A former Conservative councillor from Bournemouth was in police custody and facing a manslaughter charge on Saturday after he ran over his wife outside their home in rural France.
David Turtle, 62, from Bournemouth, claimed the death of his wife, Stephanie, 50, was an accident. She was crushed to death under their estate car in the village of Prayssac, north of Toulouse, in the early hours of Thursday morning, sources close to the prosecution said.
Her body was found by firemen who responded to an emergency call around 2am. A post -mortem examination concluded that Mrs Turtle had died of asphyxia after her rib cage caved in under the weight of the vehicle.
Mr Turtle resigned as a councillor in Bournemouth’s Kinson North ward last year and his wife gave up her job in the human resources at department of the county Dorset cCouncil to move to begin what the couple hoped would be an idyllic new life in south-western France.
They bought a dilapidated property and set about converting it into a bed-and-breakfast guest house.
They were looking forward to welcoming their first guests this summer, according to a resident of Prayssac, which has a population of about 2,500.
Workmen were still helping to putting the finishing touches to the refurbishment. “They were delighted with the result and seemed really happy,” the resident said. “They had not stopped working since they arrived last summer.”
A photograph posted on the couple’s Twitter account showed them smiling in front of their blue-shuttered home.
Forensics officers searched the house and surrounding grounds on Saturday.
Mr Turtle was being held at a police station in Puy-l’Evêque and was due to appear before an investigating judge in the town of Agen.
A source close to the case said: “Mr Turtle faces a charge of violence leading to the unintentional death of his wife. Police are not seeking anyone else in connection with the tragedy.”
Mr Turtle told investigators that he “accidentally knocked over his wife,”, the source said. “He is cooperating fully with the police but they are keeping him in custody for now.”
After the couple moved to Prayssac in July last year and moved into La Maison Cèdre (The Cedar House), they registered the bed-and-breakfast business they planned to start in Mrs Turtle’s name.
They recently applied for permission to build a swimming pool.
Mrs Turtle shared details of her new life in an online blog, using T to denote their surname.
It reads: “Welcome to La Maison Cèdre, a light hearted blog of our journey from Bournemouth to Prayssac.
“The story of Mr and Mrs T who have left the UK to set up a chambre d’hôte (B & B) in the beautiful Lot Valley, South West France.
“You’ll get to experience with us some of the joys, trials and tribulations that happen along the way and meet our new friends as we settle into new lives ‘en France’.
“The blog will include plenty of photos as Mr T is a keen photographer, videos of the house and surrounding area, plus recipes as Mrs T is a keen cook. Plus anything else we think you might find interesting or amusing.”
A local police spokesman said next-of-kin in Britain had been informed of Mrs Turtle’s death.
Mark Battistini, a fellow Conservative who served on the Kinson North council with Mr Turtle, told the Bournemouth Echo: “I always got on well with David… He was friendly and very nice. This is very sad indeed.”