Helen Bailey's friends ask why Ian Stewart was free to kill her

Could police have stopped killer Ian Stewart before he murdered AGAIN? Grieving friends of children’s author Helen Bailey ask why her ‘so very evil’ fiancé was free to strangle her six years after he smothered his first wife

  • Stewart, 61, killed the 51-year-old children’s book author at their home in 2016
  • The case prompted investigators to re-open case into the death of his ex-wife
  • It was found Diane Stewart did not die from a epileptic fit as it was first ruled
  • Rather, Ms Stewart was also found to have been murdered by her husband
  • Now, friends of Helen Bailey are asking why he was not caught after first killing 

The friends of author Helen Bailey have asked why her fiance Ian Stewart was free to kill her, six years after he murdered his first wife. 

Stewart, 61, killed the 51-year-old children’s book author in 2016 and dumped her body in the cesspit of the £1.5 million home they shared in Royston in Hertfordshire.

A trial at St Albans Crown Court heard it was most likely she was suffocated while sedated by drugs. Stewart was found guilty of her murder in 2017, and will die behind bars after he was sentenced to a whole-life order.

After Stewart’s conviction, police were promoted to reopen their investigation into the 2010 death of Stewart’s first wife, Diane Stewart, 47.

Her cause of death was recorded at the time as Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP), and Ian managed to convince friends, family and neighbours that she had collapsed and suffered an epileptic fit at their £500,000 family home in Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire.

But on Wednesday a jury of five men and seven women at Huntingdon Crown Court found Stewart guilty of her murder as well. 

They took less than two days of deliberation, after brain tissue from Ms Stewart donated for scientific purposes showed signs of suffocation. 

Now, close friends of Ms Bailey have asked how Stewart was not caught after murdering Ms Stewart, which would have protected her from her killer.

The friends of author Helen Bailey (pictured left) have asked why her fiance Ian Stewart was free to kill her, six years after he murdered his first wife – Diane Stewart. In 2010, Diane , then aged 47, suddenly died. Ian managed to convince friends, family and neighbours that she had collapsed and suffered an epileptic fit at their £500,000 family home

Ian Stewart, 61, was on Wednesday handed a whole life order after he was found guilty of the murder of his first wife Diane in 2010, and for later strangling wealthy children’s author Helen Bailey and dumping her body in their £1.5million Hertfordshire home

Speaking to The Telegraph, Ms Bailey’s bereavement councillor and close friend Shelley Whitehead said: ‘It really raises questions about how someone so very evil could literally get away with murder, and do it again.

‘Did they look at this bereaved, vulnerable father, this man whose wife has ‘died’ from an epileptic fit, the father who now has to raise his boys on his own – is he so convincing that they didn’t do the proper checks? Or was something overlooked?’  

According to the coroner’s file obtained by The Telegraph, pathologists carried out a non-forensic post-mortem examination, saying that if ‘no toxicological or antamotical cause’ was found, instead recommending epilepsy as the cause.

Physiological changes seen in her brain were put down to an epileptic fit, rather than being a result of suffocation, as investigators would later find.

The cause of death was recommended despite no normal tell-tale-signs of an epileptic fit being present, such as tongue biting or injuries from falling onto a concrete patio, as Ian Stewart had claimed.

Speaking during Stewart’s trial, an expert said Ms Stewart’s chances of suffering a fatal seizure were ‘One in 100,000’, as she had not suffered a fit for 18 years and took medication to control her epilepsy.

Despite the low odds, the assistant coroner for Cambridgeshire in 2010 – Belinda Cheney – put the cause Ms Stewart’s death down to ‘natural causes’, brought about by ‘sudden unexplained death in epilepsy’, the newspaper reported.

Mavis Drake, another friend and neighbour of Ms Bailey’s who tipped off police about the cesspit, said questions needed to be asked about the original investigation into the death of Ms Stewart.

‘I think it was very difficult for the coroner, but the fact there was some doubt should have made them do a more thorough examination before they released the body,’ she told The Telegraph. 

Within two years of Stewart making contact with Helen, the couple had sold their respective homes and together bought a stunning Arts and Crafts house with an outdoor pool and acre of land in Royston, Hertfordshire 

In both cases, Stewart was set to pocket a large windfall after his partners’ deaths. He received £96,607.37 after Diane’s passing from life insurance pay outs and her savings, while he stood to gain £1.8 million should Helen die.  

Mr Justice Simon Bryan on Wednesday slammed Stewart – who will now die behind bars – for a ‘concerted and callous charade’ in denying the murders and pointed out the ‘striking similarities’ in both gruesome cases. 

He told Stewart: ‘You successfully passed off a murder as an epileptic fit in the circumstance I have identified playing out an elaborate, and indeed sophisticated, charade over a period of time.

‘A charade that succeeded at the time, and would have succeeded for all time but for your subsequent murder of Helen Bailey.’

Stewart shook his head at times during the sentencing hearing.

He had claimed in court, as his two sons listened to his evidence, that he had returned from the supermarket to the family home in Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire, and found his wife collapsed in the garden.

He said he thought she had suffered an epileptic fit.

Mrs Stewart had not had an epileptic fit for 18 years and took daily medication, jurors were told, with consultant neurologist Dr Christopher Derry estimating that her risk of having a fatal epileptic seizure was about one in 100,000.

During a 999 call, Stewart was instructed to perform CPR on his wife and said he was doing so, but paramedic Spencer North, who attended the scene, said there ‘didn’t seem to be any effective CPR’.

Mrs Stewart’s death was not treated as suspicious at the time. Although a post-mortem examination was carried out, it was not a forensic post-mortem.

As part of the police investigation, following Stewart’s 2017 murder conviction, consultant neuropathologist Professor Safa Al-Sarraj was asked to examine preserved parts of Mrs Stewart’s brain, which had been donated to medical science.

Prof Al-Sarraj said there was evidence that Mrs Stewart’s brain had suffered a lack of oxygen prior to her death, and he estimated that this happened over a period of 35 minutes to an hour.

Murdered Ms Bailey’s £1.5million home (pictured) that she shared with Stewart in Royston, Hertfordshire

Taken in 1999, a photo of double murderer Stewart (left) and his 47-year-old wife Diane (right)

The judge told Stewart: ‘It no doubt never crossed your mind that the donation of Diane’s brain for teaching and research would lead to your ultimate downfall, as it was to do, and your conviction today for the murder of Diane Stewart, for which I must now sentence you.’

Prosecutor Stuart Trimmer QC said her death was ‘most likely caused by a prolonged restriction to her breathing from an outside source’, such as smothering or a neck hold.

Home Office pathologist Dr Nat Cary described SUDEP as a ‘diagnosis of exclusion’, adding that ‘an equal diagnosis of exclusion is having been put into such a state by some covert means – smothering or interfering with the mechanics of breathing or some kind of drug use’.

The court heard that full toxicology was not carried out as part of the 2010 routine post-mortem examination, and neither was a neck dissection.

Dr Cary said that, as with Mrs Stewart, there was ‘no injury that was visible’ in the case of Ms Bailey, who was in the cesspit for three months before she was found.

The court heard that Stewart received £96,607.37 after his wife’s death, in the form of £28,500.21 from a life insurance policy and the rest from bank accounts.

Both of the couple’s sons were out on the day of their mother’s death, with then 15-year-old Oliver at school and Jamie, then 18, taking his driving test.

Jamie Stewart had told the court that he recalled ‘raised voices… between my mother and father’ when he was at home on study leave for A-levels the week his mother died.

The judge said he was ‘satisfied that the major motive for Diane’s murder was for financial gain’ but had ‘no doubt that there were other subsidiary motives’.

He said it will ‘never be possible to be sure’ but there was a suggestion that ‘all was not well’ in the defendant’s marriage and that he was ‘tiring of Diane’.

The defendant, flanked by four dock officers, looked towards his two sons who sat in the public gallery as he was led to the cells.

The two boys did not make eye contact with him.

Delay: Police faced backlash and questions about why it took them three months to find the body of murdered children’s author Helen Bailey at her home in Royston, Hertfordshire 

Helen Bailey had lost her husband John Sinfield when he drowned in front of her on a holiday to Barbados, had coped with her grief by writing about it. 

Her blog Planet Grief was turned into a successful book, When Bad Things Happen In Good Bikinis, serialised in the Daily Mail.

In 2011, Stewart first met Helen, the daughter of a public health inspector and originally from Northumbria, whom he had got in touch with through an online bereavement group as he ‘grieved’ over the death of his first wife Diane a year prior.

Within two years of Stewart making contact with Helen, the couple had sold their respective homes and together bought a stunning Arts and Crafts house with an outdoor pool and acre of land in Royston, Hertfordshire.

Believing Stewart to be her ‘happy ending’ – and with her writing career in the ascendant – Helen believed she had finally found contentment.

But shortly after, Stewart would strangle Ms Bailey before dumping her body in the cesspit of the £1.5 million home they shared in Royston, Hertfordshire.

Her body lay undiscovered among raw sewage hidden 15ft beneath their garage for three months as Stewart pretended to police that she had gone missing. Detectives had considered him a suspect, but waited a full month before arresting him and carrying out extensive searches of the property.

But Ms Bailey’s corpse was finally discovered months later after a tip-off from a neighbour and he was found guilty of murder a year later.  

A judge said Stewart suffocated her with a pillow while she was ‘too drowsy to fight him off’, knowing he stood to gain £1.8m from her substantial investment portfolio, which included two properties. 

Ms Bailey had met the ‘master manipulator’ on a bereavement group and, just before her death, was planning a wedding with the man she referred to in her writing as ‘the Gorgeous, Grey-Haired Widower’.   

Meanwhile, Stewart had first met modern language student Diane at Salford University, where they studied, after stealing a chip off her plate in the canteen 28 years before he would kill her. 

He worked for a year after leaving the university in 1982, before moving to Cambridge with Diane where he studied for a PhD.

Two years her senior, he had been studying computer science and remembered being wowed as he planned for Diane to become his ‘companion… almost immediately’. 

Diane worked several jobs, including for DHL, Philips and later Kitchen Range Foods – which made products for fast food giants such as McDonald’s.  

Stewart told jurors the pair ‘were in love and wanted to spend the rest of our lives together’. They married in 1986 and went on to have two sons, Jamie and Oliver. 

Diane met Stewart at the start of her modern languages degree while he was in his final year studying computer sciences

But in 2010, Diane, then aged 47, suddenly died.  

Stewart denied the murder of his wife, and during the trial at Huntingdon Crown Court he described his conviction for the murder of Ms Bailey as a ‘miscarriage of justice’. 

Questioned by Mr Trimmer, Stewart insisted during his trial that the two women’s deaths were a coincidence. The prosecutor told Stewart: ‘You’re a devious man.’

On Wednesday a jury of five men and seven women at Huntingdon Crown Court found Stewart guilty of strangling Diane to death in 2010. 

Speaking after the verdict, Diane’s siblings Wendy Bellamy-Lee and Christopher Lem said: ‘Diane was a very special, caring and capable person. She will always be greatly loved and hugely missed by her family and all who knew her. 

‘We have many happy memories of growing up together through the years and later having close bonds sharing our family lives together. 

‘Tragically she died far too soon, she will always be in our hearts.’

Jamie and Oliver Stewart, sons of Ian and Diane, added: ‘Our Mum was amazing. All the people we have spoken to and things we have heard since her death have only enhanced this feeling.

‘We were privileged to have a wonderful caring upbringing and we were supported through all the activities and hobbies that we undertook. 

‘It’s been really upsetting the last six years to have to recall the events of the toughest time of our life. We now look forward to recalling the many happy moments we had growing up as a family.’

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