Fiona Beal murder victim wrote of his love ‘until the day I die’, court told

A primary school teacher stabbed her partner to death and buried his body in their garden after he declared his love “until the day I die”, a court has heard.

Fiona Beal, 50, has admitted the murder of 42-year-old Nicholas Billingham, whose partly mummified remains were discovered four-and-a-half months after he was last seen on November 1 2021.

She pleaded guilty in April during a retrial at the Old Bailey, after her earlier trial at Northampton Crown Court collapsed on its 64th day.

Body found in Northampton garden
Forensic officers at the scene in Kingsley, Northampton (Jacob King/PA)

During the hearing, prosecutor Hugh Davies KC read out a letter Mr Billingham had written to Beal after he had an affair during their 17-year relationship.

In the letter, Mr Billingham accepted his faults and described Beal as “kind hearted”, “generous” and “the most beautiful woman in the world”.

“My body, my heart, my love has been yours since the day I met you and will be until the day I die. I love you with all my heart.”

In a victim impact statement read to the court, Mr Billingham’s mother, Yvonne Valentine, described having a Christmas drink with Beal on December 23 2021, not knowing that she was just feet from her son’s body.

At the time, she was feeling reassured by text messages from her son’s phone and concerned for Beal.

“I remember that the house looked different; the furniture moved, new furniture and ornaments in the front room, which made it look nice.

“But all of this was you covering up that you had killed my son! You moved the furniture to obscure views to the garden – why?? To stop anyone seeing where you had buried my son!

“You sat in your front room with me, having a casual chat with me, having a Christmas drink with me and the whole time, you knew that you had killed my son and buried him only feet from where I was sat.

“I felt sad and embarrassed that my son had left you, but I shouldn’t have wasted my energy and concern on you, you had planned it all and at no point have you ever given me the same consideration or thought about the devastation you caused by killing my son.”

She branded Beal a “coward” and “exceptionally evil and cruel” to send her messages from her son’s phone to convince her he was safe and well.

Fiona Beal court case
Nick Billingham was buried outside Beal’s house (Northamtonshire Police/PA)

“You buried him like he was a piece of rubbish in his own back yard.

“I want you to remember he will always be loved and will always be missed. You are pure evil.”

Sister Holly Shore said: “As a primary school teacher you should have been caring but you were not caring to Nick and instead killed him.

“I will never forgive you for Nick. I will never forget Nick.”

On the day of his death, Mr Billingham had worked on a house renovation before returning to the home he shared with Beal in Northampton.

That evening, she killed him in a “carefully planned domestic execution”, Mr Davies said.

Fiona Beal court case
Mr Billingham was stabbed to death (Northamptonshire Police/PA)

She covered her tracks with a false story that they had Covid and needed to isolate.

Similar messages were sent from Mr Billingham’s phone from November 2 in which Beal pretended to be him.

On November 8, Beal sent messages to her sisters saying she and Mr Billingham had split up, with one message saying he left because he had had an affair with another woman.

On her return to work, she received sympathy from those who had heard about the apparent break-up.

Beal’s mental health started to deteriorate in late February 2022, the court was told.

In a journal entry dated February 12, she wrote: “I’m not a total monster. I know what I did.”

She also listed “memories, messages, confession, final farewell”, Mr Davies said.

By February 28, Beal had been signed off work with anxiety, stress, depression and low mood, the court heard.

The following month, she rented a cabin in Cumbria and sent messages to family members which gave them cause for concern over her wellbeing, prompting them to call police to check on her.

In the cabin, police found Beal’s journals containing a confession to the killing.

Fiona Beal court case
Fiona Beal confessed in her journal (Northamptonshire Police/PA)

She wrote: “I had smoked all day. I had a bath, I left the water in. He had been pushing for sex. I encouraged the bath with the incentive of sex afterwards.

“While he was in the bath I kept the knife in my dressing gown pocket and then I had it in the drawer next to the bed.

“I brought a chisel, bin bag and cable ties up too. I got him to wear an eye mask.”

She went on: “My last words to him when he asked why was that he was not going to do to (another female) what he had done to me.”

The journals triggered a police investigation, which soon established that Mr Billingham had not been seen or spoken to by telephone since the afternoon of November 1 2021, the court heard.

Beal was arrested in March 2022 after police discovered his body.

Police had visited her home on March 16 but found nothing out of the ordinary.

The next day, officers found a bloodstained mattress in the basement and returned on March 19 and discovered more.

Fiona Beal court case
A bloodstained mattress was found in the basement (Northamptonshire Police/PA)

Mr Davies said: “Ancient Egyptians buried Pharaohs with their treasure. Nick Billingham was unceremoniously entombed with his building waste and unwanted old bedsheets and blankets.

“It demonstrated nothing but complete contempt.”

Mr Davies added: “Whether as her ruthless alter ego Tulip 22 or otherwise and whether or not having spent the day smoking cannabis, she had planned to and had killed him in a ruthless manner.”

The murder and cover-up were committed while she continued “to deliver high-quality teaching to Year 6 pupils as if nothing had happened”, Mr Davies said.

The original trial collapsed last June when it emerged that a key defence witness was a court custody officer who had conducted welfare checks on Beal in the cells.

The sentencing hearing continues and is expected to conclude on Thursday.

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