Beds, Herts & Bucks

Helen Bailey murder accused challenged over 'kidnap' pair

Helen Bailey Image copyright SBNA
Image caption Helen Bailey was reported missing on 15 April

Two men said to resemble a children's author's supposed kidnappers have been presented in court to her fiance.

Ian Stewart denies murdering Helen Bailey and making up a story she was abducted by men called Joe and Nick.

The prosecution brought Nick Cook, Mr Stewart's neighbour, and Joe Cippullo, into St Albans Crown Court.

It is alleged the descriptions the accused gave to police matched the men, who he knew from his former home in Bassingbourn.

Prosecutor Stuart Trimmer told the jury that the descriptions bore a striking resemblance to Mr Stewart's acquaintances.

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Asked if he knew Mr Cippullo, Mr Stewart replied: "Yes, he's a bowler."

Asked about Mr Cook, his reply was: "Yes, he's my next-door neighbour."

Image copyright SBNA
Image caption Ian Stewart alleges two men snatched Helen Bailey from the couple's home in Royston, Hertfordshire

Mr Trimmer asked Mr Stewart if "when you look back and consider descriptions you gave... do you think of them?"

Mr Stewart replied "no" and "they don't compare at all".

Mr Trimmer then said: "They are both here so you can have a plain look at them."

Asked if he recognised the pair, Mr Stewart replied: "Yes, it's Nick and Joe."

Text 'charade'

The Electra Brown writer Ms Bailey's body was found last July in a cesspit at the home she shared with Mr Stewart in Royston, Hertfordshire.

He is accused of drugging her before suffocating her and throwing her in the pit.

Mr Stewart told the court Ms Bailey had been snatched on 11 April by two men who blackmailed him and subjected him to a series of demands. He reported her missing on 15 April.

Under cross-examination, Mr Stewart was also accused of carrying out a "charade" following her disappearance by sending her bogus texts.

Mr Trimmer asked why he sent messages urging her to contact the police if she had been taken.

"You might not believe this but my mind was totally messed," Mr Stewart said.

Image copyright Helen Tipper/BBC
Image caption Mr Stewart repeatedly broke down in tears while giving evidence

Mr Trimmer suggested the texts were sent to "expand the lie" and give the impression he was concerned about his fiancee.

"If she was never found, if she remained in the bottom of that cesspit for years, all we know is that she had gone away and you had tried your best," he said.

Mr Stewart, 56, of Baldock Road, Royston, Hertfordshire, denies murder, preventing a lawful burial, fraud, and three counts of perverting the course of justice.

The trial continues.

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