Murdered children’s author Helen Bailey lived happy life in Highgate for years before tragedy
- Credit: PA
Murdered children’s author Helen Bailey lived for 20 years in Highgate before moving to Hertfordshire to be with the lover who turned out to be killer.
Ian Stewart was sentenced yesterday to 34 years in prison after being found guilty of killing Helen to get his hands on her £4 million fortune. Stewart, 56, drugged 51-year-old Helen for months before murdering her and dumping her in a cesspit beneath their £1.5 million home in Baldock Road along with her beloved dachshund Boris.
He had originally reported her missing on April 15, before being arrested on suspicion of murder the following July.
During his trail at St Alban’s Crown Court a picture emerged of Helen’s earlier happy life living in Bishopswood Road, Highgate with her first husband of 22 years, John Sinfield.
A successful children’s author, having written more than 20 books including the popular Electra Brown series, Helen walked regularly on Hampstead Heath with her beloved dog Boris.
But her world was turned upside down in 2011 when John tragically drowned while the couple were on holiday in Barbados and the widow began writing a blog Planet Grief, about her bereavement.
During one post she described releasing memorial balloons on Hampstead Heath for John and in others about coping with Christmas and the loss of the festive traditions they used to enjoy as a couple.
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She also describes first meeting Ian Stewart, who she described as a “gorgeous grey-haired widower”
During Stewart’s trial he told the court that Helen had loved Highgate.
The jury heard how Stewart and Helen Bailey exchanged long emails which eventually became flirty – and the day they realised they clicked was nicknamed Freaky Friday.
He said they first met in person seven days after Freaky Friday when he drove to her Highgate house unexpectedly after she sent him a photo of where she lived during an email conversation about their homes.
“I drove up unannounced to her house, I texted her and said ‘I’m outside, come and see me’ - she was only wearing pyjamas, slippers, and a towel round her head.”
Stewart said she wasn’t happy at first, but really she was happy to see him and they fell into each others arms.
“That night we referred to that as Fruitcase Friday – because I was a nutter for driving up there and she was a nutter for letting an unknown man stay in her house for the night,” he said.
During the seven week trial the jury heard that by 2013 Helen had sold her £1.8million house in Highgate and moved to Royston to be with Stewart, and by 2014 he was made beneficiary on the will and would inherit her fortune of nearly £4million after her death.
Sentencing Stewart, Judge Andrew Bright told him that it was “difficult to imagine a more heinous crime”.
Addressing Stewart, who will be 90 when he is eligible for parole, the judge said: “Helen Bailey was only 51 years old and at the height of her success as a writer when you brought her life to a cruel end, and dumped her body and that of her beloved dog Boris in a foul-smelling cesspit to decompose.
“I am satisfied that your principal motive for killing her was to enable you to take advantage of the generous provision she had made for you in the event of her death, which you knew the law would presume after she had remained a missing person for long enough.”
Saying Stewart was ‘a very real danger to women’, the judge referred to the great lengths the killer went to to gradually drug Helen so she could not fight him off – and then to conceal the bodies of Helen and Boris in the hope that they would decompose and never be found.
He said: “You deceived Helen Bailey’s family and friends for 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.”
The court was told that Helen had assets worth well in excess of £3 million, and had taken out a life insurance policy worth another £1.28 million, from which Stewart stood to benefit.
The judge said: “The world has lost a gifted author and her family and friends will have to live for the rest of their lives with the deep sense of loss your wicked crime has inflicted upon them.
“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 that 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.”