Teacher admits murdering partner and burying body

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Fiona Beal had admitted manslaughter, but had denied murder
By Phil Shepka
BBC News, Northamptonshire

A primary school teacher has admitted murdering her partner whose tied-up body was found in their garden.

The partly-mummified remains of 42-year-old Nicholas Billingham were found in Northampton in March 2022, four months after he was last seen alive.

A first trial heard that Fiona Beal, 50, used his phone to send messages to his friends and work colleagues, after she had killed him.

A retrial at the Old Bailey had begun and Beal has now admitted murder.

Nicholas Billingham’s body was found four months after he went missing

Prosecutor Hugh Davies KC told the retrial Beal stabbed builder Mr Billingham in the neck while he was wearing a sleep mask and probably cable-tied him to the bed.

He said Beal “wrapped her dead partner up and dragged him down the stairs, destroying the banister rails upstairs in order to do so” and buried him in the garden.

Mr Davies told jurors Mr Billingham’s “grave” comprised of concrete Beal had mixed and a “de facto coffin” made of breeze blocks, timber and sheets.

She had already admitted the lesser charge of manslaughter at the beginning of the retrial, which followed a previous trial last year where the jury was discharged after 10 weeks.

Mr Billingham’s remains were found at the house in Moore Street, Northampton in March 2022

That trial heard that records showed the defendant, who worked at Northampton’s Eastfield Academy as a Year 6 teacher, was absent from work between 1 and 12 November 2021.

Beal messaged several people from Mr Billingham’s phone in early November to say they had both contracted Covid-19 and needed to isolate.

The prosecutor called this “as heartless as it was self-serving”, and said Beal sent messages to her sisters saying she and Mr Billingham had split up.

Prosecutors told jurors the narrative that Mr Billingham had run off with another woman was “completely false”.

Giving evidence in the first trial, Beal said their relationship deteriorated during the first Covid lockdown in 2020.

She said she could not remember much about the killing or the months afterwards, but admitted smoking “quite a lot of cannabis” before Mr Billingham was killed.

The prosecution said police traced Beal to a cabin in Cumbria in March 2022, and a journal was found in which entries “certainly do contain some unambiguously clear declarations of what she had done”.

The journal – which included reference to a “second self” called Tulip22 – had an entry that read: “Hiding a body was bad. Moving a body is much more difficult than it looks on TV.”

Jurors at her first trial were told the notebook contained a claim that Beal had been spat on and threatened during sex, and subjected to cruel and belittling treatment by the deceased.

Got a story? Email eastofenglandnews@bbc.co.uk or WhatsApp 0800 169 1830

6 days ago

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