Neigh­bours tell of blaz­ing row over a hedge and how killer threw stones at their dogs

Sunday Express - - FRONT PAGE - By James Field­ing CRIME ED­I­TOR

SMIL­ING along­side the woman he mur­dered, Ian Ste­wart shows no signs of the dark side he hid from the world.

Yet the killer of pop­u­lar chil­dren’s au­thor He­len Bai­ley had a Jekyll and Hyde per­son­al­ity and a vol­canic tem­per that would erupt at the slight­est provo­ca­tion.

The “cold and un­friendly” mur­derer was the po­lar op­po­site of his “lovely, warm” fi­ancee, whom he killed and hid in a cesspit at their home.

As in­ves­ti­ga­tions con­tinue into the death of his first wife,

neigh­bours have re­vealed how Ste­wart could barely con­ceal the evil side of his char­ac­ter.

On one oc­ca­sion he flew into a manic rage over the size of their hedge. He would also hurl rocks at their dogs to try to stop them bark­ing.

Ste­wart, 56, was jailed for 34 years last week af­ter be­ing found guilty of drug­ging He­len with sleep­ing pills be­fore smoth­er­ing her and dump­ing her body, and that of her beloved dog Boris, in the cesspit of their £1.5mil­lion Hert­ford­shire home.

He killed 51-year-old He­len, the au­thor of the Elec­tra Brown teenage nov­els, to in­herit her £3.5mil­lion for­tune af­ter she had made him the main ben­e­fi­ciary of her will. Ste­wart re­ported her miss­ing last April and it took po­lice three months to find her body.

The Sun­day Ex­press can re­veal that just two weeks be­fore he was ar­rested, Ste­wart made a “strange” re­quest to have a large urn mounted on to a con­crete base in the gar­den. He asked an elec­tri­cian friend to rec­om­mend a builder but was taken into cus­tody be­fore the work could be­gin.

News of He­len’s death shocked the town of Roys­ton where the cou­ple had been liv­ing for four years. To most they were a per­fectly happy cou­ple but Ste­wart had a vi­cious tem­per and when riled could lose con­trol.

Neigh­bour Marko Humphrey-Lahti, 59, an artist and sculp­tor, said: “I saw the dark side to Ian and it wasn’t pretty. He and He­len hadn’t long moved in when he came over to the hedge bor­der­ing our gar­dens and asked why we’d cut part of it away.

“I told him that it was start­ing to look scruffy so we’d trimmed it down.

“He then told me that the hedge was part of his and He­len’s prop­erty and we shouldn’t have done it. I replied that he’d got it wrong and it was ac­tu­ally ours.

“It was a bizarre ar­gu­ment given that the sec­tion of hedge he was con­cerned with was only about five to six feet in length and they couldn’t ac­tu­ally see it be­cause they’d put up a fence to keep Boris from get­ting out.

“He sort of shrugged and walked off and that was that – or so I thought be­cause the next morn­ing I heard a com­mo­tion down­stairs. Ian and He­len had come round and he was shout­ing and swear­ing about the hedge.

“He was try­ing his hard­est to in­tim­i­date my wife. He was re­ally an­noyed, shout­ing and swear­ing, and he’d gone red-faced with anger. I rushed down to in­ter­vene. I told him very firmly that if he didn’t leave, I’d make him leave. In the end we had to con­tact our solic­i­tor to get hold of the deeds to our house to prove that we did own the hedge.

“I emailed him the plans as proof but when I spoke to him about it he just scoffed and said ‘I don’t care what the law says’. Af­ter that we didn’t re­ally have much to do with them and kept our­selves at a dis­tance.

“In fact we’d not hear much from them at all apart from Ian oc­ca­sion­ally throw­ing stones to try to quiet our dogs if they were bark­ing in the gar­den.”

Neigh­bour Trevor Ellis, an elec­tri­cian, re­vealed the chill­ing last con­ver­sa­tion he had with Ste­wart.

Mr Ellis, 49, said: “He asked me if I knew a good builder who could build a con­crete mount for him in the back gar­den on which he could put a large ce­ramic urn. It struck me as a strange re­quest be­cause at the time He­len was still miss­ing but he seemed more in­ter­ested in hav­ing this build­ing work done quickly. Two weeks later he was ar­rested on sus­pi­cion of her mur­der.

“From what we know now, he could have used that urn to hide some­thing. It gives you the shivers. Clearly he seemed in­tent on stick­ing around in that big house rather than flee the scene of the crime.”

Ste­wart met He­len in 2011, a year af­ter the sud­den and un­ex­pected death of his wife Diane from epilepsy, which is to be re-ex­am­ined by po­lice.

They be­came friends on a web­site she set up called Planet Grief af­ter the death of her hus­band, John Sin­field, who drowned while on hol­i­day that year.

In one pho­to­graph taken at a fam­ily gath­er­ing, smartly dressed He­len smiles sweetly for the cam­era while next to her, a scruffy,

‘He pulled the wool over ev­ery­body’s eyes. Peo­ple were of­fer­ing sym­pa­thy, a re­as­sur­ing hug’

glum-look­ing Ste­wart scowls at the cam­era with his fist clenched.

Next-door neigh­bour Mavis Drake, a close friend of He­len, said: “She was a lovely, warm woman who would do any­thing to help you but he was quite cold and un­friendly.

“They were like chalk and cheese. He­len liked to go out to din­ner and would dress im­mac­u­lately, yet Ian would be un­shaven, his hair un­kempt and he’d wear a crum­pled shirt that was of­ten un­tucked.

“She doted on her dog Boris and I think that wound Ian up. He said he was hop­ing to con­vert one of the rooms into a study just so he had some­where in the house where there wasn’t a pic­ture of that ‘blasted dog’.”

She said she once sent round her gar­dener to help him tidy up a fence, but he re­turned and in­sisted: “I’m never work­ing with that man.” Mrs Drake, who works as a tourist guide in Cam­bridge, added: “He pulled the wool over ev­ery­body’s eyes. Peo­ple were bring­ing him meals and of­fer­ing sym­pa­thy, a re­as­sur­ing hug, and all the while he’d killed her and dumped her in a cesspit.”

Among those fooled by Ste­wart was Noreen Lem, mother of his wife Diane, who said: “I never thought there was any­thing sus­pi­cious about Diane’s death but now I don’t know what to think.”

Lisa Wil­son, a friend of He­len’s in Broad­stairs, Kent, said the au­thor changed af­ter meet­ing Ste­wart. “She ap­peared more re­served and less so­cia­ble.”

FRIENDLY FRONT: He­len Bai­ley and smil­ing Ste­wart

GRISLY: Po­lice strug­gle to re­cover the body of author He­len Bai­ley, who was drugged and smoth­ered be­fore be­ing thrown into a cesspit un­der her garage by Ian Ste­wart, pic­tured above with her look­ing glum and clench­ing his fist

SEARCH: The cou­ple’s £1.5m home in Hert­ford­shire

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.