NORTH-East children's author Helen Bailey was plied with sedatives and "probably suffocated" by her partner before being dumped in a cesspit below her home, a court has heard.

The 51-year-old writer, who was born in Newcastle and brought up in Ponteland, was found deep in the grounds of her sprawling £1.5m property in Royston, Hertfordshire, in July 2016, three months after she was reported missing.

Near her side lay the remains of her beloved miniature dachshund, Boris.

Her fiance, Ian Stewart, 56, of Baldock Road, Royston, is accused of "secretly" giving her a sleeping drug in increasing amounts over time.

Then, on April 11, it is alleged he killed her while she was in a "stupefied" state and hid her remains in the waste tank below the garage at the home they shared - parking a car over the access point.

Opening Stewart's trial at St Albans Crown Court, prosecutor Stuart Trimmer QC said: "The crown say this was simply a long-planned, deliberate killing, a cynically executed murder that had money as its driving motive."

On the day she is said to have been murdered, Ms Bailey's bank account was accessed, with a standing order to the defendant bolstered from £600 to £4,000, the court heard. Stewart denied he carried out the transaction, Stewart was also said to be in line for a "substantial financial advantage" of around £1.8m plus the value of the two properties she owned, in the event of her death.

Ms Bailey was said to be "very successful" and worth around £4 million, earning around £5,000 a month in royalties from her books.

Mr Trimmer said: "(The couple) had made financial arrangements that meant, in the event of the death of Helen Bailey before the wedding, Ian Stewart would obtain the house and a very substantial financial advantage."

The victim was said to have been concerned in the weeks leading up to her death that she was feeling unnaturally sleepy.

"The crown case is that this defendant secretly administered to her a sleeping drug in increasing amounts," Mr Trimmer said.

He added: "The crown case is that by early afternoon (on April 11), the only other person in that house, Ian Stewart, killed her, probably by suffocation whilst she was sedated by the drugs he had administered for some time."

It is alleged that a "charade" followed: the defendant sent texts to his partner's phone, despite allegedly having possession of it himself, and supported a media campaign to trace her.

He paid for posters and flyers and attended a dog walk organised by a campaign group called "Where is Helen Bailey?".

Boris was also killed by Stewart at some stage to add credence to the theory that Ms Bailey had gone missing as she was "devoted" to him, Mr Trimmer said.

He added: "If the world were to think Helen Bailey was missing, the dog too had to be missing."

Stewart is then alleged to have "casually obstructed" the police investigation, lying to officers who were aiding the search, as well as going on holiday to Spain in June 2016.

Mr Trimmer told the court: "Between April 11 and July 15 the defendant sat back and watched the police conduct what he knew to be a futile missing person investigation."

When Ms Bailey's remains were eventually discovered, traces of a sleeping drug prescribed to Stewart for insomnia were found in her body, the court heard.

After Stewart was arrested, he told police that two men - named Joe and Nick - were responsible for the killing and the disposal of the body.

Stewart is charged with murder, three counts of perverting the course of justice, preventing a lawful burial and fraud.

He denies all accusations.

Ms Bailey was known by younger readers for her characters Electra Brown and Daisy Davenport, but found a new audience with her blog, Planet Grief, about becoming a widow.

In the blog and subsequent book, she referred to Stewart as GGHW - the "Gorgeous Grey Haired Widower".

  • The case continues.