David Turtle, 67, denied aggravated manslaughter in connection with the death of his wife Stephanie, in 2017, when he appeared for the first day of trial in court in Cahors, Lot.
“I loved my wife,” he told the court. “I love her even more now than before, because my heart is broken after what happened.”
Turtle, a former car salesman and town councillor in southwest England, rejected the prosecution’s argument that he deliberately drove over her following a late-night argument at their home in Prayssac, Lot, saying he was unaware that she was in front of the car when he pulled away.
The court heard that the row had started over the choice of a TV programme earlier in the evening, after which Mrs Turtle had gone to bed. When she came back downstairs later, Turtle said he decided to go for a drive rather than restart the argument.
He said that he heard her following as he left the house but could not see her, so moved the car forwards a few metres before stopping again. It was then, he said, that he found her lying under the vehicle.
Forensic reports revealed that Mrs Turtle had suffered multiple rib fractures, clavicular and scapular fractures, pulmonary lesions, abdominal trauma, and a fracture of the pelvis.
Turtle explained how he had met the recently divorced woman who would become his wife on a singles’ holiday in Turkey, when he was 40 years old. They moved to France, in 2016, to renovate a property they had bought, intending to turn it into a bed and breakfast.
He said he had been sad to give up his council role to move to France, but said that he “always put his wife first”.
“Stephanie was the love of my life, it took 40 years to find her,” he said.
A clinical psychologist told the court that the couple had a “close relationship”.
The trial, set for three days, continues. If found guilty, Turtle could face life imprisonment.