A MAN accused of murdering his wife broke down in tears in court yesterday as he told of his devotion to his family.

Michael Luke sobbed throughout his time in the witness box and told the jury: "I would never do anything to hurt them."

Luke, 47, spent more than four hours giving evidence and being cross-examined at Teesside Crown Court.

He became most upset when recordings of the 999 calls made from his home were played by Aidan Marron, prosecuting.

But earlier, as Mr Marron started his cross-examination, Luke was accused of putting on an act to convince the jury he was distraught.

Mr Marron accused Luke of crying throughout his evidence, during police interviews, when he was examined by psychiatrists, and in the last few years of his marriage.

"Are you someone who has the ability to turn on the tears when it actually suits your purpose?" he asked.

"That you are someone who can manipulate situations for your own benefit?"

Luke replied: "No. This is not for my benefit. This is for my kids' benefit."

Mr Marron also claimed Luke was "hiding behind the sanctuary of amnesia" by claiming he had no memory of the moment he bludgeoned his wife to death.

Mother-of-two Johanna Luke, 37, suffered massive head injuries in the attack at their home in Priory Court, Willington, County Durham, last August 28.

It is said she had been struck at least four times with a 4lb metal paving mallet after taunting her husband about her lover, Mark Cole, with whom she had just been caught.

Three-times married Luke, a contracts manager for a landscape garden company, denies murder but admits manslaughter on the grounds of provocation.

Under questioning from his barrister, Franz Muller, Luke claimed he had been the victim of repeated attacks from his wife in the final months of their marriage.

He also alleged he was forced to apologise for accusing accounts clerk Johanna of having an affair and was made to feel like their rows were his fault.

The day before he killed Johanna, Luke received a letter from solicitors asking him to leave the marital home, and the following day he caught her at Mr Cole's house after asking a friend to follow her. During a row a short time later at home, Luke said he demanded her wedding ring back because she had made a joke of their marriage.

Mr Marron suggested that the legal letter, the return of the ring and the discovery of the affair finally brought home to Luke that the marriage was at an end.

Luke said his wife was prone to changing her mind, and if he had thought their relationship was over he would have walked away rather than kill her.

Sobbing, he said: "I loved my family very much. I just wanted to keep us all together.

"I would not hurt my family like that or Johanna's family like that. I cannot even think what they are going through. I would never hurt the kids like this."

The trial continues.