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Children's author Helen Bailey 'plied with sedatives and suffocated'

Children's author Helen Bailey was plied with sedatives and "probably suffocated" by her partner in a financially motivated killing, a court has heard.

The 51-year-old writer was found dumped in a well hidden below her sprawling £1.5 million property in Royston, Hertfordshire, in July 2016, three months after she was reported missing.

Near her side lay the remains of her beloved miniature dachshund, Boris.

Her fiance, Ian Stewart, 56, of Baldock Road, Royston, is accused of "secretly" giving her a sleeping drug in increasing amounts over time.

Then, on April 11, it is alleged he killed her and hid her remains in an "old-fashioned" cesspit below the garage at the home they shared - parking a car over the access point.

Opening Stewart's trial at St Albans Crown Court, prosecutor Stuart Trimmer QC said: "The Crown say this was simply a long-planned, deliberate killing, a cynically executed murder that had money as its driving motive."

He later added: "This was a cold-blooded murder - the defendant chose the method, the method to obscure it and he set about, almost successfully, to do just that."

On the day she is said to have died, Ms Bailey's bank account was accessed, with a standing order to the defendant bolstered from £600 to £4,000, the court heard. Stewart denied he carried out the transaction.

The former software engineer was in line for a "substantial financial advantage" of around £1.8 million plus the value of the two properties she owned in the event of her death, Mr Trimmer said.

Ms Bailey was said to be worth around £4 million, earning around £5,000 a month in royalties from her books.

In the weeks leading up to her death, she was concerned that she was feeling unnaturally sleepy.

She used a search engine to look up terms including "can't stop falling asleep" and told her family she felt forgetful.

A statement from her mother Eileen Bailey read to the court said: "She would say 'Mum, I don't even recognise my own hands' when she was sitting at the computer."

Mr Trimmer said: "The reason, the Crown says, is quite clearly because she was being fed Zopiclone."

Zopiclone was the sleeping drug, prescribed to the defendant for insomnia, which would have made Ms Bailey easy to kill "with little or no resistance", jurors were told.

Traces of the drug were found in her body during a post-mortem examination, having been there as early as February 2016.

Mr Trimmer added: "The Crown case is that ... Ian Stewart killed her, probably by suffocation whilst she was sedated by the drugs he had administered for some time."

It is alleged that a "charade" followed: the defendant sent texts to his partner's phone, despite allegedly having possession of it himself, supported a media campaign to trace her and emailed her repeatedly to profess his "undying love".

These were nothing more than a "cynical ploy", Mr Trimmer said.

On April 16, Ms Bailey's phone was discovered to have connected to the WiFi at her address in Broadstairs, Kent - the same day it was visited by Stewart - the court heard.

The router was found to be removed when officers visited again at a later date and eventually seen back at the Royston property.

Boris the dog was also killed by Stewart at some stage to add credence to the theory that Ms Bailey had gone missing, Mr Trimmer said.

He added: "If the world were to think Helen Bailey was missing, the dog too had to be missing."

After her disappearance, the defendant said he discovered a handwritten note from Ms Bailey saying she needed "space and time alone" and had gone to her Broadstairs home.

No note was ever found, the jury heard.

Stewart is then alleged to have "casually obstructed" the police investigation, as well as going on holiday to Spain and renewing the couple's season tickets to Arsenal FC.

Officers eventually made the grim discovery on July 15 after opening the hatch to the well, which was located under a concrete floor, and seeing an arm sticking out of the waste.

Stewart later told police that two men - named Joe and Nick - were responsible for the killing and the disposal of the body.

He is charged with murder, three counts of perverting the course of justice, preventing a lawful burial and fraud.

He denies all accusations.

Ms Bailey was known by younger readers for her characters Electra Brown and Daisy Davenport, but found a new audience with her blog, Planet Grief, about becoming a widow.

In the blog and subsequent book, she referred to Stewart as GGHW - the "Gorgeous Grey Haired Widower".

The case continues.

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