Primary school teacher buried boyfriend like ‘building waste’, court told

A primary school teacher buried her murdered boyfriend in their garden as if he was “building waste”, a court heard.

Fiona Beal lured Nick Billingham upstairs for sex before stabbing him in the neck with a knife kept in her dressing down pocket.

The 50 year-old gave a chilling account of her crime in a secret diary she kept, pictures of which were shown to the court for the first time on Wednesday.

After killing Mr Billingham, who had months earlier pledged his undying love to the teacher in a heartfelt letter read to the court, Beal used his bank card to buy a spade and other burial equipment to dispose of his corpse.

She also bought a sex toy on Mr Billingham’s Amazon account just hours after murdering him “in cold blood”, the court heard.

Beal had planned the killing of Mr Billingham in meticulous detail, including buying a utility knife in advance, prosecutors told the Old Bailey sentencing hearing.

She pleaded guilty mid-trial last month to the murder of Mr Billingham, whose partly mummified remains were discovered in their garden four and a half months after he was last seen.

Fiona Beal pleaded guilty mid-trial at the Old Bailey to the murder of her boyfriend
Fiona Beal pleaded guilty mid-trial at the Old Bailey to the murder of her boyfriend - Northamptonshire Police/PA Wire

Beal had earlier admitted manslaughter, claiming that she had experienced a “loss of control” when she killed the 42-year-old builder, adding that they had a “coercive” relationship.

On Wednesday, the Old Bailey heard that she had lured Mr Billingham into their bedroom with the promise of sex, tied him to the bed with cable ties and stabbed him in the neck. She then hid his body and told friends and family that he had left her for another woman.

The court was told that only a few years earlier Mr Billingham had written a heartfelt letter to Beal after having 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”.

He wrote: “I promise to never again belittle you or make you feel rubbish again.

“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 diary confession later found by police Beal, using the alter-ego Tulip 22, wrote that she had lured her partner of 17 years to his death with the promise of sex, stabbing him in the neck while they were in bed together on Nov 1 2022.

He was wearing an eye mask and his hands were tied with cables as part of a sex game when she stabbed him to the right side of his neck, cutting the right jugular vein. He was still masked and tied when his partially decomposed body was discovered months later.

Nick Billingham was tied up and stabbed in the neck by Fiona Beal
Nick Billingham was tied up and stabbed in the neck by Fiona Beal - Northamptonshire Police

The killer’s journal revealed that Billingham’s last word to her as he lay dying was, “why?”.

Beal’s journals recounted the murder in grim detail. 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 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.”

Hugh Davies KC, for the prosecution, told the court: “This was murder and no less than murder.

“Even if the defendant was as unhappy in the relationship as she has claimed, she had multiple options to end it without violence. She could have simply asked him to leave.”

Fiona Beal wrote a diary entry about how she killed her boyfriend and disposed of the body
Fiona Beal wrote a diary entry about how she killed her boyfriend and disposed of the body - Northamptonshire Police

But instead of relying on the support of her family and friends to find a way forward without her boyfriend, Beal “wanted the simplicity of a new life without him, the status of a victim of his supposedly running off and the house to herself”, said Mr Davies.

He told His Honour Judge Mark Lucraft KC, the Recorder of London, Beal had “planned to execute [Billingham] and did, planned and delivered a false narrative as to his having had another affair, run off and ceasing to communicate”.

Mr Davies said Beal had “planned for and took elaborate and sustained steps over a period of weeks to conceal her crime, including disposing of his body as if it was building waste in her garden, posed as him in communications with his friends, colleagues and family”.

He added: “This was a murder with multiple aggravating features.”

Beal was arrested in March 2022 after being discovered at a holiday property near Kendal, in Cumbria, where she had tried to take her own life.

After police recovered the “Tulip 22” journals giving a chilling account of how she had planned and then carried out a killing, they excavated the length of the couple’s garden in Northampton.

After four days of excavation, they eventually found his “partially wrapped and partially clothed” remains, buried in a makeshift grave of breeze blocks, old blankets and timber filled with compost and 10 22.5kg bags of Cotswold stone that Beal had bought from B&Q using Mr Billingham’s card.

Fiona Beal's garden
Billingham's 'partially wrapped and partially clothed' remains were found buried in a makeshift grave - Northamptonshire Police/PA

It had been topped off with a plant pot for decorative effect. “It demonstrated nothing but complete contempt,” said Mr Davies.

Further investigations revealed that shortly after burying Mr Billingham, Beale had gone on an Amazon shopping spree in which she bought a dildo sex toy, a herb grinder for cannabis seeds and some meditations stones, again using her dead boyfriend’s card.

Beal, dressed in a black cardigan and pink floral dress, listened in the dock – occasionally taking notes – as the prosecution outlined the case against her. Mr Billingham’s mother, Yvonne Valentine, sat just a few feet away, in the now empty jury box, accompanied by her husband, Russell.

In a victim witness statement read to the court Mrs Valentine said: “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.”

Addressing Beale, Mrs Valentine went on to say in her victim impact statement: “Nick was my first born, my beautiful little boy with a cheeky smile! Nick was so loved by his family, his friends and work colleagues.

‘You’re a coward, you’re evil’

“You’re a coward. You’re evil. You killed him and then spun a cruel web of lies. You showed no regrets. You wrote ‘I’m not a total monster. I know what I did’. Now everyone knows exactly what you did and they will see you for the evil, total monster you are.”

The court was told that expert witnesses at Beal’s trial had testified that her mental condition at the time of the murder “did not justify a finding of diminished responsibility” and that her substance abuse “may have played a greater than previously thought role in the killing”.

Beal will be sentenced when the hearing concludes after hearing mitigation on Thursday.