Michael Byrne (Bruce Titchener)
Rob and Bruce talk before court proceedings begin. Bruce is angry because the Echo, which a few months earlier had described Rob as a hero, is now branding him a rapist. Justin Bywater says he protested “most vociferously” against this evidence being submitted, but Bruce is scathing, telling Rob that Justin “hasn’t got a clue.” JB refrains from giving him a kicking and reminds Bruce that “I represent the Criminal Prosecution Service, not your son.”
JB then spoils Rob’s day even more by telling him that there’s a chance that ex-wife Jess might give evidence. Rob says “I was certain that she wouldn’t come forward.” “Why?”asks an interested JB, “Didn’t you think that it might be a possibility?” Rob obviously believes that attack is the best form of defence, as he says “Everything that woman says is a lie - she’s insane and she’s never forgiven me for divorcing her.” Isn’t it interesting that all the women in Rob’s life are compulsive liars (except Ursula)? And yet Ursula is the only genuine compulsive liar.
Rob asks JB if he is going to use the statement that he (Rob) gave him about Ian Craig? JB is not convinced, saying that it might look like a smear. Cue another rant from Bruce: “Look at how the other side are behaving - they’re not pulling their punches and neither should you” he snarls, leaving the words ‘you spineless milksop’ unspoken.
Cut to the courtroom, where Ian has just finished his character reference for Helen and is being cross-examined by JB. JB has obviously taken Bruce and Rob’s advice to heart, as he says that it was odd that, if Ian and Helen are best friends (as Ian testified) they didn’t speak for months. JB then strikes below the belt, suggesting that Ian is angry with Rob “because he informed you that your partner had been unfaithful with a Polish seasonal worker and a manager of a large estate.” Ian is floundering and says that he doesn’t see what that has to do with anything. “You don’t like Mr. Titchener. Do you?” JB asks. “No, I don’t, but -” Ian replies, only to be cut off by JB saying “That will be all Mr. Craig.”
Outside the courtroom, a shell-shocked Ian is approached by Shula, who has had troubles getting parked. She asks Ian questions about which court is the trial in, but his mind is elsewhere as he tells her that he has just finished giving evidence. “How did it go?”Shula asks brightly. In a tone reminiscent of a man who has just been told that he has a terminal disease, Ian says “I don’t really want to talk about it - I just want to head off home.” “Why? How awful was it?” Shula persists. Now, there were only two two-syllable word in Ian’s answer, so it couldn’t have been that hard to understand, could it? I bet our readers understood ‘I don’t really want to talk about it’ right away. “I’m sure you’ll find out soon enough,” Ian says, taking his leave and adding: “Word’s bound to get round the village.” If Susan was in the courtroom, you’d put your mortgage on that.
As Ian goes, Rob approaches Shula, who remarks that Ian looked as if he has just gone 20 rounds. Rob says he’s surprised to see Shula there “But it’s appreciated” - words which make Shula gasp. Rob then introduces her as being a fellow member of the Hunt to Bruce, who says “It’s a relief to know there’s at least one decent person who’s on Robert’s side.”
Back in court, JB is arguing that Jess should not be allowed to give evidence, claiming that it’s a dastardly trick sprung on the Court by the Defence. In a spirited reply, in which she frequently ignores hits from Judge Loomis that he’s heard enough, Anna says that, on the contrary, Jess approached them, not the other way around and she appeals that, in the interests of Justice, Jess’s testimony should be heard. The Judge says that he must make his decision on the basis of the law, which begs an interesting question about what a court is for - to uphold the law, or to see that justice is done? He retires to consider his decision.
In the end, he makes the right choice and Jess is being examined by Anna. Shula is sitting next to Bruce and she asks where is Ursula? Bruce replies that she is looking after “the boy” and adds that “she gets quite emotional” which, in view of what happens later, is ironic. When he sees Jess, Bruce snorts “I prayed I’d seen the last of that woman.”
Anna asks Jess about her romance and marriage to Rob. They met shortly after she had finished her GCSEs and Rob went to university (Jess didn’t make the grades). She described him as ‘paranoid’ and that he wrote letters, accusing her of sleeping around and saying that he had mates keeping an eye on her, so she stopped socialising. So why not break it off? “I was besotted” she replies, adding that Rob’s character changed when he came back for holidays and he often talked about the two of them running away together. Bruce is muttering to Shula: “I warned him - I told him she was soiled goods, but he wouldn’t listen.” Shula is shocked and even more so when Bruce calls Jess “A hussy” and “ A gold-digging tart.” By now Shula is alarmed and, in the true spirit of News of the World journalist investigating a sex scandal, she makes an excuse and leaves. A pity really, as she misses all the later fun. What really annoyed Bruce is that, having warned Rob about Jess, he paid for the wedding.
Married life for Jess wasn’t easy - she only had money when Rob gave it to her and he wouldn’t buy her a car when they were in the USA and Canada, so she was isolated. Anna then asks her if Rob ever forced her to have sex. Her answer is ‘yes’ and she says that sometimes he grabbed her by the throat or held her down by her wrists.
This is too much for Bruce, who shouts out “She’s a liar - this whole trial is a sham!”Judge Loomis calls for order, but Bruce continues to rant about how much his family did for Jess. The judge says that, if Bruce can’t control himself, he will adjourn, but Bruce is in full flow, saying that Jess even tried to palm Rob off with a brat that wasn’t even his! Anna complains about this ‘unacceptable behaviour’ and the Judge orders the jury to be removed and he himself will rise until things calm down.
Why did the Judge not have Bruce forcibly removed and charged with Contempt? That way the jury, who are in and out of the courtroom so often that they might wish for a revolving door, could have stayed.
Outside, Rob says “For God’s sake, Dad, what were you playing at?” “Robert - don’t you raise your voice to me!” Bruce answers. He goes on “Someone has to tell the truth about these women of yours.” Rob suggests that that is his job. “What? More blubbing, more tears?” sneers Bruce. “Better than trying to bully the court into convicting Helen.” Rob says, before apologising to his dad for talking to him like this. “It used to be that what happened between a man and his wife was their business - I despair of this country” says Bruce, leaving us to wonder whether there is a room at chez Titchener (senior) with whips and manacles on the wall.
As we approach the end, JB drops his bombshell - during the adjournment, a juror was caught tweeting about the trial and the Judge has decided to halt the trial. “What does it mean? When will it start again?” asks Rob. JB’s answer made my - and I bet countless millions of others’ blood run cold - “To be perfectly frank, I can’t guarantee that it will” he tells them.
I tell you now - after the graft that Neil and I have put in this week, it bloody well better do (unless they decide to save time and take Rob out and shoot him, of course) as we cannot sit through another week of evidence and legal arguments and do another week of daily blogs. Let’s find out where the writers live and all go and give them a not-too-friendly word of advice.