Mother describes unknowingly having Christmas drink with son's killer girlfriend Fiona Beal 'a few feet away' from his body

The mother of a man who was murdered by his girlfriend and buried in their garden has described the moment she was unknowingly just a few feet away from his body.

Nicholas Billingham, 42, was stabbed to death by primary school teacher Fiona Beal, 50, from Northampton, sometime between 30 October and 10 November 2021.

After previously pleading guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter, on Friday, Beal pleaded guilty to murdering Mr Billingham.

The Old Bailey heard she killed him in "cold blood" before burying his body in their back garden.

Speaking after Ms Beal's admission, Mr Billingham's mother Yvonne Valentine said she had visited the couple's home in the days after the killing.

She said: "I walked into the house, in the living room, and the first thing I thought was, 'oh, have you had a turn round of furniture? It all 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 feet away and I didn't know he was there."

She added: "How could you hate someone that much to do what she did. I can't believe it. Apparently his last words were 'Why?' when she stabbed him in the neck."

Read more: The school teacher who murdered her boyfriend

Journal detailed murder

Beal was arrested in March 2022 after police discovered Mr Billingham's partly-mummified remains, four-and-a-half months after he was last seen.

In the same month, Beal had rented a cabin for herself in Cumbria and sent messages to relatives that worried them, prompting them to ask police to check on her.

In the cabin, officers found detailed 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 1 November 2021, the court heard.

Opening the trial, prosecutor Hugh Davies KC told the jury: "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."

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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."