Fiona Beal: teacher took bedroom selfies after murdering boyfriend and burying him garden, court hears

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Fiona Beal is accused of murdering her long-term partner Nicholas Billingham

A primary school teacher took selfies in her bedroom after murdering her cheating boyfriend and burying him in the garden, a court heard.

Fiona Beal, 49, is accused of stabbing her long-term partner Nicholas Billingham, 42, in the neck in a pre-planned murder in their bedroom on 1 November 2021 before wrapping him in bin bags and a rug.

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The trial heard that rubble, mortar, polystyrene, laminate flooring, and sections of fabric and vinyl were also recovered from a “built structure” hiding the body of the tragic builder.

It is alleged that the 49-year-old penned a “chilling” confession in a blue notebook, detailing her plan to kill Mr Billingham in their Northampton home, dispose of his body and explain his disappearance to others. She also previously claimed in the notebook that her partner cheated on her several times and was doing so again.

Fiona Beal is accused of murdering Nick Billingham (Photo: Northamptonshire Police / SWNS)Fiona Beal is accused of murdering Nick Billingham (Photo: Northamptonshire Police / SWNS)
Fiona Beal is accused of murdering Nick Billingham (Photo: Northamptonshire Police / SWNS) | Northamptonshire Police / SWNS

Jurors at Northampton Crown Court on Tuesday (21 March) were shown two selfies Ms Beal had taken in her bedroom in February last year. One of the pictures showed her wearing a black cardigan and top with a gold spotty dress, and she was smiling as she stood next to a double bed.

Another close-up picture shows her staring down the camera lens with her blonde hair covering her shoulders. The pictures were shown to the jury as neighbours of the couple described her as “bubbly and cheerful” in the weeks before Mr Billingham’s death.

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Neighbour Ellen Warren told Northampton Crown Court: “We went round for dinner for an Indian before. They were fine. It was the end of September or October 2021. It was quite good. It was a happy vibe, chatting. He was quite upbeat and always having a joke. She was quite bubbly. Really cheerful.”

Mrs Warren said she saw Ms Beal again in the weeks after she was accused of murdering the 42-year-old. She told the jury: “Fiona came around to my house just before Christmas. She was a bit down and a bit teary as well. She said that Nick’s been cheating on her again. I knew that he cheated on her before, that’s only what my partner told me.

“I said I’m sorry, and gave her a bit of advice and I told her not to let him back. I did invite her around for Christmas drinks, but she never turned up. It was the second week of December.

“[My husband] Gary told me once that he had cheated before but I thought that he was settled now with Fiona. He was always outside washing his car or his van. I thought he was going to stick with Fiona and settle down.”

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The body of Nicholas Billingham was found buried in a back garden (Photo: Northamptonshire Police / SWNS)The body of Nicholas Billingham was found buried in a back garden (Photo: Northamptonshire Police / SWNS)
The body of Nicholas Billingham was found buried in a back garden (Photo: Northamptonshire Police / SWNS) | Northamptonshire Police / SWNS

Gary Warren told the court he had worked on building jobs with Mr Billingham and went to their house to drop off some money for a job he had done. He said: “The last time I saw him was around October 2021 when we finished part of a job together.

“When it got to Thursday 4th November I had not heard from him about work, I went round. Fiona answered the door slightly with a face mask. Fiona was very abrupt and shut the door in my face. I did not see or hear Nicholas at all.”

Mr Warren said he received several text messages from Mr Billingham telling him he had moved away from Northampton to be with another woman.

Forensic officers at a house in Moore Street in Kingsley, Northamptonshire (Photo: Anita Maric / SWNS)Forensic officers at a house in Moore Street in Kingsley, Northamptonshire (Photo: Anita Maric / SWNS)
Forensic officers at a house in Moore Street in Kingsley, Northamptonshire (Photo: Anita Maric / SWNS) | Anita Maric / SWNS

The court also heard from Mr Billingham’s cousin James Smith who told jurors he was a gambler and his relationship with Ms Beal had become strained. He said: “Nick had said previously that he was depressed and felt suicidal. He was a serial cheater. Fiona did take Nick back when founding out he had fathered a child with a younger woman.

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“I contacted Nick via Facebook messenger on the 24th November 2021 as I had not heard from him. I asked him: ‘you’ve changed numbers?’ I got a response from his account the next morning. It read: ‘No just dodging. I’ve moved away cuz. Things went to s***.’”

Ms Beal admits unlawfully killing Nicholas at their Northampton home but denies murder due to her state of mind at the time. She told healthcare professionals that a voice in her head told her to “stand up for herself”

Mr Billingham’s partially mummified remains were found on 19 March and police said a bloodied mattress and a duvet, as well as cable ties, were found in the cellar of the house.

The court heard that Mr Billingham was murdered in the bedroom of the couple’s home in Moore Street, Northampton, after Ms Beal persuaded him to put on an eye mask. She then stabbed him once in the neck and buried his body in the back garden, contacting his relatives on his phone to create the impression he had left her for another woman.

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Andrew Wheeler KC, defending, said that it was not contested that Ms Beal had unlawfully killed her partner, instead advocating that she had been manipulated by the “psychologically domineering” Mr Billingham to the point where she was “broken” and was not in the right state of mind. The trial continues.

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