Orna Raz

It Could Have Been Me: In Memory of Helen Bailey

When I read about the brutal murder of Helen Bailey I knew right away that it could have been me. Helen Bailey (1964 – 2016) was a British author who wrote teen fiction. She was also a widow.

In 2011, at the age of 46 while on vacation in Barbados, Bailey’s husband of 22 years died suddenly. He went into the sea for a morning swim, was caught in a riptide and drowned. In her own words she was still  a “wife at breakfast” and became a “widow by lunch.”

In spite of her deep mourning, Bailey did everything within her power to get better and move on. She sought the help of a bereavement coach who helped her deal with her grief, she wrote a blog called Planet Grief, in which she detailed her struggle to cope with the sudden loss of her husband, and she joined an online support group for people who had lost their spouses.

And then something joyful happened, after eight months of widowhood she met through that group a  “gorgeous grey-haired widower” (her words), whose wife died suddenly in 2010.

Helen Bailey probably felt that she met a kindred spirit. They started out as friends, then grew closer, started dating and finally moved in together and bought an old house in Royston, Hertfordshire

According to her bereavement coach, Helen Bailey was a person who wanted to feel “secure and safe”, like she had with her late husband. She added that “there was never any inkling or sign that she was anything but safe” with her new partner.

It seems that after her world was shattered, she could rebuild her life with her new partner Ian Stewart. So in order to make him feel secure as  well, in case she died, Bailey changed her will and left him all her money, She gave him  power of attorney as well.

People love a happy ending, and there is nothing more heartwarming than a story about a  widow and a widower who find  love and happiness.

But on April 2016, Helen Bailey disappeared, and three months later her remains were found buried in the Royston house. Her new partner was charged with her murder.

I am almost certain that most of the people who read about Helen Bailey and her tragic death ask themselves how could she have been so naïve and so blind? Didn’t she suspect anything?

But to me as a widow it makes perfect sense:  I was not used to being suspicious, I had no reason to. Moreover, in the first year of mourning, when I was hungry for warmth and kindness, I trusted people even more. I can even identify with Bailey’s wish to insure the future of her new partner in the event of her death. Hadn’t he suffered enough?

Actually, apart for the ending, my own biography is almost identical to that of Helene Bailey. My husband died when I was relatively young, I was helped by a kind bereavement coach, and like her, I found my partner another “gray haired gorgeous widower” online.

My partner and I were both safe and secure in our previous life, and that is why we  were not used to being suspicious. We were probably naïve, but we gained a lot by being able to trust each other.

This is a horrifying story for everyone, but it is especially scary for widows. Still l believe that it is better to be generous and trusting, like Helen Bailey, than to lose your faith in love and humanity. I am so sad that she was proven wrong.

P.S. The story of Helen Bailey’s murder

About the Author
I have a PhD in English literature from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and I usually write about issues concerning women, literature, culture and society. I lived in the US for 15 years (between 1979-1994). I am widow and in March 2016 started a support/growth Facebook group for widows: "Widows Move On." In October 2017 I started a Facebook group for Older and Experienced Feminists. .
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