Fiona Beal: Primary school teacher admits murdering boyfriend who she buried in garden

A primary school teacher has admitted murdering her partner, whose partly mummified remains were discovered four-and-a-half months after he was last seen.

Fiona Beal, 50, was accused of stabbing her 42-year-old boyfriend Nicholas Billingham to death "in cold blood" before burying his body in their garden.

At the beginning of her trial last week, jurors at the Old Bailey in central London heard Beal had pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter by reason of a loss of control - but denied she murdered Mr Billingham between 30 October and 10 November 2021.

However, today - she pleaded guilty to the murder charge.

Beal, from Northampton, was arrested in March 2022 after police discovered Mr Billingham's body.

That same month she had rented a cabin for herself in Cumbria and sent messages to relatives which gave them cause for concern over her wellbeing and they contacted police to check on her.

In the cabin, officers found journal entries in which she revealed her actions.

Jurors heard one entry said: "Still my actions haunt me. I sometimes have to catch myself and remember what I did and then remember my cover story - neither seem convincing."

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 Mr Billingham had not been seen or spoken to by telephone since the afternoon of November 1 2021, the court heard.

'Split personality'

Opening her trial, prosecutor Hugh Davies KC told the jury: "There is no dispute that she killed Nick Billingham, concealed his body where it was found and acted alone throughout. There is no dispute that she intended to kill him."

She had also sent messages from Mr Billingham's phone pretending to be him, the court heard, in a move the prosecutor said was "as heartless as it was self-serving".

Mr Davies said of the journal entries: "They certainly do contain some unambiguously clear declarations of what she had done. These parts were not just her truth, but the truth. What was this?

"The short answer is that she had planned to, and had, killed him in cold blood. She had purchased a forged handled utility knife in the days before. She had a chisel and cable ties.

"Promising sex after a bath, she stabbed him in the neck when he was wearing a sleep mask and was probably cabled-tied on their bed."

The prosecutor continued: "Stated shortly, in all these documents Fiona Beal introduces themes of her having been controlled and manipulated in the relationship; of her insecurities having been exaggerated rather than helped by his attitude; of unpleasant things he had done... and this explaining why she killed him as she did.

"She introduces her insight into her own split personality, and an alter ego - i.e. her 'second self' - she calls Tulip 22, who is capable of wholly different and darker conduct than her public persona of committed teacher."

The prosecution said the narrative that Mr Billingham had run off with another woman was "completely false".

But jurors heard Mr Billingham appeared to have cheated on Beal previously.