The fiance of a children’s author found dead in a human sewage tank underneath her home told police she had spoken of "wanting space", a court has heard.

Ian Stewart reported his partner Helen Bailey missing, saying her disappearance had come as “a shock”.

The 56-year-old is on trial accused of drugging and murdering the writer and then disposing of her remains in a cesspit beneath the £1.5m property she owned in Royston, Hertfordshire.

He told officers Ms Bailey had left a note saying she had gone to stay at a cottage she owned on the Kent coast and did not want to be contacted.

In a recording of his missing person report, played to the jury at St Albans Crown Court, Stewart told police the author had mentioned that she had been wanting space.

The 51-year-old, best known for the Electra Brown series of children’s books, had been planning the couple’s forthcoming wedding on the morning of her disappearance, the jury had previously heard.

Stewart later told police Ms Bailey had been concerned that he did not want to marry her.

Asked whether he was surprised about her sudden departure, Stewart told the police call handler: No, I wasn’t. Well, yes, it was a shock, she had talked about it but it was still a shock.

She has talked about wanting space because things just haven’t been going well for her recently, or for us.

During the call, made on April 15, 2016 – four days after Ms Bailey was allegedly murdered – he also told police she had been very, very anxious and very worried about lots of things.

In Stewart’s account of that day, Ms Bailey wasn’t calm due to problems with a wedding venue and had returned from a trip out saying she never wanted to drive again, one police officer told the court.

Another officer told the jury of his conversation with Stewart on April 15: He said he was a bit annoyed about the suddenness of Helen’s going away and was a bit puzzled.

Ms Bailey’s body was discovered in the waste tank underneath her home three months after she disappeared.

The court was told that when the phone operator asked Stewart on April 15 if he was sure she was not at home, he said: I’ve literally checked everywhere – we have got quite a large house and I have literally checked everywhere.

He added: I know she’s a very strong person – it would be very hard to abuse Helen. She’d come back at you strongly.

The defendant denies charges of murder, preventing a lawful burial, fraud and three counts of perverting the course of justice.

The trial continues.

(c) Sky News 2017: Author Helen Bailey ‘wanted space’, murder accused told police