Fiona Beal: Teacher who murdered her classmate and buried him in a garden sentenced to at least 20 years in prison | UK News

“My body, my heart and my love have been yours from the day I met you and will be until the day I die,” Nicholas Billingham said in a letter to his girlfriend Fiona Beal before she murdered him.

By Claire Gilbody Dickerson, news reporter

Thursday 30 May 2024 16:32, United Kingdom

A primary school teacher who murdered her boyfriend before burying him in her garden has been sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 20 years.

Fiona Beal, 50, from Northampton, stabbed Nicholas Billingham, 42, to death sometime between October and November 2021.

After pleading guilty to the misdemeanor charge of manslaughter by loss of control, Beal pleaded guilty last month to Mr. Billingham’s murder.

The Old Bailey heard she killed him in “cold blood” before burying his body in her back garden.

Billingham’s partially mummified remains were discovered four and a half months after his last appearance, on November 1, 2021.

Handing him a life sentence on Thursday, Judge Mark Lucraft KC said: “After you had moved and buried the body in the garden, you lied to your mother, numerous friends, your entire family and yours about what you had done and Where was it. “

Nicholas Billingham. Photo: PA

‘Brutal murder’ showed ‘extraordinary evil’ behind a ‘gentle facade’

Reading a statement on behalf of Mr Billingham’s family outside court, Detective Constable Kim McHugh said: “Our family welcomes the lengthy sentence handed down by the court to Fiona Beal for the brutal murder of our son Nick Billingham in November of 2021… She has demonstrated extraordinary evil.

“Behind her kind schoolteacher façade, she was secretly planning Nick’s cold-blooded murder.

“Once the deed was committed, he did everything possible to hide her body, throwing it into a makeshift grave as if it were trash, before continuing with his life as if nothing had happened.”

Detective Sergeant Spencer Bailey, of the East Midlands Major Crime Team, said: “This has been an extraordinary case in many ways, and the media interest has perhaps reflected this.

“But our job, both as police officers and as a wider investigative team, was to ensure that Beal was ultimately convicted of the most serious of crimes.

“This was a pre-planned cold-blooded murder, after which Beal attempted to cover his tracks.”

Read more:
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Court heard about affairs and repentance in diary

During the two-day sentencing hearing, Andrew Wheeler KC, defending, told the court that Beal had shown “courage” by admitting the murder.

The lawyer also said Beal expressed “remorse” in journals she kept, citing an entry that recorded her reaching a “breaking point” and apologizing for a number of things.

It was also heard during the trial that Mr Billingham had affairs.

Wheeler said the purpose of examining evidence related to Billingham’s behavior was not to “speak ill of the dead” but rather that it was “relevant” to the murder and “explains how (Beal) came to break.”

Fiona Beal. Photo: PA

Beal had previously described Billingham as making “derogatory comments” and calling her “old” and “fat.”

“To say that what ultimately happened… was out of character, in our opinion, does not do it justice,” Mr. Wheeler told the court.

Beal buried his partner in a strip of land to the left of the house. Photo: Northamptonshire Police

Fiona Beal’s garden. Photo: Northamptonshire Police

Fiona Beal’s garden where she buried her partner. Photo: Northamptonshire Police

On the first day of his sentencing hearing, prosecutors read a letter Billingham wrote to Beal after they had an affair during their 17-year relationship.

In the letter, Billingham accepted his flaws and described Beal as “kind-hearted,” “generous,” and “the most beautiful woman in the world.”

He wrote: “I promise to never put you down or make you feel trash again.

“My body, my heart, my love has been yours since the day I met you and will be until the day I die.”

A blood-stained mattress discovered in Fiona Beal’s basement. Photo: Northamptonshire Police

The “internal execution” was “carefully planned”

On the day of his death, Billingham had been working on renovating a house before returning to the home he shared with Beal in Northampton.

That night, she killed him in a “carefully planned domestic execution,” prosecutors said.

Beal stabbed him in the neck and disposed of the body in a shallow grave next to his house as “construction waste.”

Billingham’s mother, Yvonne Valentine, told Sky News last month how she had visited the couple’s home in the days after the murder.

She said: “I walked into the house, into the living room, and the first thing I thought was, ‘Oh, have you changed the furniture? Everything looks different.’

“Fiona offered me a Christmas drink and we sat there… but it always gets to me because I think Nick was buried in the garden just a few yards away and I didn’t know he was there.”

In a victim impact statement, Valentine called Beal a “coward” and “exceptionally evil and cruel” for sending her messages from her son’s phone to convince her he was safe and well.

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Cabin vacation led to discovery of alter ego

In February 2022, Beal had been fired from work due to anxiety, stress, depression, and bad mood.

The following month, he rented a cottage in Cumbria and sent messages to relatives who were concerned for his well-being, prompting them to call the police to check on him.

Fiona Beal’s diary in which she wrote: “Hiding a body was difficult.” Photo: Northamptonshire Police

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In the cabin, police found Beal’s diaries containing a confession to the murder.

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

She also described how during the murder she told Mr Billingham that she was killing him so he couldn’t do to another woman “what he had done to me”.

The diaries sparked a police investigation and Beal was arrested in March 2022 after Billingham’s body was discovered.

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