A PRIMARY school teacher has denied murdering her boyfriend after his body was found buried in their back garden.
Fiona Beal, 48, is accused of stabbing to death her partner Nick Billingham, 42, between October 30 and November 10 last year.
The builder was found in the garden of their terraced property in Northampton in March following four days of digging – and almost five months after his death.
Beal was arrested 200 miles away at a hotel in Cumbria hours before the body was found and she was later charged with murder.
Today she appeared at Northampton Crown Court where she pleaded not guilty to the charge and a trial date was set for September 12 this year.
Beal spoke only to confirm her name and enter her plea during the ten-minute hearing and was remanded in custody ahead of a pre-trial hearing on September 6.
Her Honour Judge Adrienne Lucking told her: “Fiona Beal, please stand up. I am going to adjourn this case now to September 6.
“We will see where we are on September 6, in the meantime, you will remain in custody. Thank you very much, you may go down.”
Police were initially called to the house in Moore Street, where they began a search of the entire terraced property.
Forensic officers and specialist search teams, including a cadaver dog, were deployed and a body was found buried in the rear garden.
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A post-mortem examination has since revealed Mr Billingham died as a result of being stabbed in the neck.
Beal had taught at Eastfield Academy in Northampton before her arrest and has since been sacked.
Tributes have previously been paid to Nick by his devastated family in a statement issued via the police.
They said: “Nick has been taken from us far too early and will always be in our hearts.
“We’ve been overwhelmed with offers of kind support, and words of comfort from so many beautiful people, and know that he will be sadly missed by all his friends, family and loved ones.
“Our heart aches for Nick. He was a gorgeous little boy, and we have so many cherished memories of him growing up and were so proud of the man he became.
“He just got on with life, which has now been tragically cut short.
“Rest in peace Nick. Until we meet again, sleep tight and remember all the good times we had together. We will love you always and forever.”
Neighbours of the pair previously described Mr Billingham as a “pleasant guy” and a “happy go-lucky, nice bloke.”
One said: “He was such pleasant guy, ever so nice. It was a complete shock for something like this to happen on the doorstep.”
Another neighbour said: “We’d have a beer outside when he was doing the work on the house. He seemed a nice bloke.”