Cambridgeshire double killer Ian Stewart sees whole-life sentence reduced on appeal

Ian Stewart, centre, has now been convicted of the murder of his wife Diane Stewart, left, in addition to his previous conviction for murdering his fiancee Helen Bailey.
Ian Stewart, centre, killed his wife Diane, left, and then his fiancee Helen Bailey, right. Credit: Cambridgeshire Police

A killer who murdered his wife and fiancee has seen his sentence reduced after a successful appeal.

Ian Stewart, 61, was given a whole-life order after being convicted earlier this year of the murder of his wife Diane in 2010.

Detectives only began looking into the circumstances of her death after noticing parallels with the death of Helen Bailey in 2016, for which Stewart was also convicted of murder.

In a ruling on Friday, Lord Burnett and the four other judges said Stewart was “not one of the rare cases” where a whole life order should be imposed.

They reduced his sentence to life with a 35-year minimum term.

Amjad Malik QC, for Stewart, argued that the whole-life order he was given for the murder of his first wife was not justified in the circumstances of the case.

In a judgment, the judges said: “Grave though the first murder was, it could not – viewed in isolation from the later second murder – be regarded as an offence of exceptionally high seriousness.

“There is no suggestion that at the time when he committed the first murder, Stewart was already planning that it would be the first in a series.

“We conclude that the judge, although not entitled to treat the first murder as an offence of exceptionally high seriousness, was entitled to adjust what would otherwise be the appropriate minimum term order to achieve just punishment for the first murder and to ensure that the overall sentence was proportionate to Stewart’s offending as a whole.

“We quash the whole life order imposed below, and substitute for it a sentence of life imprisonment with a minimum term order of 35 years.”

Ian Stewart with his fiancee Helen Bailey, whom he murdered in 2016. Credit: Hertfordshire Police

Police saw similarities between deaths

After Stewart's second conviction, police described him as a "master manipulator".

He was investigated for Mrs Stewart's murder following his 2017 conviction for killing his fiancee Helen Bailey, a children's book author, the year before.

Stewart killed 51-year-old Ms Bailey in 2016 and dumped her body in the cesspit of the £1.5 million home they shared in Royston in Hertfordshire, alongside the body of her dog Boris.

A trial at St Albans Crown Court heard it was most likely she was suffocated while sedated by drugs.

That investigation led to Stewart standing trial over the death of 47-year-old Mrs Stewart at their home in Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire.

She had died suddenly in the garden of their home in June 2010. Stewart claimed to have been at Tesco at the time and came home to find her collapsed on the ground.

When Stewart called 999 he suggested she had had an epileptic seizure, and that was the conclusion an inquest came to - with her official cause of death recorded as sudden death in epilepsy (SUDEP).

However, Stewart's conviction for Ms Bailey's murder years later aroused police suspicions and they were able to analyse Mrs Stewart's brain - which she had asked be left for medical research.

Experts found evidence that undermined Stewart's version of events, and suggested her brain had been starved of oxygen before death - which ultimately led to his conviction in February.

Earlier this week Stewart was stripped of £185,000 remaining from the £400,000 he inherited from his wife after her death, which has now been passed on to the couple's two sons.

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