A new investigation was opened into the death of Diane Stewart in 2010 when her husband, Ian Stewart, 61, was found guilty of the murder of Helen Bailey in 2017
Image: Hertfordshire Police)
A convicted killer who murdered children’s author Helen Bailey has also been found guilty of killing his wife six years earlier.
Ian Stewart looked across from the secure dock to his two sons who sat in the public gallery after the unanimous verdict was returned at Huntingdon Crown Court today.
The 61-year-old denied murdering his wife Diane Stewart in 2010 but jurors rejected his account that he found her collapsed having suffered an epileptic fit at their home in Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire.
Prosecutors said it is most likely her death was caused by a prolonged restriction to her breathing from an outside source, such as smothering or a neck hold.
The defendant was previously jailed for killing his fiancé, the popular writer of the Electra Brown books, whose body was found in the cesspit of their £1.5 million home in 2016.
His wife, Diane Stewart, 47, died six years earlier and the cause was believed to be epilepsy.
But following his murder conviction, detectives opened a new investigation into his 2010 death.
His wife had been cremated but by a stroke of luck she had left her brain to medical science.
Consultant neuropathologist Professor Safa Al-Sarraj found there was evidence her brain suffered a lack of oxygen prior to her death, over a period of 35 minutes to an hour.
The jury was told that although she had suffered from epilepsy, her last attack had been 18 years before her death.
Pathologists found it was only a one in 100,000 chance that the mum-of-two would have died from the disease of the brain.
Stewart, serving life for the murder of Ms Bailey, told Huntingdon Crown Court he had found Diane collapsed in the garden of their home in Bassingbourn, Cambs, when he returned from the supermarket.
The 61-year-old had told proceedings the couple’s elder son, Jamie, had his driving test on June 25 and left that morning, while their younger son, Oliver, was at school.
The defendant, who had denied murder, said he drove to Tesco, intending to get French sticks and pate to “celebrate” after Jamie’s driving test.
When he arrived at the supermarket he realized he had forgotten his wallet so he returned home to look for it and found his wife in the garden.
He said: “I saw Diane just crumpled on the floor.
“The first thing I did was try to get her in the recovery position. That was hard. I couldn’t get her legs out from under her.”
He said he tried to revive her, attempted to contact neighbors who were a doctor and nurse, tried again to revive his wife, and then called 999.
Jurors were told earlier that Stewart received a total of £96,607.37 following the death of his wife, from her bank accounts and including £28,500.21 from a life insurance policy.
Prosecutor Stuart Trimmer QC said Mrs Stewart’s death was “most likely caused by a prolonged restriction to her breathing from an outside source”, such as smothering or a neck hold.
The court had heard following Diane’s death in 2010, Stewart met children’s author Helen Bailey on a forum for widowed people.
Mr Trimmer said the author was worth around four million pounds but had not worked in many years.
As he was quizzed by police about the disappearance of his fiancee Helen Bailey, Stewart appeared harassed and confused.
He complained of being tired by the questioning, said he was hungry and worried about his health and span a web of lies about the author leaving suddenly to ‘get some space’.
Stewart also painted a picture of Helen as an anxious and nervous woman, in sharp contrast to the “feisty” and “bright” character remembered by friends who had known her far longer.
But it was when he was arrested, refusing to answer police questions, that control started to leach away from Stewart and his murderous lies began to unravel.
Alice Boagey / SWNS.com)
Stewart, 56, spent weeks poisoning his partner Helen Bailey with prescription sedatives.
As she excitedly planned her wedding, she is believed to have fallen asleep at her computer, overcome by the power of the pills.
He then smothered her in a “heinous” plot motivated by greed and dumped her body in a cesspit under their £1.5m home.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.