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Former Tory councillor denies deliberately running over wife at trial in France

A former Tory councillor on trial in France accused of killing his wife by running her over with his Mercedes has denied the allegation, telling a court he loved her. 

David Turtle, 67, appeared in court in Cahors, southwest France, on Wednesday charged with aggravated manslaughter over the death of wife Stephanie in 2017.

Prosecutors alleged that 50-year-old Stephanie had laid down in front of Turtle’s car to stop him leaving after an argument and he ran over her, or that she had been knocked out during the row and placed in front of the vehicle.

But Turtle denied the allegations, saying he intended to go for a drive after the argument and was unaware that his wife was in front of the car when he pulled away.

‘I loved my wife,’ he told the court. ‘What happened has broken my heart.’

David Turtle, 67 (right), has appeared in court in southwestern France accused of aggravated manslaughter of wife Stephanie, 50 (left), who was run over and killed at their home

David Turtle, 67 (right), has appeared in court in southwestern France accused of aggravated manslaughter of wife Stephanie, 50 (left), who was run over and killed at their home 

Turtle told the court how he had joined the RAF after school, worked in a shoe shop for 20 years, and then worked in car dealerships for Peugeot and Mercedes.

He met Stephanie in 1996 on a holiday in Turkey for single people and said they had been ‘drawn to each-other’, he said.

The pair married in 2000 and had lived near Bournemouth, where Turtle was a councillor for the Kinson North ward and Stephanie had worked in Dorset council’s human resources department, 

In 2016 they moved to France because it was Stephanie’s dream to open a B&B and had found the ‘perfect’ property though it needed ‘a lot of work’, Turtle said.

‘We did that to be together. We loved each other a lot,’ he told the court, according to an account in The Times.

Major Alain Chauvin, a now-retired police officer who led the investigation, said none of the witnesses his officers questioned believed the death was accidental.

He told the court that there was no way that Stephanie could have got in front of the £37,000, two-and-a-half ton Mercedes E-class without Turtle seeing.

But defence lawyers hit back, saying there was no hard evidence that the death was either the result of an accident or willful act.

A court psychologist assessed Turtle to be of ‘normal intelligence’ with an ‘obsessional’ psychiatric profile, but otherwise an ‘educated and responsible man’. 

Turtle faces up to 30 years in prison if found guilty. The trial continues.

Prosecutors accuse Turtle (right) of deliberately running over Stephanie (left) after an argument, but he says it was an accident and he didn't know his wife was in the driveway

Prosecutors accuse Turtle (right) of deliberately running over Stephanie (left) after an argument, but he says it was an accident and he didn’t know his wife was in the driveway 

In previous accounts given to police, Turtle said the saga began on the evening of March 29, 2017, when the couple got into an argument after dinner. 

He said the row was resolved when his wife went to bed, but later resumed when Stephanie came down from the bedroom after midnight to use the toilet.

The former councillor said he wanted to go for a late night drive to calm down, but ‘had a feeling’ he needed to stop as he pulled out. 

He got out of the car to find Stephanie trapped under one of the Mercedes’ wheels with two tonnes of metal pressing down into her ribcage, and claimed he had no idea that the car had hit her. 

Prosecutors argue that Stephanie’s death was not the result of an accident.  

During questioning, the investigating judge, Cybele Ordoqui, said it was unlikely that a woman would put on a bra and get fully dressed before heading downstairs to use the toilet in the middle of the night.  

Stephanie was found by police wearing a jacket, two t-shirts and a bra. 

Forensic experts also alleged that Mr Turtle would have had to ‘significantly engage the accelerator pedal’ in order to run down and crush his wife, and tyre marks in the gravel driveway of the B&B suggested the car set off very quickly.  

‘[Mr Turtle] cannot answer the question why he did not see or hear his wife and has never been able to answer it,’ his indictment said.

In the days following Stephanie’s death, the police also discovered a blog she maintained online about the couple’s journey abroad and their new life in France.

The home of Stephanie and David Turtle in the Prayssac region of France is pictured with the Mercedes E-class, which ultimately crushed Stephanie to death, on the gravel driveway

The home of Stephanie and David Turtle in the Prayssac region of France is pictured with the Mercedes E-class, which ultimately crushed Stephanie to death, on the gravel driveway

Mrs Turtle, who was aged 50 at the time of her death, wrote on her blog: ‘I have come to question if I might have slipped from the number one spot of Mr T’s affections … [Our] new Mercedes Benz E-class estate is clearly Mr T’s pride and joy.’ 

Detectives said Mrs Turtle wrote that her husband ‘put possibly as much effort’ into buying the Mercedes ‘as into the purchase of our new home’. 

Referring to the car as ‘she’, Mrs Turtle listed ‘a few examples of why I might be feeling a little put out’, including: ‘She has had more attention lavished on her than most anything else since we arrived in France, with weekly cleans and touches up in between…

‘She is mollycoddled. For example, she can’t be parked within 20 feet of any painting activity. When leaving home, a physical check for traffic in our quiet country lane is required – I have to actually get out of the car.

‘We approach junctions with the utmost caution, both of us straining our necks to check for oncoming traffic and chanting ‘all clear my way’. No eating or drinking is allowed in the car lest we get greasy or sticky marks on her leather interior. The list goes on… ‘

The blog was posted in September 2016, two months after the couple moved to Prayssac, with the intention of turning La Maison Cedre – The Cedar House – into a bed and breakfast. 



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