Helen Bailey murder trial shown cesspit burial images
The foul pit of human sewage in which the body of children's author Helen Bailey was found hidden has been shown to a jury.
Encased in a hard crust of filth, the elbow of the Electra Brown writer, still in a stripey top, was just visible in images displayed at the trial of her fiance.
Ian Stewart, 56, is accused of drugging his partner with sedatives and probably smothering her in a financially driven plot last year.
In July 2016, three months after she vanished, the body of the 51-year-old was found in a cesspit deep below the couple's £1.5 million home with her dog, Boris.
A string of police interviews with Stewart following his arrest were also played to the court, throughout which he maintained near-total silence.
The painstaking, two-day excavation process to recover Ms Bailey's remains was outlined to jurors at St Albans Crown Court.
Detective Chief Inspector Jerome Kent said: "What I was faced with was a dry, hard crust of what I now know was more than mud.
"There was a small, very pale white object in that, which I now know was part of Helen's elbow.
"It was dark, it wasn't easy to see, it was almost like somebody being held underneath by ice and there was a dry layer that, whatever it was, was in."
Stewart, of Baldock Road, Royston, Hertfordshire, denies murder, preventing a lawful burial, fraud and three counts of perverting the course of justice.
Inside the privacy of two white marquees erected at the entrance to their garage, the recovery of Ms Bailey's remains from the cesspit began on July 15.
The brick structure had been built in 1899, the property's previous owner said.
Mr Kent said: "We dug down sideways to expose the side of the well - it would have been impossible to remove Helen from the top.
"Helen was wearing a striped blue or black and white top when she went into that well. The white material has rotted away but the blue material has remained."
He added: "Boris was the first item out of the well; we weren't 100% sure Boris was in there until we got down and had a look.
"Helen then came out and then we excavated a couple of items from the well - a pillowcase which contained a dog's toy and two black bin bags.
"We were trying to clear some of that dry material away to see what it is we were looking at and it became obvious Boris was in that well."
A forensic dentist came to the house on July 16 to confirm Ms Bailey's identity through dental records, the jury heard.
Stewart was arrested on suspicion of murder on July 11 and interviewed on several occasions before the discovery of his bride-to-be's burial site.
He was then questioned once afterwards when he had been re-arrested on July 15.
In footage of his interviews, he spoke largely to confirm basic details and gave one-word denials to allegations of murder, disposing of a body and theft.
In a statement, he denied bumping up a standing order from Ms Bailey's personal account to the joint one they shared from £600 to £4,000, the court heard.
Stewart had previously paid for flyers and attended a dog walk as part of the search effort for his missing fiancee, the jury was told.
Jay Nolan-Latchford, a friend who started the 'Where is Helen Bailey?' online page, said in a statement: "As part of our campaign we organised an awareness walk in Royston. It was during this walk I met Ian Stewart for the first time."
She added: "Ian insisted on paying for the leaflets we were going to distribute during the walk.
"I was surprised when Ian said he would come across to wave the group off - throughout the whole day I found Ian to be unemotional and very contained in his manner."
In the wake of Ms Bailey's disappearance, Stewart renewed the couple's season tickets to Arsenal FC and went on a pre-booked holiday to Spain, the court heard.
The jury was also told the author had been locked in a legal dispute with a business partner of her first husband in the years before her death.