A primary school teacher fatally stabbed her partner because she believed he was cheating on her, a court heard today.
Fiona Beal, 49, allegedly lured Nicholas Billingham into bed for sex before killing him, then dragged his body out to the back garden and buried it.
Jurors heard Beal had been planning the murder for weeks after Mr Billingham “spit and threatened her during sex”, a “chilling” diary found in her Lake District hideout revealed.
It details how the victim’s behavior allegedly fueled Beal’s ‘dark side’, an alter ego she called Tulip22 who was ‘reckless, fearless and efficient’, and shows how she persuaded Mr Billingham to wear a mask for the eyes before stabbing him.
The court heard that the Year 6 teacher was murdered and disposed of the 42-year-old in November 2021 after phoning to say he was sick with Covid.
The body of builder Mr. Billingham was discovered under a rug wrapped in a sheet, duvet and cable ties three and a half months after he was last seen attending a business meeting.
Fiona Beal is accused of stabbing her partner Nicholas Billingham to death after luring him into bed for sex
The remains of Mr Billingham were found buried in the back garden of his home in Northampton.
Prosecutor Steven Perian KC said Billingham had cheated on Beal with other women during their 17-year relationship.
“Nicholas Billingham had left the defendant on a few occasions but he always came back to her and she accepted him,” he said.
One of the women he slept with became pregnant and gave birth to his son.
Perian said that in late October 2021, Beal had decided to kill Billingham.
“She believed he was cheating on her again,” the prosecutor said.
“Instead of leaving him, she came up with a plan for how and when to kill him, where to hide his body, how to cover up and explain his disappearance to others, and explain her own absence from work when she killed him.”
Jurors were told the murder likely took place on November 1 in his Northampton bedroom.
Having killed Mr. Billingham, the Crown alleges, he bound and wrapped his body, buried it in the garden, and painted and cleaned the bedroom where the murder had taken place.
She then allegedly told others that Mr Billingham had left her for another woman and that she used her phone to message friends and co-workers, pretending he was still alive.
Later that month, Beal returned to work after her alleged Covid isolation and told her manager that Billingham had dumped her, Perian said.
The body of builder Mr. Billingham was discovered wrapped in a sheet, duvet and cable ties under a carpet three and a half months after he was last seen attending a business meeting.
The court heard that the teacher continued to work as normal, even going on a school trip to London. But just weeks after visiting the capital, Beal began texting her principal that she was sick.
After the March messages, the concerned principal contacted Beal’s mother, who revealed that Beal had told her he was going on a school trip. The director then contacted the police to report him missing.
Cumbrian officers traced her to an address she had rented near Kendal, but Beal assured an officer that she only wanted “peace and quiet” and did not want her family to know her exact whereabouts.
The officer relayed that message to Beal’s mother, but three days later they returned to the shelter after Beal sent his family a message saying, “I’m so sorry.” I love them all.
Officers entered the shelter and found what appeared to be a suicide note, before discovering Beal naked in the bathroom with superficial injuries to her wrists.
Beal was taken to the local hospital and detained under the Mental Health Act, the jury was told.
The Northampton Crown Court was told that police also recovered a notebook from the holiday accommodation and found in it a “chilling account of how he had planned and killed someone, but it did not contain the name of the person he had killed”. said the prosecutor.
The Cumbrian force notified their colleagues in Northampton and officers were dispatched to search for Beal’s address. An initial cursory search of the property turned up nothing suspicious, but a second detailed search uncovered a bloody mattress and quilt in the basement, and “freshly laid bark in the garden.”
Northamptonshire Police asked for Beal to be arrested on suspicion of murder. Mr Billingham’s iPhone was then found at the holiday lodge during a search.
The jury was read excerpts from the notebook found at the holiday lodge, which referred to the 1990s cult film Thelma and Louise, starring Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon.
Beal wrote: ‘Everything changed last year. There’s a quote from Thelma and Louise that feels appropriate, Thelma: “Be sweet to them, especially your wife. My husband was not sweet to me.”
Prosecutors allege that Beal kept detailed notes about the murder and the disposition of the body.
‘I guess I should explain what happened to get to this point. My mental health had been deteriorating. She was fucking again. Every time she cheated, she upped the ante and belittled and complained and criticized.
The newspaper continued: ‘OK, here goes. October 2021. she spat on me and threatened me during sex.
“I started plotting as Tulip22 after he got laid. I couldn’t sleep in bed anymore due to breathing too hard or moving too much or snoring etc. I had to come down after having sex and even when I wasn’t feeling well.
“I got used to sleeping downstairs and waiting for him to go to bed and then I got high and let Tulip22 out.”
The court heard the notebook entry, which referred to 17 years of ‘him’ being argumentative, mean-spirited, cruel and demeaning, continued: ‘I knew I couldn’t let him get away with it. Halloween sealed it. He was vile.
The book details how the planning for the crime began after Halloween, with Beal realizing that coronavirus rules meant he would have a “guaranteed ten-day isolation period of positive symptoms.”
Beal wrote that she encouraged “him” to take a bath “with the enticement of sex afterwards”, and hid the knife in her bed drawer while he bathed.
He then wrote: ‘I asked him to wear an eye mask.
‘It was harder than I thought it would be. Hiding a body was bad. Moving a body is much more difficult than it appears on television.
Part of the back garden was also excavated, revealing “partly wrapped and partly clothed” human remains. The body was located under a ‘mound’ containing ‘layers upon layers’ of bark, earth, paving slabs and various wrappings.
Mr Perian added: “The prosecution says, from the evidence gathered, that it is very likely that the defendant took an extended period of time to undertake the project to hide his body in the garden.”
The court heard that Mr Billingham’s “partially mummified” body was identified through dental records. A pathologist concluded that the cause of death was due to a single stab wound to the right side of the neck, severing the jugular vein.
The trial continues.