Fiona Beal: Teacher murdered boyfriend and buried his body in garden after he declared his love 'until the day I die', court hears

A primary school teacher murdered her boyfriend in a "carefully planned domestic execution" after he sent her a letter declaring his love "until the day I die", a court has heard.

Fiona Beal, 50, has admitted the murder of Nicholas Billingham, who she stabbed to death before burying his body in their garden in Northampton.

The 42-year-old's partly-mummified remains were discovered in March 2022, around four months after he was last seen on 1 November 2021.

Mr Billingham had told Beal he would love her for the rest of his life in a letter he wrote after having an affair during their 17-year relationship.

In a confessional journal entry written by Beal in March 2022, the teacher wrote she told Mr Billingham during the murder that she was killing him so he couldn't do to another woman "what he had done to me".

Beal originally pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter by reason of a loss of control - however she changed her plea around a week into her trial last month.

On Wednesday, she appeared at the Old Bailey for the start of her two-day sentencing by Judge Mark Lucraft KC.

During the hearing, prosecutor Hugh Davies KC read out the letter Mr Bellingham had written to Beal after his affair.

In it, Mr Billingham accepted his faults and described Beal 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."

In a victim impact statement read to the court, Mr Billingham's mother Yvonne Valentine described having a Christmas drink with Beal on 23 December 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 in her statement: "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.

"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!"

On the day of his death, Mr Billingham had worked on a house renovation before returning to the home he shared with Beal.

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", Mr Davies said.

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On 2 November, the day after Mr Billingham was last seen, she sent messages from his phone in which she pretended to be him.

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.

They also included reference to her having a split personality and an alter ego she called Tulip 22.

She wrote: "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."

Another detailed her planning for the attack, with Beal writing: "It was harder than I thought it would be. Hiding a body was bad. Moving a body is much more difficult than it looks on TV."

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 1 November 2021, the court heard.

Beal was arrested in March 2022 after police discovered his body.