Belfast Telegraph

'Heinous' killer of children's author faces rest of his life behind bars

Police now probe first wife's death as judge jails predator for 34 years

By Jack Hardy

The predatory partner of children's author Helen Bailey was branded a "real danger to women" as he was jailed for 34 years for her murder.

Ian Stewart spent weeks poisoning the 51-year-old with prescription sedatives before smothering her last year in a "heinous" plot motivated by greed.

The Electra Brown writer was dragged into a cesspit deep below the couple's luxury home, where she remained hidden for three months.

A fresh police investigation into the death of the computer expert's first wife has now been launched.

Following a seven-week trial at St Albans Crown Court, Judge Andrew Bright sentenced Stewart, who refused to attend the hearing, to life with a minimum term of 34 years.

He told him: "I am firmly of the view that you currently pose a real danger to women with whom you form a relationship."

Besotted Ms Bailey had been planning a wedding with the man she referred to in her writing as "the Gorgeous, Grey-Haired Widower" when he killed her.

He first met the vulnerable widow on a Facebook group for the bereaved in 2011, showering her with affection to win his way into her trust and later her multimillion-pound estate.

After the couple moved into a £1.5m home together, the avaricious predator slowly began slipping her his prescription anti-insomnia medication.

Knowing he was her chief heir - standing to gain £1.8m in investments plus the value of properties - he suffocated her with a pillow while she was "too drowsy to fight you off", the judge said.

"She was so devoted to her dog Boris that you decided that you would also have to kill him if the wicked lies you planned to tell were to sound credible to those who knew her well," he said.

Boris, a brown-coated miniature dachshund, was found dead next to his owner in the foul pool of human waste on July 15, 2016.

An author who had worked on 22 titles, largely for a young adult audience, Ms Bailey was killed "at the height of her success as a writer", the judge added.

"Whilst we will never know whether you may have had some additional motive for killing the woman who loved you, I am in no doubt this is a clear case of a murder done in the expectation of gain, with aggravating features which make it difficult to imagine a more heinous crime," he told Stewart.

Among the aggravating features, he said, were the "planning and premeditation" of the crime and the "calculated and callous series of lies" Stewart used to hoodwink his fiancee's loved ones.

A jury found the 56-year-old, of Baldock Road, Royston, Hertfordshire, guilty in unanimous verdicts of murder, fraud, preventing a lawful burial and three counts of perverting the course of justice.

He is likely to "end his days behind bars" due to a litany of health problems which have dogged him for decades, his defence counsel said on Wednesday. For months, Stewart span a complex tale of deception about the disappearance of his bride-to-be, who he claimed had abruptly left in search of "space".

His deceit culminated with a fantastical tale of a kidnap by two men named Nick and Joe, who he blamed for her death.

The judge told him: "You deceived Helen Bailey's family and friends over a period of over three months, by a calculated and callous series of lies which meant that they had to endure the anguish and misery of not knowing her whereabouts or her fate for a long time before the appalling truth emerged."

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