The Helen Bailey trial: Reflections on an extraordinary case

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Courtroom One was packed out yesterday when, just after midday, the jury in the Helen Bailey murder trial returned its verdicts.

Ian Stewart stood in the dock and shook his head as they were read out one by one.

As he was led away he looked across at his son Jamie, who was sitting in the public gallery. Jamie refused to meet his father’s eye.

The bodies of Helen Bailey and her beloved dog Boris were found in cesspit under her home.

Ian Stewart had always protested his innocence - for three months he lied to police and Helen’s family and friends in an effort to make it look as though she had gone missing.

In police interviews immediately after his arrest he maintained complete silence, refusing to answer any of their questions about what had happened.

Several months later he decided to change his story and presented an extraordinary defence involving two mystery kidnappers called Joe and Nick, whom he said were responsible for murdering Helen and killing her dog Boris, and dumping their bodies in a cesspit beneath the couple’s Royston home.

Yesterday, his defence finally unravelled. At the end of a six week trial, it took jurors less than six hours to return their guilty verdicts.

Ian Stewart reacted with shock when he was questioned by police. Credit: Hertfordshire Police

Ian Stewart has cut a lonely figure in the dock throughout this six week trial.

Always attentive during evidence, often taking notes, he rarely showed any emotion.

That changed when he took to the stand in his defence. Over the course of four days in the witness box, his voice cracked repeatedly as he gave his account of his relationship with Helen and his version of events.

He looked different from the man in the photos of the couple that had been so widely publicised during the trial.

The man Helen Bailey described as her ‘Gorgeous Grey Haired Widower’ was now slimmer and often appeared unwell.

He had shaved off his beard, revealing a six inch scar across his right cheek. He told the court it was the result of him having fallen through a glass window in his youth.

Ian Stewart's arrest was caught on bodycam. Credit: Hertfordshire Police

The atmosphere in the courtroom as Ian Stewart gave evidence was extraordinary.

There were audible gasps from the public gallery as he gave his version of events, telling the court how two men named Joe and Nick had taken Helen, subjected him to beatings and even demanded a half a million pound ransom.

In the end, the jury decided his tale was a work of elaborate fiction.

Ian Stewart’s sons, Jamie and Oliver, attended the trial most days.

In the court waiting room they would often sit with John Bailey and his partner, Fraser, as well as other friends of Helen’s.

The two families would talk and even joke together - there was a moving sense of solidarity between them.

A sense, perhaps, that they are all suffering because of what Ian Stewart has done.

The couple shared a £1.5 million mansion in Royston. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Stewart will be sentenced at St Albans Crown Court this morning for murder, fraud, preventing a lawful burial and perverting the course of justice.

Judge Andrew Bright QC told the court yesterday that there is every chance Stewart will end his days behind bars.