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A primary school teacher stabbed her cheating boyfriend in the neck in a ‘chilling domestic execution’ then told her friends she had Covid to buy herself more time to bury him in their garden, a court today heard.

Fiona Beal, 50, lured builder Nick Billingham into the bedroom for sex then knifed him in the neck when he was tied to the bed on November 1, 2021, the Old Bailey was told.

Prosecutor Hugh Davies, KC, told the jury that Beal had planned the murder purchasing a knife in advance. 

The ‘highly capable’ teacher then told friends the pair had tested positive for Covid-19 so that she would not be disturbed while she buried her victim, 42, in the garden at their Northampton home, jurors heard.

His mummified body was found four months later wrapped in sheeting in a makeshift grave after Beal’s journals – where she plotted the killing as her alter ego ‘Tulip22’ – were found by police, it was said.

Beal then spent months using her partner’s phone to message his friends and relatives pretending he was still alive and had moved in with another woman, the court heard.

Beal admits manslaughter but denies murder claiming ‘loss of control’.

Primary school teacher, 50, stabbed her cheating boyfriend in the neck after tying him to bed during sex – and then told friends she had Covid to buy time to bury him in garden, court hears

Fiona Beal, 50, admits to manslaughter but denies murder claiming ‘loss of control’

Mr Billingham's partly mummified remains were discovered four-and-a-half months after he was last seen

Mr Billingham’s partly mummified remains were discovered four-and-a-half months after he was last seen

Beal with Nick Billingham

Beal with Nick Billingham

Mr Billigham had affairs before and moved out of the home, but the couple had reconciled, the court heard. 

Mr Davies said: ‘Central to the plan was knowing that after stabbing him, if she claimed she had Covid, she would have 10 days to bury him and cover up her crime.

‘And that’s exactly what happened. She was thinking about what time was best to do it, whether he would be snoring, but she knew or visualised it would be by stabbing him ”left to right, down slight right”. And that’s what she did – she stabbed him in his jugular vein in his neck.

‘On 1 November she manufactured a positive Covid test result- all you had to do was complete the NHS questionnaire online app self-report a positive test.

‘There is no evidence she ever did a PCR test. Her actions in the next 10 days are wholly inconsistent with having the exhausting effects of Covid which she was claiming to be experiencing.’

He continued: ‘She murdered him in their bedroom late on 1 November. The clean-up started as early as 01.07am on 2 November. Using her dead partner’s account, and then hers on Amazon, she bought multiple cleaning products, including for Venetian blinds, a new mop and bucket, ultra heavy duty bin bags, a new mattress, bedding, clothing, wall art and mirrors.

‘This is considered, controlled, conduct that is on the one hand intrinsically practical, and on the other indulgent.

‘It is the more so given she must literally have watched her partner bleed to death in front of her.

‘Later that same day she changes a Tesco order, itself already containing multiple cleaning products, to add three rolls of duct tape.

Beal leaving B&Q in Northampton

Beal leaving B&Q in Northampton

Mr Billigham had affairs before and moved out of the home, but the couple had reconciled, the court heard

Mr Billigham had affairs before and moved out of the home, but the couple had reconciled, the court heard 

Officers outside the couple's home in Kingsley, Northamptonshire in April 2023

Officers outside the couple’s home in Kingsley, Northamptonshire in April 2023

‘At 2.19pm she purchased heavy duty long gardening gloves, a stainless steel digging spade and a galvanised incinerator bin garden leaves wood burner. To state the obvious, this was not for burning leaves.

‘More of the same followed over the next 10 days. You will remember that she was concurrently telling friends, colleagues and family that she and Mr Billingham were laid low with Covid.

‘She was messaging people about the virus bleach cleaning. This was the cover story, better described you may think as a grand deception.

‘There were further detailed and considered purchases on multiple other dates to continue and finish the job of cable-tying, wrapping and burying her partner in this makeshift tomb, as well as multiple purchases for her own comfort and indulgence by way of chocolates, scented candles, toiletries, soft furnishings and clothing.

‘The way he was wrapped, with cables, hosepipes and plastic bags, building detritus afforded him no dignity in death. It shows utter contempt. She cannot have forgotten this.

‘She now claims to have forgotten most of the month of November 2021- the prosecution invites you to reject that claim. It is another instrumental lie designed to avoid conviction for murder.’

Beal demonised Mr Billigham and made herself look like the victim to relatives who she told he had cheated, the court heard.

Mr Davies said: ‘All the indications are that Mr Billingham was stabbed in the neck whilst in their bedroom whilst wearing a face mask.

‘He was also cable-tied, although it is not possible to say forensically whether this was before or after he died. The probability is surely before, in order to prevent him fighting back?’

Beal had written in her journal that Mr Billingham asked ‘why?’ after she stabbed him, the court heard.

Mr Davies said: ‘You are also likely to hear evidence from a psychologist and a psychiatrist.

‘It is for you to decide whether her claimed loss of memory is false – there’s no conclusive test for that. It is for you to decide the facts of the relationship, not experts.

‘Perhaps to different degrees they have based their opinions very largely on accepting what she has told them. If she has lied to them then their respective opinions would be based on a false premise.’

In his opening speech to the jury, defence barrister Andrew Wheeler, KC, said: ‘This case is not as straightforward as the prosecution suggest. Fiona Beal is a lady of good character, a partner to Nick Billingham for 17 years, a hardworking and thoroughly liked schoolteacher.

‘A lady about whom you will hear many good things said. So how does that person suddenly go on to kill?

‘What this case is really about is her state of mind at the time she carried out the act. What caused that dramatic change, what was the catalyst that led to these very tragic circumstances?

‘You will hear evidence Ms Beal suffered from mental health issues but also on top of that she was in a coercive and controlling relationship with Mr Billingham. Her actions and her thoughts were continually controlled and manipulated by him, not necessarily through physical threats, although you will hear on occasions there were such physical threats.

‘He was physically domineering and over the years he wore her down until she was quite literally broken.

‘You will also hear that Ms Beal was unable to recall any details about what happened.

‘As you have heard from the prosecution she left scribbling notes which made reference to the killing.

‘They were not the recordings of a manipulative and cold blooded killer as the prosecution say, would such a killer leave such an easily identifiable trail of evidence? Instead these notes are clear evidence of a disturbed mind.

‘Loss of control can provide a partial defence to murder and in this case we will be suggesting that Ms Beal’s loss of control arose from events relating to the ongoing conduct of and treatment of her by Mr Billingham.

‘Mr Billingham could be charming, he could come across as the good guy when he wanted to, for example in his workplace.

‘However as the evidence unfolds you may hear questions asked and evidence given as what could be described as a bad side of Mr Billingham’s character and also his peculiar and sometimes rude behaviour whilst in the company of others.

‘The purpose of that is not to speak ill of the dead or be disrespectful to him or his family but to give you some indication of him as a person and how he could react to the company of others- and this may provide some indication as to what may have taken place behind closed doors.’

The trial, which is set to last six weeks, continues.

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