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A primary school teacher has pleaded not guilty to murdering her partner after his body was found buried in their back garden in Northamptonshire, a court heard today.
Fiona Beal, 48, is accused of stabbing 42-year-old Nicholas Billingham to death between October 30 and November 10 last year.
The builder was found in the garden of his £225,000 semi-detached property on Moore Street in the Kingsley area of Northampton in March after four days of digging.
Billingham was on a missing
Billingham was on a missing persons list for nearly five months before police sniffer dogs dug up his body after forensic officers and specialized search teams were sent to search the property.
Beal was arrested 200 miles away at a hotel in Cumbria just hours before the body was found and was later charged with murder.
The results of a post-mortem examination revealed that Billingham died of a stab wound to the neck.
Beal only spoke in court to confirm her name and her plea of innocence at the brief hearing at Northampton Crown Court.
Billingham’s family paid tribute to their “beautiful” boy, saying they were “proud of the man he had become”.
In a statement released to police, they said: ‘Nick has been taken from us too soon and he will always be in our hearts.
Mr. Billingham was described as “such a nice guy” by one of his neighbors.
“We have been overwhelmed by the offers of kind support and words of comfort from so many beautiful people, and we know he will be sadly missed by all of his friends, family and loved ones.
‘Our hearts ache for Nick. He was a beautiful boy, and we have many cherished memories of him growing up and we were so proud of the man he became.
“She just went on with his life, which has now been tragically cut short.
‘Rest in peace Nick. Until we meet again, sleep well and remember all the good times we had together. We will love you always and forever.
The couple’s neighbors said they moved into his house on Moore Street in 2020.
One said: ‘He was such a nice guy, such a nice guy. It was a complete shock that something like that happened at the gate.
Another neighbor said: ‘We were having a beer outside when he was doing work on the house. He seemed like a nice guy.
Northampton’s Eastfield Academy, where Beal worked as a sixth-year teacher before she was sacked days after her arrest, said they were “shocked and saddened” to learn of Mr Billingham’s death.
The school released a statement that said: “We are particularly aware of the impact this news will have on children, and we will do everything we can to support both students and staff as we work together through this difficult time.”
“This is a horrific tragedy that will shake our school community to its roots, and it is at times like this that we must come together, support each other and be kind to one another.”
Beal pleaded not guilty to the charge and was remanded in custody before a pre-trial hearing on September 6, with a trial date set for September 12.
Nicholas Billingham Quick and Facts
- Fiona Beal is accused of murdering her partner Nicholas Billingham last year
- The builder was on a missing persons’ list for almost five months
- His body was found in the garden of their home on Moore Street in Northampton
- Beal, who taught at Northampton’s Eastfield Academy, today pleaded not guilty