A former Manitoba and Saskatchewan political advisor has told a jury in Winnipeg that he did not kill his wife in 2000, and he wanted to "crawl in a hole and die" when he learned she was dead.

Mark Stobbe, who has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Beverly Rowbotham, testified in his own defence Thursday afternoon.

mi-rowbotham

Beverly Rowbotham was found dead in her car at a gas station near Selkirk, Man., in October 2000. (CBC)

Rowbotham, 42, was found dead in her car at a gas station near Selkirk, Man., on Oct. 25, 2000. Stobbe was arrested in May 2008 in connection with her death.

Since Stobbe's trial began on Jan. 16, the Crown has argued that Stobbe struck his wife 16 times with a hatchet during an argument in the yard of their rural property in St. Andrews, Man.

The Crown argues that Stobbe then carried Rowbotham's body to a sedan in the garage, drove to Selkirk, then bicycled back home to report her missing.

As Stobbe began testifying on Thursday, defence lawyer Tim Killeen asked Stobbe if he killed Rowbotham, if he cleaned up the yard afterwards, and if he moved Rowbotham's body to Selkirk.

"No, I did not," Stobbe said in response to all three questions.

Moved to Winnipeg

Stobbe had worked as a high-ranking adviser to former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow before moving to Manitoba in the spring of 2000 for a job with the newly elected NDP government of Gary Doer.

Stobbe told the court his family's move from Regina to Winnipeg was initially positive, describing the home they had purchased in St. Andrews as "paradise."

But their arrival became soured by home repairs and mosquitoes in the area that summer, he said.

Stobbe also talked about his relationship with Rowbotham, his voice breaking up as he told the court of how his wife had trouble when she was pregnant with their first child.

The couple sought marriage counselling at one point, but their relationship improved as time passed, he said.

Stobbe said he and Rowbotham were generally "getting along fine" in the days before she disappeared.

The day of Rowbotham's disappearance started as a "profoundly normal day" that included dinner, time with their two young sons with a story before bedtime, Stobbe said.

'Pretty sure something was wrong'

Stobbe testified that Rowbotham went on a late-night grocery shopping trip to Safeway that night, while he watched a baseball game at home.

Stobbe said he fell asleep with one of his sons, then woke up and became "pretty sure something was wrong" when he realized Rowbotham was not home.

Stobbe told the court he initially thought Rowbotham may have been in a car accident, so he called the local hospital and RCMP.

The RCMP later arrived to tell Stobbe they had found Rowbotham's body.

"All I wanted to do was crawl in a hole and die myself … at the same time, knowing I couldn't do that," Stobbe told the court.

Stobbe will finish his testimony and undergo cross-examination on Friday.