Helen Bailey was a successful children’s author and blogger
Helen Bailey – author, widow, fiancée, dog owner, football fan – was found dead in July 2015. The man she loved, Ian Stewart, drugged and suffocated her before throwing her body into a cesspit. But those who knew and loved her do not want her to be remembered for how she died.
"The world has lost a gifted author". The words of Helen Bailey’s brother John were repeated by the judge at St Albans Crown Court when he sentenced Ian Stewart to 34 years in prison.
Her skills as a writer had shone through when she started blogging following the death of her husband John Sinfield in 2011, getting to know people from across the country as she chronicled her life as a widow.
Here, some of those people share their memories of her:
‘Her words resonated’
Laraine Mason met Ms Bailey online following the death of John Sinfield and Ms Mason’s own husband.
"We were all part of this community of bereaved people, and she was welcomed into it, but it soon became apparent she brought something else to the table – her ability as a writer," Ms Mason recalled. "She put into words what most of us thought but couldn’t articulate. It resonated. It was written in a language people could understand.
"But when I talked to Helen, there was more to our conversations than the commonality of bereavement. At her memorial service, people from the widowed community turned up. This was somebody who touched people on another level."
‘Lucky to have met her’
BBC Radio 4 presenter Jane Garvey met Ms Bailey in October 2015 while the author was promoting her book.
"Some people I’ve interviewed stick in my mind; some don’t," she said. "Helen Bailey didn’t just stick in my mind, she struck a chord with the audience and generated a huge response when she appeared on Woman’s Hour. I’d read her book, When Bad Things Happen In Good Bikinis, and when I met Helen she was exactly the sort of person I’d hoped she would be.
"I was asked to read an excerpt from one of her books at her memorial service in November, and after talking to her friends and family I realised what a strong partnership she’d had with her husband John Sinfield.
"Her description in her book of the day he died is a brilliant piece of writing. She deserves to be remembered as more than a murder victim – she was a great writer and an astute businesswoman, as well as being so funny and honest about herself. I feel lucky to have met her."
Laura Richards, a domestic violence campaigner and founder of the charity Paladin, a stalking advocacy service, echoed the presenter’s view:
Ms Bailey was a member of WAY (Widowed and Young), a charity for men and women under the age of 50 whose partners have died.
The charity posted this message on Facebook following Ian Stewart’s conviction for murder:
‘Boris saw her through some dark times’
Another friend of Ms Bailey, Emily Thomas, said she would remember the writer as "effervescent – full of life, incredibly talented, warm, funny, vivacious. I’ll remember her as somebody who took every opportunity to love life despite the tragedy she went though when her husband John died in 2011. She was an incredibly life-affirming person.
"I think with bereavement, it’s not a linear thing, and I think she certainly came out of a period of great darkness into another period of her life with more positivity. But it takes a long time to get over that kind of loss. I think she grasped any opportunity to feel good about life.
"Boris the Dachshund saw her through some really dark times. She adored him. He was her trusted little companion for a long time, and a dog she had with her husband. He meant a huge amount to her. He was the love of her life."
Book sales soar
Online sales of Helen Bailey’s books have jumped considerably in light of the end of the trial, with her first book for adults – "When Bad Things Happen in Good Bikinis" – seeing a 17,000% increase in sales on Amazon in the last 24 hours.
Before its publication in 2015, Ms Bailey had written more than 20 other books for children and young adults, including the Electra Brown and Daisy Davenport series.
In the weeks before her death, Ms Bailey and Stewart – who had experience as a web designer – were working on a new blog site called "And Beyond: One Life Live It".
Under the headings Fashion, Dogs, Flowers, Food and Life, test posts still appear, with one reading: "This is just a test post to see how things work on this blog that my super duper man has organised for me."
There are also pictures of her beloved Boris, who is seen next to a copy of her book – the same book which is now climbing the sales charts, introducing new readers to her writing and ensuring her legacy will not be forgotten.