Monday, 5 September 2016

Helen In The Dock 1 - Let The Trial Begin

Alun Raglan (Julian Bywater)

We had a nice comment from regular reader Zoe, who asked wouldn’t it be great if we could take a week off from our day jobs and publish a daily blog about Helen’s trial, or at least provide one or two Bonus Postings. Well, I don’t know about every day, but Neil and I did discuss the possibility of having more than one episode and, as Zoe asked so nicely, how could we refuse? So, here’s the first episode and, with luck, there may be one or two more and, if I get the sack, it will be Zoe’s fault!

Tony and Tom are in the packed courtroom – Pat and Kirsty won’t be allowed into the gallery until they have given their evidence, all of which made me wonder who is looking after the animals and the shop at Bridge Farm?

The other thing that I wondered about was the fact that the court was sitting on a Sunday. My experience of things legal is limited to a spell of Jury Service and I’m pretty sure we got weekends off. Perhaps they do things differently in Borsetshire. Whatever, Helen is brought into the court, with Tony hissing encouragement. Judge Loomis tells the jury that they will have to decide guilt or innocence solely on the evidence presented in court. Tom is encouraged as women jurors outnumber men and he feels they might be more sympathetic. On the other hand Tom, we know that Rob can be suave, charming and a big smoothie, so maybe it’s not such a good thing.

The judge introduces Julian Bywater, the Prosecutor, and asks him to outline the case. Basically, the contention is that Helen is a nutter and the events of the 4th April demonstrate this. Was it only five months ago that all this happened – seems longer to me? JB says that Helen has a history of instability (cue gasps from Tom) and things got worse when she became pregnant. He also says that the Defence has to prove nothing – it is up to the Prosecution to prove either Attempted Murder or Wounding With Intent and that Helen was not acting in self-defence. He points out that, when Rob was on the floor, oozing blood, Helen never called either the Police or an ambulance and it was just luck that Kirsty happened to turn up. Not only that, but the week before the attack, Helen was heard to make threats against her husband’s life (if you recall, this was when she found out that Rob and Ursula were plotting to send Henry to Boarding School and was more than a tad miffed).

Tom whispers that the jury are all looking at Helen – well, she is on trial, to be fair – and he fears that they are judging her already. For his part, Tony tells Tom to be quiet, as the Usher is looking at them. That would be a good start – two members of the Defendant’s family being done for Contempt of Court before the trial proper gets under way.

JB calls his first witness – one Mr Rob Titchener – and Tom’s gasp goes into overdrive when he sees that Rob is using a walking stick. At least Rob isn’t wearing a Pudsey Bear bandage, but he’s definitely milking it. He takes the oath and begins to talk about the night in question. Helen had cooked him tuna bake, even though she knew he couldn’t stand it and, with her moods being all over the place, he thought it best to eat it. “Even though it turned your stomach?” asks JB. “Yes” Rob replies, heroically, adding that he thought Helen was trying to provoke him and she got angrier and angrier, eventually grabbing the plate and smashing it on the floor. Was he scared of his wife? “Scared for her – she was hysterical” Rob answers.

Wouldn’t life be a lot easier if, when people lied on oath, a bolt of lightning struck them down? There’s never a deity around when you want one.

Rob is in full flow now, saying that he begged Helen not to leave him (he concedes that he might even have grabbed her arm) and then he felt a sharp pain in his side and saw Helen holding the kitchen knife. She was lashing around with it and he fell to the floor. It is all getting a bit emotional and Judge Loomis asks Rob if he is able to continue? He says he is.

Now it’s Anna Tregorran’s turn to cross-examine. She begins by describing him as, charming, capable and attractive and he agrees with her when she says that his relationship with Helen was ‘a dream come true’. The trouble is, Anna adds, is that dreams aren’t reality, are they? “And when things aren’t exactly as you want them. You get angry, don’t you?” “No I don’t,“ says Rob (a touch angrily, I thought). Anna continues to provoke Rob and asks “So you’ve never lost your temper with the Defendant?” “No” he answers.

Anna reels off various scenarios where Rob got angry and he denies them all. Anna then suggests that, when Helen wanted Ursula to go home after being with them for a month, Rob hit Helen. “I didn’t hit her.” “So how would you describe it then?” “I gave her a slap” Rob concedes, begging the question when does a slap become a hit? He adds that he’s never regretted anything more in his life (although I’m willing to bet that he now thinks that giving Helen the kitchen knife might have been a bit rash) and that Helen was very ill, plus he was near the end of his tether.

Anna tells him that Helen didn’t pick up the knife – in fact he put it in her hand and dared her to kill herself. “Why on earth would I do that?” he asks. “To humiliate her” Anna answers and proceeds to give other examples. Rob is getting annoyed and starts talking over Anna; his voice rising. He describes Helen as ‘a fantasist’ and snarls “The woman is a compulsive liar!” In a voice laden with contempt, Anna says “You’re a bully, aren’t you, Mr Titchener? After months of living with your abuse and mind games and having her pregnancy used against her, your wife decided she had to get away. The only problem was that you wouldn’t let her – isn’t that what really happened?”

Rob has obviously decided that being Mr Angry isn’t such a good idea and he goes back to being Mr Bewildered. He doesn’t answer Anna’s question until he is prompted by the Judge, then he begins sobbing, saying that he doesn’t understand why he is being attacked like this. “I tried to find help for her – I just wanted her to get better again.” He is winding up to his big finish now and is crying openly (obviously been watching the Oscar Pistorius trial) and sobs “Why, Helen? All I ever did was love you. Was that so very wrong?”

Well, the answer to that is ‘the way you did it, yes.’ I think if Anna can keep needling him, he will lose control, but I still have hopes that Henry will say something that shows Rob in his true light, or that Jess will decide to give evidence, although I must admit that the swallows are gathering on the wires and time is running out. It’s only in programmes like Perry Mason, or Ironside (and I accept that I am showing my age here) that a surprise witness appears on the penultimate day of the trial, or a vital piece of evidence turns up at the last moment, but fingers crossed.

Rob gave a plausible, albeit slightly over the top, performance in the dock, but were the jury taken in? Go get him Anna – make him angry enough and the true Rob Titchener will be revealed in all his hateful smugness for the whole world to see.


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I did try to reply to Zoe's request for daily updates on the trial but my connection wouldn't do it. Please continue with the daily bulletins - it really is much appreciated. - Hilary

  2. Isn't it nice when your wishes come true? Thank you so much for this, Neil and X (sorry, I don't know the name of the co-author. I hope you won't get the sack, but feel free to blame me if you do).
    I wonder if Anna is not too emotionally involved in the case to provide the effective defense that Helen needs, not to mention the upheavals in her private life.
    And, yes, a last minute witness saving the day happens only in fiction... so fingers crossed. My money is on Tess not being able to resist such an opportunity to make sure Rob gets what he deserves - and it would make good drama too, so let's hope the BBC can't resist it either. - zoe

  3. Just before it was broadcast, the continuity announcer on radio 4 said that Sunday evening's episode was in fact set on Monday morning. I'm not sure of the chronology from then on, but I suspect Monday's episode was set on Tuesday, and Tuesday and Wednesday were both set on Wednesday, so we are now back in real time.