The killer of the children’s author Helen Bailey in 2016 has gone on trial charged with murdering his wife six years earlier in an incident he claimed was an epileptic fit.
Ian Stewart, 61, is charged with the murder of Diane Stewart, who died at their Cambridgeshire home in June 2010.
Opening the case in front of the jury at Huntingdon crown court, Stuart Trimmer QC said: “The crown say this defendant intended to kill Diane Stewart and the only serious issue you have to determine is whether Ian Stewart was responsible for the killing or whether it was a medical accident.”
The crown says Stewart was initially able to “fool” medical professionals by suggesting she had died in the course of an epileptic fit, Trimmer said.
Trimmer told jurors: “His explanation for the circumstances of her death can be disproved by the medical evidence. In short, the crown say, he killed her.”
The original cause of death was given as sudden unexplained death through epilepsy, the court heard.
While most of Diane Stewart’s remains were cremated, she had donated her brain to medical research and brain tissue was kept.
Scientists and a pathologist were then instructed to re-examine her death and they concluded it was most likely caused by “a prolonged restriction of her breathing from an outside source”, Trimmer said.
The court heard that Ian Stewart formed a relationship with Helen Bailey, described in court as a “successful children’s author”, following the death of his wife.
“In 2016 this defendant murdered Helen Bailey, killed her dog and dumped both dog and Helen Bailey in a cesspit,” Trimmer told the court. “He was convicted of that murder in February 2017.”
Trimmer said that while investigating that “particularly callous crime”, police officers and scientists began to look again at the death of Diane Stewart.
He pointed out that in each case the victim was a woman in an intimate relationship with Stewart.
The court heard Ian Stewart was at home alone with Diane on the day of her death.
“There had been some arguing between them in the week preceding her death,” he told jurors.
Trimmer said Stewart called an ambulance claiming he found his wife unresponsive and not breathing. Diane Stewart had no heartbeat when paramedics arrived, jurors heard.