Friday 28 July 2017

Author Helen Bailey's partner allegedly drugged and smothered the bride-to-be 'to get her riches' - murder trial hears

Murdered: Helen Bailey and her partner Ian Stewart
Murdered: Helen Bailey and her partner Ian Stewart
Helen Bailey. Photo: Hertfordshire Police/PA Wire
Helen Bailey Credit: Hertfordshire Police/PA Wire
Police officers search a wooded area at Royston Heath in North Hertfordshire, close to the home of missing children's author Helen Bailey Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Police officers search a wooded area at Royston Heath in North Hertfordshire, close to the home of missing children's author Helen Bailey Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Jack Hardy

Grief-stricken author Helen Bailey was "grossly deceived" by her alleged murderer who launched an online "love-bombing" campaign to earn her trust, a court has heard.

Ian Stewart was branded a "devious killer" as jurors were told he had drugged and smothered his "besotted" bride-to-be in a plot to acquire her riches.

But his defence argued "mild-mannered" Stewart's banks accounts showed he "didn't need any more money", asking the jury: "What possible motive could he have?"

The Electra Brown writer first started talking to the 56-year-old on a social media group for widowers and widows after her husband drowned in 2011.

Stewart's trial at St Albans Crown Court was told he began "preying" on the bereaved 51-year-old, using affection to win his way into her favour - and later her will.

He was branded "wicked" and a "full-blown liar" as the prosecution made their closing argument at the end of the six-week trial.

Helen Bailey. Photo: Hertfordshire Police/PA Wire
Helen Bailey. Photo: Hertfordshire Police/PA Wire

Prosecutor Stuart Trimmer said: "This defendant was intimate, that is the phrase we will use, with Helen Bailey one month after they first met face-to-face.

"It is perfectly plain she was completely overwhelmed by what some people might call 'love-bombing'.

Helen Bailey Credit: Hertfordshire Police/PA Wire
Helen Bailey Credit: Hertfordshire Police/PA Wire

"She was absolutely besotted with him - the Gorgeous, Grey-Haired Widower.

"It is a matter of common sense and knowledge that someone shortly bereaved might not have the logical equipment to see she was being deceived.

Police officers search a wooded area at Royston Heath in North Hertfordshire, close to the home of missing children's author Helen Bailey Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Police officers search a wooded area at Royston Heath in North Hertfordshire, close to the home of missing children's author Helen Bailey Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

"And the crown say she was being grossly deceived by someone who was preying on her."

Stewart, of Baldock Road, Royston, Hertfordshire, denies murder, preventing a lawful burial, fraud and three counts of perverting the course of justice.

In her final book, about the loss of her husband, Ms Bailey frequently referred to her new fiance, who lost his first wife, as "GGHW" - the "Gorgeous, Grey-Haired Widower".

Three months after she vanished on an afternoon last April, the body of Ms Bailey and her devoted dachshund Boris were found in a cesspit below the couple's home.

Ending his closing argument, Mr Trimmer said: "Ian Stewart is the Gorgeous, Grey-Haired Widower. You've seen him. You've heard his story.

"You heard how he came to be in intimate contact with Helen Bailey, you heard how she changed her entire wealth structure and you heard a lot of lies from the defendant.

"He is, quite simply, the crown say, a devious killer."

In the closing speech of the defence, Simon Russell Flint told the jury that "in cash terms" Stewart had more assets than Ms Bailey, with £163,000 in his account compared to her £150,000.

"He wasn't poor, he wasn't short of funds, he didn't need any more money," he said.

"What caused him, this, as you have heard, mild-mannered, loving, family man with absolutely no history of violence at all, what made him suddenly, on April 11, go and decide to kill Helen Bailey?"

Mr Russell Flint pointed to a string of witnesses ranging from Ms Bailey's friends and family to his own sons who said there were no signs of fissures in the couple's relationship.

"Not one of them say a single thing that can point to any reason why Mr Stewart wanted to kill her. No argument, no dispute, no fights, no throwing things, no breaking things, no shouting matches, no nothing," he said.

"All that anyone reports is love, friendship and happiness."

The former software engineer claimed his fiancee died in a bungled kidnap plot at the hands of two mystery tormentors named Nick and Joe.

The murderous pair then dumped the author below his garage to "frame" him, he previously told the court.

This tale was rejected by the prosecutor, who said: "The crown say this defendant's evidence on its own, any rational consideration of what he had to say, would convict him."

In his evidence, Stewart admitted lying for eight months about the alleged kidnapping, saying Ms Bailey had instead left looking for "space".

"You are asked to trust this man's word, that Nick and Joe exist, and he is, without doubt, a full-blown liar," Mr Trimmer said.

He later added: "The tale beyond this becomes so absurd that a child that wrote this in his essay aged 11 might be laughed at by the rest of his class."

The trial continues.

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