Ian Stewart, 56, has been found guilty of drugging and murdering his fiance - successful children’s author Helen Bailey - in a bid to get his hands on her £4million fortune.

It was the case that captivated the nation. A successful children’s author with a seemingly doting fiance and millions in the bank had suddenly vanished, along with her beloved pet dog Boris the dachshund. Why had she vanished? And where had she gone?

It was her fiance Ian Stewart who first raised the alarm. He claimed she’d left the £1.5million home they shared in Royston, Hertfordshire three days earlier on April 11th 2016 and headed for her holiday home in Broadstairs, Kent, simply leaving Ian a note saying she ‘needed some space’.

But when three days had passed and Ian heard nothing, he’d called the police, apparently concerned about the welfare of the author known for more than 20 books, including the Electra Brown series for teenagers.

A ‘distraught’ fiance

Ian Stewart played the distraught fiance (Photo: REX/Shutterstock)

He told officers, ‘She said, she said in a note, something like I need space and time alone, I’m going to Broadstairs, please don’t contact me in any way.

‘She left her car here. But she did take her dog with her. She’s got a little dachshund.’

The body in the cesspit

As ‘missing’ posters were put up, Stewart continued with the distraught fiance role. But the police weren’t fooled. And in July 2016 they swooped, arresting him on suspicion of murder and concealing a body.

Just days later Helen’s body was found — hidden in a cesspit beneath the house. The entrance to the cesspit, which lay beneath the concrete garage floor, had been hidden by Stewart parking his car over it. Chillingly, the court heard that in 2013 Helen had told her brother that the cesspit would be ‘a good place to hide a body’ – within earshot of Ian Stewart.

The cesspit opening where Helen’s body was found beneath her garage floor (Photo: REX/Shutterstock)

Stewart was charged with murder, preventing a lawful burial, fraud and three counts of perverting the course of justice at St Alban’s Crown Court.

The court heard Stewart, who met Helen Bailey in an online dating service for widows and widowers, had ruthlessly targeted her in a calculated plot to inherit her millions. While Helen became besotted with what she described as her GGHW – ‘gorgeous grey-haired widower – even changing her will to leave him almost all of her £4m fortune, he was simply besotted with her cash.

How sheer greed led to murder

In the months before Helen’s death, Stewart began drugging her with the sleeping drug Zopiclone, and on April 11th 2016, he suffocated 52-year-old Helen with a pillow, before dumping her body in the cesspit. He’d also killed her beloved Boris, dumping his body in the cesspit alongside her.

Helen Bailey with her beloved Boris (Photo: REX/Shutterstock)

The court heard on the day of the killing, Stewart had visited a solicitor who was handling the sale of another £185k property owned by Helen. Stating she was ‘unwell’ he’d tried to force through the sale in her absence. He also tried to amend a standing order from Helen’s account to their joint account from £600 to £4,000 on the same day.

In his defence, Stewart claimed two kidnappers called ‘Nick’ and ‘Joe’ were to blame for the murder – stating they’d threatened to harm his two sons if he went to the police. But this story was dismissed as ‘bizarre nonsense’ by the prosecution.

Ian Stewart, 56, showed no emotion as he was found guilty of all charges. He was sentenced to 34 years in jail.

Det Ch Insp Jerome Kent of Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire Major Crime Unit described Stewart as a ‘particularly cold and wicked individual’ and confirmed that police would look again at the 2010 death of Stewart’s first wife. He said there was ‘no indication’ of anything untoward but understood the murder verdict opened up further suspicion.