VOLCANIC RAGES OF CESSPIT KILLER
Neighbours tell of blazing row over a hedge and how killer threw stones at their dogs
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