French court finds British man guilty of murder for crushing his wife | France
A former Tory adviser has been convicted of killing his wife by deliberately crushing her in his Mercedes at their home in France.
David Turtle, 67, was convicted of murder by a French court and sentenced to 14 years in prison.
The court in Agen in southwestern France ruled that Turtle had deliberately driven his station wagon towards his wife, Stephanie, after an argument over a TV show.
Police found the victim under the Mercedes in March 2017; her chest had been crushed and she suffered severe internal injuries leading to suffocation, according to an autopsy.
Turtle had claimed it was a terrible accident and he had no idea his wife, 50, was in front of or under the car when he left. Defense attorneys said the accused loved his wife, had no motive to kill her, and there was no evidence that he did. Turtle was taken from court to jail, but said he would appeal the verdict.
However, Maître Matthieu Chirez, representing the sister of the victim Catherine Seymour, told the court: “It is not possible that he is unable to explain what happened. To say that Stéphanie Turtle voluntarily lies under the wheels [of the vehicle], knowing that he wanted to leave, does not make sense.
Chirez said Turtle had changed her version of events since the crash. Experts said Turtle would have had great difficulty running over his wife without huge acceleration from the car.
“And that’s what he did, he knocked her down… During those few seconds, it was the horror he gave her,” Chirez said in court.
Attorney General Patrick Serra said: “David Turtle could not have been unaware that Stephanie Turtle was in front of the car when he rolled over her body.” He said there was no evidence that the body was dragged by the vehicle. He said the accused began to change his story as soon as he had access to the investigation file.
“He says, ‘Only I know what happened’, but that doesn’t mean he’s telling the truth … when he hit the button. [accelerator] pedal, he crushed her and he couldn’t ignore the fact that she was in front, ”added Serra.
Maître Laurent Bruneau, of the Turtle defense team, argued that while Turtle had killed his wife he had not done so deliberately and said the case had been based on the presumption of the guilt of the ‘accused.
He said his client was being judged because of inconsistencies in his version of events and asked, “Can anyone be consistent in such situations after his wife has died?”
“By losing her, he lost everything. Of course he killed her, how can I say otherwise? But it was an accident. He didn’t see her and always said that.
Major Alain Chauvin, a former police officer who investigated the death, told the court that none of the witnesses questioned in connection with the death believed it was an accident. He said Turtle’s wife couldn’t have walked past the car without him seeing her.
In a blog she kept, Stephanie Turtle wondered if her husband cherished his new car more than she did, claiming that he had “overtaken” the vehicle and lavished almost obsessive attention on it.
Jayne Clarke, 63, a friend who lived nearby, suggested that David Turtle, who had not learned French, was unhappy in his new home.
“I felt that David was anxious, he didn’t want to stay in France anymore. I felt that David was withdrawing from the [bed-and-breakfast] project and that his enthusiasm seemed to have waned, ”said Carmen.
Catherine Goupil, a clinical psychologist, told the court that Turtle had received 140 letters of support from friends who did not understand how he could be charged with murder. She said the couple had “a pretty close-knit relationship.”
The couple met in Turkey on a singles vacation in 1996 and had no children. He had quit his job as a Mercedes dealership and resigned as a Tory Councilor in the Kinson North district of Bournemouth, and Stephanie left the human resources department of Dorset Council in 2016, moving to Prayssac to run a bed and breakfast .
“I loved my wife and love her even more now than before because my heart is broken after what happened,” he said. “Stéphanie was the love of my life. It took me 40 years to find her, ”Turtle told the court.
After the three-day hearing, Chirez told The Guardian: “David Turtle’s version of events made no sense. It’s perfectly impossible that he didn’t see or hear her that night, and so it’s clear that he willfully knocked her down and killed her.
“Technical investigations confirm this fact, and that’s what the jury decided. Stéphanie’s family and especially her sister are relieved and will continue to show the same decency they have since this terrible crime occurred. She was extremely close to her sister and this is obviously a huge loss for her.
He said he and his colleagues would continue to help the victim’s family.