Author was 'wanting space', murder accused told police in missing person report

Updated: 

The fiance of the children's author found dead in a cesspit told police "things just haven't been going well" before her disappearance, a court has heard.

Ian Stewart, 56, of Baldock Road, Royston, Hertfordshire, is on trial accused of drugging and killing Helen Bailey and then concealing her remains in human sewage beneath the home they shared.

In a recording of his missing person report to police, played to the jury at St Albans Crown Court, he said the Electra Brown writer mentioned that she had been "wanting space".

His trial previously heard that, on the morning of her disappearance, the 51-year-old had been planning the couple's forthcoming wedding.

But Stewart later told police officers that Ms Bailey had been "concerned" that he did not want to marry her, the court was told.

Asked whether he was surprised about her sudden departure, Stewart told the police call handler: "No, I wasn't. Well, yes, it was a shock, she had talked about it but it was still a shock.

"She has talked about wanting space because things just haven't been going well for her recently, or for us."

During the call, which was made on April 15 2016 - four days after Ms Bailey was allegedly murdered - he also told police she had been "very, very anxious and very worried about lots of things".

In Stewart's account of that day, Ms Bailey "wasn't calm" during a dog walk due to problems with a wedding venue and had returned from a trip out saying she never wanted to drive again, one police officer told the court.

Stewart claimed that when he last saw his fiancee, they had shared a kiss goodbye and he asked her what she wanted for tea.

Then, as he left for a doctor's appointment, he saw her for the final time at the window, clutching her dog Boris, the jury were told.

Notes of a conversation he had with Detective Sergeant Sarah Gilbertson when she visited the home on the day Ms Bailey was reported missing were read to the court.

One said: "She is concerned whether I want to marry her."

He told officers that Ms Bailey had left a note saying she had gone to stay at a cottage she owned on the Kent coast and did not want to be contacted.

Another officer, Pc Richard Webster, told the court of his conversation with Stewart on April 15: "He said he was a bit annoyed about the suddenness of Helen's going away and was a bit puzzled."

Three months after she vanished, Ms Bailey was discovered, alongside her beloved dachshund, in the waste tank deep below her £1.5 million property.

When the phone operator asked Stewart on April 15 if he was sure she was not at home, he said: "I've literally checked everywhere - we have got quite a large house and I have literally checked everywhere."

He added: "I know she's a very strong person - it would be very hard to abuse Helen. She'd come back at you strongly."

The defendant denies charges of murder, preventing a lawful burial, fraud and three counts of perverting the course of justice.

The court also heard that Ms Bailey had planned to ditch her career as a book author due to stress.

DS Gilbertson's notes of her conversation with Stewart said: "She had no plans to write another book, but she had written a blog called Planet Grief.

"She described that it was stressful when she wrote it and, with hindsight, she wouldn't have done."

Ms Bailey had written the blog about her experiences of becoming a widow after her first husband, John Sinfield, drowned in 2011.

She was said to be "really annoyed" after several venues for her marriage to Stewart, which was pencilled in for September, had fallen through.

According to Stewart, the couple had only spent one day apart in three years - when he was in intensive care.

The court heard that he told officers he had a "gut feeling" she had gone to a dog-friendly hotel and she "wouldn't try to harm herself".

Earlier, the girlfriend of Stewart's son Oliver told jurors he had not been in good physical health before Ms Bailey disappeared.

Alexandra McGarry said: "He was frail. Oliver told me he was even struggling to reach up into the cupboards and get food out and things like that."

The trial continues.