Robert Lund: France lake death 'murder motive was money'
A British man on trial for the third time accused of killing his wife at their home in France was trying to obtain her money, a court has heard.
Robert Lund, 59, of Darwen, Lancashire, pleaded not guilty at a French court to murdering his wife Evelyn Lund.
Her decomposed body was found two years after she went missing from their farmhouse near Albi, France, in 1999.
The jury heard Mr Lund knew she had received an inheritance from her first husband.
After she disappeared from the couple's isolated French retirement home, Mr Lund withdrew some money from her account, jurors heard.
'Motive is money'
Explaining his withdrawal of his wife's money after her disappearance, he said: "The card that I used to take the money from her account was her card.
"I took what was there in one piece. I'm not hiding that's what I did."
Corinne Chassagne, president of the court, put it to him that "the motive for murder that presents itself is money".
But the former tree surgeon said he had his own money when he met his wife.
"Of course an investigation would try to establish motive and money is one of them," he said.
But he added: "If I had stayed in England with my job, I could have had an income greater than she had."
Mr Lund denied his wife had disinherited her three daughters and rewritten her will to benefit him before she disappeared but could not explain why the will had been changed.
'Lost her way'
He told Ms Chassagne: "She did not disinherit her children. She changed her will.
"Maybe she took the decision because we were going to live in France together."
He added: "You're saying it could have been a motive for me. Yes, it could have been a motive for me. I could also have walked away from the situation and retaken my profession."
He did not deny that he now wanted to receive the money his wife had left to him in her will.
Mr Lund told the court his wife had been drinking on the night she disappeared and must have lost her way while driving home from visiting friends.
Her body was found in her car in Lake Bancalie, 15 miles away, in 2001.
Giving evidence, Mrs Lund's friend Barbara Bullen claimed her friend regularly refused to wear her glasses or fasten her seatbelt while driving.
The glasses were found in the couple's farmhouse afterwards, which according to prosecutors, indicated Mrs Lund had returned home before her death as she would have been wearing them when she took the car out.
Drinking and depression
Mrs Lund's seatbelt would have had to be unfastened for her body to have moved from the front to the back seat once the car was underwater, as it must have done if she had driven into the lake herself, the court was told.
Mrs Bullen said: "I used to tell her off for not fastening her seatbelt."
She told the jury Mrs Lund had been happy when she first moved to France but she confirmed she had suffered a drinking problem and depression.
She said: "Just before her disappearance, the family said they were worried about their mother."
Mrs Bullen denied having an intimate relationship with Mr Lund, despite living with him for a number of months after his wife's death and visiting him in prison.
The court also heard from a former British journalist who had been sent to France in December 2003 to do a story on the case.
Clare Cook, who worked for the Lancashire Telegraph, said she and a photographer had spent one and a half hours searching for the spot where Mrs Lund's car had entered the water.
They then bumped into Mr Lund and he was able to take them there immediately which they both found "very shocking", she said.
When she asked him about what happened to his wife, "he blushed, he became more and more anxious", Ms Cook said.
Mr Lund insisted that although he had not been to the spot before, he knew where it was as he had seen it on the news.
Mr Lund has already been tried twice for her murder in the French courts and was granted a second retrial in September.
After Mrs Lund went missing, a massive search was launched around the remote village of Rayssac in south-west France.
The trial continues.