A former Tory councillor is to stand trial today in a French court, four and a half years after he crushed his wife to death with the family Mercedes outside their B&B.
David Turtle, 67, a former Conservative councillor, was charged with aggravated manslaughter in April 2017 after he admitted to driving his cherished two-tonne £37,000 Mercedes over his wife Stephanie in an ‘accident’ following an argument.
Mr Turtle left his job as a Mercedes dealer and resigned as a Conservative councillor in Bournemouth’s Kinson North ward in 2016, deciding to up sticks and move to the idyllic Prayssac in southwestern France to run a bed and breakfast with Stephanie.
The couple, who married in 2000, had planned to open their B&B to guests in the summer of 2017, but on March 30 of the same year, French police were called to the house in the early hours to discover Stephanie crushed by the Mercedes E-class.
Mr Turtle told investigators the incident had occurred after the couple had been in a row, but that he did not see her step in front of the car and that it was an accident.
The police later discovered that a blog written by Stephanie, who gave up her job in the human resources department of Dorset council to move abroad, contained several posts in which she complained at length about her husband’s love affair with the Mercedes.
Mr Turtle will now stand trial for aggravated manslaughter four and a half years after the death of his wife and faces up to 30 years in prison.
David Turtle, now 67, ran over Stephanie Turtle, 50, in the early hours of March 30, 2017 in the village of Prayssac, in the Lot department, 90 miles north of Toulouse. A post-mortem examination established that Mrs Turtle died of asphyxia after her rib cage was crushed by the weight of the vehicle.
According to Mr Turtle’s account of the incident given to police, the saga began on the evening of March 29, 2017, when the couple got into an argument after dinner.
Mr Turtle 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.
Mr Turtle 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 meanwhile will 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.
David Turtle, who was 62 at the time of his wife’s death, has maintained it was an accident and said he didn’t see her as he set off from the driveway outside the couple’s bed and breakfast
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 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 outside
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.
An elderly former neighbour of the couple in Bournemouth said she was ‘horrified and devastated’ by the news in the weeks following Mrs Turtle’s death.
‘I knew David for a long time and got to know her in the time before they went to France and they were excellent together,’ she said.
‘They seemed very happy. David thought the world of Stephanie and always talked about her as if she was someone really special to him.
‘He never said anything nasty or negative about her…I can’t possibly imagine he’d ever contemplate doing something like this on purpose.’
Speaking at his home in Derby, Mrs Turtle’s brother-in-law Robert Seymour said: ‘We are not prepared to say anything while the investigation is underway.’