Teacher murdered boyfriend after he confessed to affair and wrote her a letter that he’d love her ‘until the day I die’

29 May 2024, 14:15 | Updated: 29 May 2024, 14:54

Teacher murdered boyfriend after he confessed to affair and wrote her a letter that he’d love her ‘until the day I die’
Teacher murdered boyfriend after he confessed to affair and wrote her a letter that he’d love her ‘until the day I die’. Picture: Alamy / PA / Northamptonshire Police

By Danielle De Wolfe

A primary school teacher has been jailed after she stabbed her partner to death before burying his body in the garden after he declared his love "until the day I die".

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The court has heard how the partly-mummified remains of 42-year-old Nicholas Billingham were discovered four and a half months after he was last seen.

Fiona Beal, 50, pleaded guilty to murder during her retrial at the Old Bailey, following the collapse of her earlier trial at Northampton Crown Court on its 64th day.

Mr Billingham was last seen on November 1 2021, with the court hearing how he had devoted himself to saving the couple's 17-year relationship after having an affair, at one point writing a lengthy love letter to Beal that was read out in court.

She was arrested in March 2022 after police discovered the body in a concrete grave in the couples garden.

In a letter addressed to Beal, Mr Billingham wrote: "I can't see any future alone. My body, my heart, my love has been yours since I met you and will be yours until the day I die."

His death came less than two years after the couple reconciled following the betrayal, after Beal is said to have lured him to bed under the guise of having sex.

Fiona Beal seen buying compost in CCTV footage

Mr Billingham was then cable-tied and stabbing in the neck using a kitchen knife hidden in her dressing gown.

She then dumped his body in a "de facto coffin" made of timber and concrete in the side return of the couples garden - feet from where his mother would later be told by Beal that he had left her over the Christmas holidays.

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

She had initially pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter by reason of a loss of control, however, the jury heard on Friday that she had changed her plea, with Wednesday marking the start of her two-day sentencing by Judge Mark Lucraft KC.

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Mr Bellingham's love letter was read out by prosecutor Hugh Davies KC as part of the sentencing, accepting his faults and describing the teacher 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."

Mr Bellingham's body was discovered at their home months after going missing.
Mr Bellingham's body was discovered at their home months after going missing. Picture: Alamy

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.

She wrote: "I shouldn't have been bothered or concerned about you, should I!!

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

Read more: CCTV shows primary school teacher buy compost in B&Q days after stabbing boyfriend

"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."

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 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. Picture: Northamptonshire Police

On the day of his death weeks earlier, 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.

Beal stabbed him in the neck and disposed of the body in the side return of their home like "building waste", with Mr Davies explaining that she covered her tracks with a false story, explaining they had Covid and needed to isolate.

Similar messages were sent from Mr Billingham's phone from November 2, with Beal pretending to be him.

On November 8, Beal then 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.

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 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. Picture: Northamptonshire Police

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

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, alongside reference to her having a split personality and an alter ego she called Tulip 22.

In the journals 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.

CCTV of Beal buying garden products came after she had murdered her boyfriend and disposed of the body in the side return of their home like "building waste".
CCTV of Beal buying garden products came after she had murdered her boyfriend and disposed of the body in the side return of their home like "building waste". Picture: Northamptonshire Police

Summarising the evidence, Mr Davies said Beal "planned to execute" Mr Billingham then "delivered a false narrative" that he had an affair and had run off and stopped communications.

He said she "accepted sympathy" which resulted from her "false narrative" and "took elaborate and sustained steps over a period of weeks to conceal her crime".

They included disposing of his body "as if it was building waste in her garden", posing as him in communications with his friends, colleagues and family, and even manufactured arguments between him and her.

All this was done while she continued "to deliver high-quality teaching to Year 6 pupils as if nothing had happened", Mr Davies said.

Beal even "actively lied" to her partner's mother when he was supposedly "off grid" with another woman, he added.

Sentencing continues and is expected to conclude on Thursday.

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