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Primary school teacher who stabbed her boyfriend to death

A primary school teacher stabbed her boyfriend to death and buried his body in the back garden after their relationship deteriorated quickly during the first Covid , a court heard today.

Fiona Beal, 48, who denies murder but admits manslaughter of 42-year-old Nicholas Billingham, told Northampton Crown Court that the only memory she has of burying his partner’s remains is ‘a dragging sensation’.

Beal is accused of luring Mr Billingham into bed before blindfolding him and fatally stabbing him with a knife that had been hidden in a bedside cabinet in November 2021.

She then allegedly wrapped up his body using carpet, bark chippings, concrete blocks and soil bought from a hardware store before to bury his remains. 

His body was found four months later in March 2022 in their garden on Moore Street, Northampton.

When asked what she remembered of the day she buried her partner, Beal told the jury: ‘I remember feeling a dragging sensation that I was dragging something.

Primary school teacher Fiona Beal denies murdering her boyfriend Nicholas Billingham but admits manslaughter

Primary school teacher Fiona Beal denies murdering her boyfriend Nicholas Billingham but admits manslaughter 

Mr Billingham's body was found buried in March 2022, four months after Beal is accused of stabbing him in the neck

Mr Billingham’s body was found buried in March 2022, four months after Beal is accused of stabbing him in the neck 

‘I remember seeing what would have been the body wrapped in the dining room.

But after that, no… not really much more.’

Beal told the court during her second day of evidence, that Mr Billingham, who she had taken back after he had an affair and a child with another woman, had become ‘more angry and aggressive’ after he was furloughed from his building job during the lockdown. 

The Year Six teacher said she had suffered emotional abuse and sexually demeaning behaviour at the hands of her partner, alleging that their sexual relationship ‘was always on his terms’, claiming he pushed ‘for oral sex a lot’.

Beal told jurors the couple had moved into the Moore Street property in late February 2020, having paid a £7,000 deposit.

She said: ‘The pandemic started in the March, and I believe he got furloughed by June – it was around that time that things became more difficult.

‘He became angry and aggressive.

He had gone back on his fixations with things.’

When asked by defence barrister Andrew Wheeler KC what she worried about throughout the lockdown, Beal responded: ‘The unexpected. I didn’t know what might happen.

‘He always said “I don’t hit you” but I always felt like it could get physical.

Police officers stood outside the couples home on Moore Street, Kingsley, Northampton in March 2022

Police officers stood outside the couples home on Moore Street, Kingsley, Northampton in March 2022 

Forensic officers leaving the home of Beal and Mr Billingham in March 2022

Forensic officers leaving the home of Beal and hdpornmobilex.com Mr Billingham in March 2022 

‘It could change quite quickly.

It could be fine and then we’d go out in the car and another driver would annoy him and then he would become quite aggressive.

‘If anything, he got worse. There were times where he’d say I wasn’t closing the back door properly and he’d demonstrate how to close the door properly.

‘I felt like I was walking on eggshells and trying to not do anything that might upset him.’

She alleged Mr Billingham would yell at her for leaving crumbs in the kitchen, adding ‘he would have a go at me.

I would stay quiet’ and that ‘he could say things to make me feel inferior’.

Mr Wheeler read extracts of letters Mr Billingham sent to Beal, in which the builder promised not to ‘belittle’ her.

It was over the course of lockdown that the accused said her self-esteem ‘hit rock bottom’, adding: ‘It was difficult because I was working from home for some of the time but because the schools were still open, I was still going into school.

‘If I wore make-up, he would question who I was wearing it for and if I didn’t then I was looking old and frumpy.’

Beal said she had been mentally ‘broken’ by the deceased’s ‘coercive behaviour’.

Speaking at Northampton Crown Court today, Beal accused Mr Billingham of 'coercive behaviour'

Speaking at Northampton Crown Court today, Beal accused Mr Billingham of ‘coercive behaviour’

Beal, 48, said the couple's relationship had rapidly deteriorated during the first Covid lockdown in 2020

Beal, 48, said the couple’s relationship had rapidly deteriorated during the first Covid lockdown in 2020 

She said: ‘I was finding things harder as I know I contacted the doctor.

I did ask for an increase in my anti-depressants at the time.

‘He was much more argumentative. If I wore makeup, he would question who I was wearing it for. Or if I didn’t he’d call me old and frumpy.

‘Or if I got new clothes to try and be up to date then he’d criticise that’

Describing the couple’s sexual relationship, she said: ‘It was always on his terms.

He would push for oral sex a lot and wanted anal sex as well.

‘He would often hold my head. He would hold my head because he thought it was funny because he knew I didn’t like that.’

She added that ‘he would spit on me.
Usually after (sex).’

Beal also spoke of her Mr Billingham’s 2018 affair, which she said left her feeling ’embarassed’.

The primary school teacher, who began her evidence on April 28, used a range of building materials to hide Mr Billingham’s body after he was stabbed to death.

Beal claimed she does not remember ‘much at all’ about the killing that took place a month after she alleges, she was ‘forced’ into a sex act by Mr Billingham in October 2021, leaving her feeling she was ‘at risk of physical sexual harm’.

Nottingham Crown Court was previously shown footage of Beal at B&Q purchasing the compost that she allegedly used to bury her boyfriend

Nottingham Crown Court was previously shown footage of Beal at B&Q purchasing the compost that she allegedly used to bury her boyfriend

Footage revealed in court in March showed Beal was captured leaving B&Q in Northampton, where she purchased ten 50 litre bags of compost, ten 22.5kg bags of Cotswold Stone and a grey plastic trough

Footage revealed in court in March showed Beal was captured leaving B&Q in Northampton, where she purchased ten 50 litre bags of compost, ten 22.5kg bags of Cotswold Stone and a grey plastic trough

When asked by the defence if she could recall anything about the stabbing she said: ‘No – I thought that I had hit him over the head and that it happened in the bath.

‘That I was sat by the back door wrapped in a blanket and had a cut on my head.

I think it was for longer than a day. There had been a day and a night. I am not sure.’

In February 2022, Beal returned to work and took pupils on a school trip to the Royal Opera House in London in February 2022.

Beal, who said the school trip went very well, told the jury: ‘It was only for my class, who were Year Six.

Some of them had challenging behaviour but that day they were well behaved.

‘It was the first trip that they had had since Covid. They had been really looking forward to it and I was the one organising it.

‘It was as if I had managed to do that and that took the last out of me.
I didn’t feel I could go any further. The trip was on a Thursday. I went into school on the Friday and that was the last time I went in.

‘I didn’t have the energy to carry on. Everything just sort of caught up with me and my mood was very low.’

The trial has heard that Beal was subsequently traced by police to Cumbria, where she had checked into a holiday lodge on March 6 last year.

On March 15, the court was told, police attended the lodge after being contacted by a concerned family member and found an apparent suicide note and a notebook.

Beal was admitted to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, where officers read the notebook and formed the opinion that she had killed her ex-partner, the court heard.

In her evidence, Beal said she was thinking of taking her own life and had travelled to the lodge ‘to be somewhere quiet’.

She said she could not remember her thought process at the time she killed Mr Billingham, adding: ‘I could read it (the notebook) and understand what my thought process was, but I don’t remember it as an actual memory.’

The trial continues.