A man convicted of murdering his fiancee, who is now accused of murdering his wife six years earlier, told a jury his marriage was “perfect” and that he tried to resuscitate his spouse after finding her collapsed in their garden.
Ian Stewart, 61, who in 2016 was convicted of murdering Helen Bailey, author of the Electra Brown series of children’s books, denies killing his wife, Diane Stewart, 47, at their home in Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire, in 2010.
His wife’s cause of death was recorded in 2010 as sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (Sudep), but police opened an investigation after a jury found Stewart guilty in 2017 of murdering Bailey.
Giving evidence at Huntingdon crown court, Stewart recalled that he had found his wife’s body crumpled in the garden after he returned from a shopping trip to Tesco that was aborted because he had forgotten his wallet.
As his two sons listened from the public gallery, he said: “The first thing I did was try to get her in the recovery position. That was hard, I couldn’t get her legs out from under her.”
He said he tried to clear her mouth, and then “put her on her back to put her in the position for CPR” and then did “30 compressions and then mouth to mouth”. He had no idea how long he performed CPR, he said. “At the end I was exhausted.”
A doctor and nurse lived opposite, the court heard. “I didn’t ring 999, I went over to them to try to get help,” said Stewart, who told the court there was no answer at his neighbours’ door so he returned to his wife to try CPR again, believing she was still alive because of “froth” around her mouth. He said he did not know how long he continued CPR before calling 999, telling operators his wife had “had a fit”.
Stewart told jurors he “never, ever saw Diane fit”, but she did have epilepsy.
Asked by Amjad Malik QC, defending, if he was “trying to help Diane”, Stewart replied: “I was trying to save her life, obviously trying to get her to breathe again.”
Asked to describe his feelings towards his wife in June 2010, Stewart said: “We were in love, very happy, very much so. It was, just looking back, too perfect really, too good.”
Stewart went on: “I don’t think we ever had a big fallout, ever.”
The jury has previously heard that tests on his wife’s brain tissue, donated for medical research, showed that her “breathing had been restricted”.
Earlier, the court heard that Stewart received a total of £96,607.37 following the death of his wife, from her bank accounts – including£28,500.21 from a life insurance policy.
Asked by his lawyer if he wanted the money, Stewart said: “No, I don’t want that money, I didn’t need that money, it was for the boys’ futures.”
Questioned about a red two-seater MG car he bought after his wife’s death, he said he bought it as “it’s what Diane and I had up until [their son] Jamie was born”.
“This was the red one we always wanted, it was just a memory,” he added.
Malik asked him: “The prosecution say you caused Diane Stewart to die and that you carried out an action, asphyxiation, upon her. What do you say to that?”
Stewart replied: “Total rubbish. I was trying to save her life that day, the exact opposite of what they say happened.”
The trial continues.