broadstairs, Kent.
Under cross-examination, he said of the note: “I was stuck with that lie wasn’t I?”
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He failed to mention Joe and Nick for months after his arrest for murder, first writing about them in a statement on December 13 – when he said he was given a phone in prison, and the person on the line said they had sorted Joe and Nick and he could now tell the truth.
He had told the court he didn’t feel he could tell police about them before then because he was worried for Helen, and his sons Jamie and Oliver.
Mr Stewart said: “I thought I’d wait to see if she was still with Joe and Dave – sorry, Joe and Nick.”
Prosecutor Stuart Trimmer QC said Joe, Nick and the kidnap plot was a fantasy, and that it was part of a ‘long-crafted cynical and cruel plan to do away with Helen Bailey’.
After the murder, Stewart went to Bassingbourn doctors surgery to have the dressing changed on a wound from bowel surgery he had on March 18.
He also went to Royston Waste Recycling Centre to dispose of a duvet, which the prosecution said was used in the dragging of Ms Bailey’s body from the house to the cesspit. Stewart had claimed he soiled it while suffering bowel problems.
He also and went to drop papers off to Helen Bailey’s solicitor to progress with the sale of her flat, went to a bowls game in Cambridge and ordered a Chinese takeaway.
He told the court he was on auto-pilot to try to act normal at the request of Helen’s kidnappers.
While giving evidence, clean-shaven Stewart regularly became emotional, especially when speaking about Ms Bailey and his first wife Diane, who died in 2010.
The jury heard that Stewart joined an online group for widows and widowers and said that Helen contacted him first.
The pair exchanged long emails from then on – which eventually became ‘flirty’, they became intimate after a month of meeting, Stewart was named as a witness on her will in 2012, they moved into the Royston home in 2013 and by 2014 he was made beneficiary on the will and would inherit her fortune of nearly £4 million after her death.
Mr Trimmer told the court that Ms Bailey was a vulnerable bereaved woman, and that the defendant had gone onto forums for widows and widowers aware that they would have lots of money – Simon Russell Flint QC, defending, said Stewart was wealthy in his own right.
The seven-week trial heard evidence from many people, including officers in the case, Helen’s brother John Bailey, and her mother Eileen via video link.
Eileen Bailey told the court of Stewart’s relationship with Helen: “Well I felt uneasy about it, I was quite unhappy, mainly because of Helen’s state of mind.”
Helen had confided in Eileen about falling asleep in the afternoon, and had been searching online for ‘why do I keep falling asleep’.
The prosecution said that Stewart had been drugging her from February, and that her concerns about her health would prompt her to go to the doctors – who would find Zopliclone in her blood – and Stewart couldn’t risk that.
Prosecutor Mr Trimmer said: “You told the jury that she took the tablets from you, and that’s one of the most important things you’ve told the jury – because you’ve distanced yourself from the Zopliclone.”
The court heard that Stewart regularly made Helen scrambled eggs for breakfast but he didn’t on April 11, the day Ms Bailey died – it was then pointed out that he had told an officer he had.
“Why is it so important to you to say you didn’t cook her breakfast that day?” Mr Trimmer asked.
Stewart said the police interviews were confusing.
The prosecutor said: “Killing a woman like Helen is a very evil thing.” To which Stewart said it was ‘sick and disgusting’.
Mr Trimmer continued: “As far as you’re concerned you didn’t do it but, if you did, it’s a long game. You started administering Zopliclone from some time before she died.”
“That’s wrong,” Stewart had replied.
Mr Trimmer said: “Somebody who planned this would have to start it and eventually finish it. “There’s no point in giving someone a sleeping drug for no purpose. Your purpose was eventually to kill, her wasn’t it?”
Stewart, who had denied any wrongdoing, was found guilty of all charges this afternoon and will be sentenced tomorrow morning.