The man accused of murdering children’s author Helen Bailey has told a court he “never stopped loving” her.
Ian Stewart, 56, denies murdering his fiancee and dumping her body in order to inherit her money.
Mr Stewart broke down in tears as he told jurors there was “no way” he was responsible for killing the Electra Brown writer.
St Albans Crown Court heard he sent her texts while she was missing, begging her to return.
Mr Stewart is accused of drugging and probably suffocating his bride-to-be as part of a plot to acquire her riches.
He was repeatedly overcome by emotion as he recalled the early days of their relationship, saying: “We totally clicked and worked together as a couple.”
The 51-year-old writer was last seen on 11 April and reported missing by Mr Stewart on 15 April.
She was found beneath the garage, together with that of her dachshund Boris, on 15 July.
Mr Stewart denied knowing she had died until her body was found in a cesspit,
Simon Russell Flint, defending, asked him: “Did you have any knowledge of her death until you heard her body had been found?”
“No,” he replied.
When it was suggested he had killed his fiancee, he responded: “No way”.
The former software engineer said he first met Ms Bailey on a Facebook group for widowers and widows following the death of his wife in 2010.
The pair started out comforting each other over their losses – Ms Bailey’s first husband drowned in 2011 – but eventually began a relationship.
“We totally clicked and worked together as a couple,” he told the court.
“I had fallen in love with her quite quickly but she warned me once to never say the L word. But then I went to hug her and I said it and she replied instantly, ‘I love you too’.
“I never stopped loving her.”
The prosecution alleges Mr Stewart murdered Northumberland-born Ms Bailey for her money. She was worth more than 3.3m at the time of her death, the court heard.
They also allege he disposed of her phone.
Mr Stewart, of Baldock Road, Royston, also denies preventing a lawful burial, fraud and three counts of perverting the course of justice.
The trial continues.