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Family of killer Ian Stewart's first wife back police probe into her death

The family of cesspit killer Ian Stewart's first wife have announced their support for a police probe into her sudden death.

The "wicked" predator was branded a "real danger to women" as he was jailed for 34 years at St Albans Crown Court for smothering his fiancee, children's author Helen Bailey.

The death of Diane Stewart, who was found in the garden of the house she shared with Stewart in 2010, is set to be re-examined following the conviction.

Her family said in a statement: "The last few months, watching the investigation and trial of Helen Bailey's murderer has been a difficult time for our family.

"We didn't know Helen but our sympathy goes out to all of her family and friends, we cannot imagine what they have been through and how they are feeling.

"We are fully aware of the re-examination of Diane's death and support the police in their actions and would like to thank the police for how they have supported our family during this difficult time.

"Whilst their work is ongoing we do not wish to make any further comment and would ask the press not to contact us."

An inquest at the time concluded Mrs Stewart died of natural causes from a "sudden unexpected death in epilepsy".

Her body was cremated, police said.

Detective Chief Inspector Jerome Kent said: "There is not a murder investigation into Diane Stewart, there is a re-examination of a sudden, unexpected death."

The couple's two sons, Jamie and Oliver, said in a statement the conviction of their last living parent had been an "extremely difficult time".

Jamie, 24, did not meet his father's gaze as he was led from the dock following the guilty verdicts on Wednesday.

The two boys lived with Stewart and Ms Bailey at the sprawling £1.5 million property under which her body was hidden.

They said in a statement: "We understand a significant investigation has been carried out since Helen went missing. Understandably this is an extremely difficult time for us and we have no further comment to make other than for the media to respect our privacy."

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 very real danger to women with whom you form a relationship."

Stewart spent weeks poisoning his bride-to-be with prescription sedatives before smothering her last year in a "heinous" plot motivated by greed.

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

Besotted Ms Bailey had been excitedly 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 luxury home together, the avaricious predator slowly began slipping her his prescription anti-insomnia medication.

Knowing he was her chief heir - standing to gain £1.8 million in investments plus the value of two 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 and wanted to be your wife, 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, whom he claimed had abruptly left in search of "space".

His deceit culminated with a fantastical tale of a kidnap plot by two men named Nick and Joe, whom he blamed for Ms Bailey's 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.

"I have read the impact statement of Helen Bailey's brother John dated February 14 2017, in which he sets out the effect which the cruel murder of his sister had and will continue to have on him, Helen's mother and father and her many close friends, who all feel an enormous sense of outrage at the way she and her dog Boris met their deaths at your hands.

"As John Bailey rightly observes, the world has lost a gifted author and her family and friends will have to live the rest of their lives with the deep sense of loss your wicked crime has inflicted upon them."

Stewart was also sentenced to 18 months for illicitly boosting a standing order to himself from Ms Bailey's bank account on the day of the killing, earning him £12,000 over three months.

He was given three years for hiding her body in the grim burial site below their garage and six years in total for perverting the course of justice by disposing of her phone, a duvet used to aid the murder and lying to police.

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