A VAN driver accused of bludgeoning his wife with a crowbar and burying her in their garden has said she died in a "tragic accident".

Stuart Johnstone denies murdering his wife, Angela, in a fit of rage outside the stable at their Valley Road home in Fawkham.

Johnstone, 46, who also goes by his middle name, Ross, told Maidstone Crown Court Angela fell and hit her head on a metal post after a scuffle with his then girlfriend Sarah Tall.

He told the jury the couple decided to tell everyone the 35-year-old mother-of-two had run away.

He added: "We had had this story for four years and I was sticking to it rigidly.

"We tried to give a consistent story to everyone.

"When I was arrested I continued to tell the police the same lying story I had told everyone else."

After the tragic incident in the early hours of the morning in March 1997, Angela's body was burned in a series of fierce bonfires in the garden, the court heard.

Johnstone denies murder but admits he prevented the burial of his former wife's body.

Miss Tall, 24, said she had seen him batter her with a crowbar.

On the night in question, he had been checking their horses when Angela attacked him, he said.

Miss Tall then pulled her off.

Johnstone added: "I turned round and saw Sarah holding on to Angela's wrist.

"Angela was slumped on the ground leaning against a pole.

"She had her back to the metal post which was concreted in."

After taking Miss Tall inside to calm her down he said he went back out with a torch to check the body and realised she was dead.

Johnstone and his wife were living virtually separate lives in the same house, occupying different floors.

They had two children together who were asleep in the house when the alleged murder took place.

As the News Shopper went to press, the jury wase considering its verdict.