The “wicked” fiance of children’s author Helen Bailey, who murdered her and dumped her body in a cesspit, has been jailed for 34 years.
Ian Stewart, 56, was convicted of secretly drugging and suffocating Ms Bailey in a plot to inherit her near-4m fortune.
Her body was found under their home in Royston, Hertfordshire, last July.
Judge Andrew Bright QC said it was “difficult to imagine a more heinous crime”.
After the sentencing, the family of Stewart’s late wife, Diane, said they supported a police re-investigation into her sudden death in 2010.
Stewart reported Ms Bailey missing three months before her body was found in the “foul-smelling” cesspit alongside the corpse of her dachshund Boris.
Sentencing at St Albans Crown Court, Judge Bright QC said Stewart had spun a “calculated and callous series of lies” in a bid to convince police, relatives and friends that his bride-to-be had genuinely gone missing.
Ms Bailey had been “excitedly making arrangements” for the pair’s wedding while Stewart was “planning how to kill her, hide her body and explain her disappearance as a case of an anxious woman running off because she could no longer cope with the more stressful aspects of her life”, the judge said.
‘Danger to women’
Stewart, who wooed the widow after meeting her via a bereavement website, employed a “significant degree of planning and premeditation” before the killing, the court heard.
During his trial, the prosecution said Stewart had played “the long game” in order to inherit Ms Bailey’s fortune, made from the publication of more than 20 books.
He plied her with the sleeping drug zopiclone in the weeks leading up to her death, and killed her beloved dog to make his “wicked lies…sound credible to those who knew her well”, Judge Bright QC said.
As he handed Stewart a life sentence, the judge said financial gain had been the “principal motive” for the killing.
“You knew Helen Bailey to be a wealthy woman but were not content with having to share in her wealth as her husband. Instead you wanted it all for yourself,” the judge said.
“I am firmly of the view that you currently pose a real danger to women with whom you form a relationship,” Judge Bright QC said.
Ms Bailey penned the Electra Brown series of teen novels, and was also praised for her blog – Planet Grief – in which she talked about the death of her husband John Sinfield.
“The world has lost a gifted author and her family and friends will have to live the rest of their lives with the deep sense of loss your wicked crime has inflicted upon them,” the judge told Stewart.
As a result of the case, detectives are now re-examining the death of Stewart’s wife Diane, who died after an epileptic seizure at the couple’s home in Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire, in 2010.
Stewart, who refused to appear via videolink from prison, was also found guilty of preventing Ms Bailey’s lawful burial, fraud and three counts of perverting the course of justice.
He had denied murder, claiming two men called Nick and Joe had kidnapped Ms Bailey in April last year and blackmailed him for 500,000.
But jurors took just over six hours to convict him after hearing seven weeks of evidence.
Simon Russell Flint, defending, said during his mitigation: “The likelihood is, given his state of health, the sentence has a like-effect of a whole-life order.
“There is every prospect and likelihood Mr Stewart will end his days behind bars.”