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Helen Bailey case: 'Narcissist' fiancee jailed for murdering author now charged in 2010 death of 1st wife

Ian Stewart, described as 'cold and calculating' is facing charges in the death of Diane Stewart who suddenly collapsed and died after 47th birthday
(Hertfordshire Police)
(Hertfordshire Police)

Man who was arrested, charged and convicted in the murder of his fiancee Helen Bailey, a British author noted for her 'Electra Brown' series, has now been charged in the death of his first wife from a few years earlier. Ian Stewart was found guilty of Bailey's murder in February 2017 and was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 34 years, meaning he will only be eligible for parole when he is 90-years-old.

The detective who had led the investigation, DCI Jerome Kent, had described him as "cold, calculating and wicked" and a "narcissist" who had murdered his fiancee in cold blood so he could lay his hands on her multimillion-dollar fortune, of which he was one of the main benefactors in the event of her death.

He could soon be described as a "double-murderer" now. At 59, Stewart has been charged with murdering his first wife Diane Stewart, who died at their Cambridgeshire home in 2010, reported the BBC.

The Bailey investigation had started on April 11, 2016, when Stewart called the police to report Bailey missing from her home in Royston, Hertfordshire and said she had last been seen walking her dog. He claimed a note he had found indicated she had made her way to the family home in Broadstairs. But friends and family immediately suspected something was off. Her brother and her mother said her disappearance was out of character, with police investigating the case describing it repeatedly as "unusual", "perplexing" and a "mystery."

The suspicion at the time was that she had "made herself disappear." While that may seem like an unusually suspicious line of thought, investigators were being led by a passage she had written in her blog 'Planet Grief'. The blog had been set up in the wake of the February 2011 death of her first husband, John Sinfield, who had drowned when the couple was on holiday in Barbados. They had been together for 22 years and Bailey would regularly jot down her thoughts about her "journey through grief" in her blog for her followers to read. In one of her posts, she had recounted a desire to walk out on her first marriage and wanting to disappear. "I’d seen a program about people who just vanish to start a new life under a new identity and bolting appealed to me," she wrote.

Investigators had little else to go on. Her bank account had been untouched, her phone remained switched off and nothing had been sent from her email account or any of her social media accounts. "We have got nothing to say that Helen has come to harm; we have no suspicion of third-party involvement," Chief Inspector Julie Wheatley said at the time. "Could she have just taken herself off and made herself disappear? Possibly. It’s really difficult to speculate … We have no sightings, no financial evidence; we’ve got nothing. It’s really, really unusual."

The reality, as it turned out, would be much more sinister. On 15 July, more than three months after she was last seen, police reported that Bailey's remains, and those of her dog had been found hidden in a second septic tank at her house. They subsequently charged Stewart with murder, perverting the course of justice and preventing a lawful burial, all of which he denied.

At his trial in January 2017, the prosecution pointed to traces of anti-insomnia medication that been found in Bailey's body and alleged that Stewart had secretly drugged her with zopiclone sleeping pills for several months before suffocating her. Her mother, Eileen, testified her daughter had been concerned she was sleeping excessively and about the state of her mind.

It was also alleged that Bailey "may have been alive" when she was dropped into the cesspit at her home, with pathologist Dr. Nathaniel Cary telling the court it was "possible that she was put down the well in an unconscious state and then drowned."

Giving evidence in his defense, Stewart claimed Bailey and Boris had been kidnapped by two men called Nick and Joe and that he did not tell the police about this to "keep Helen safe." He said the kidnappers had demanded a ransom of £500,000 ($626,000) and that he had last spoken to her on a mobile phone belonging to one of the men on April 15.

However, when presented with Nick Cook, Stewart's next-door neighbor and Joe Cippullo, a man he knew from his former home in Bassingbourn, Stewart said they "don't compare at all" to the descriptions of the kidnappers he had given to the police.

The motive for the murder, the prosecution said, was greed. The jury heard that Stewart had twice attempted to use power of attorney to sell a flat owned by Bailey, including once on the afternoon of the day she went missing. On the same day, he increased a standing order to transfer money from Bailey's bank account to their joint account from £400 ($501) to £4,000 ($5,001) per month. He was also the main beneficiary of her £3.4 million ($4.26 million) estate and stood to benefit from a large life insurance policy.

The prosecution's characterization of Stewart as a man who cared for nothing but riches was backed by members of his former bowls club, who recalled how he was "obsessed" with money. They said he was miserly and was the type of person who accounted for every penny he spent or was owed.

His eventual conviction brought relief to many, but old wounds are likely to be reopened over the news that he has now been accused of killing his first wife as well. Diane had just celebrated her 47th birthday when she suddenly collapsed and died in the garden of their Cambridgeshire home. Following an inquest, her death certificate recorded that she had died of natural causes possibly linked to epilepsy, the Daily Mail reported. Now, the case has been reopened, though it is unclear what new evidence has been uncovered.

At a hearing at St. Albans Court this past week related to his most recent murder charge, Stewart did not enter any plea and was remanded in custody. His next plea hearing has been scheduled for September 21.