As Helen stands trial for attempting to murder husband Rob, Radio Times asked two real-life criminal barristers to argue whether she is guilty or innocent. Below is the case for the prosecution – click here to read the case for the defence.
The Archers trial continues this Monday 5th September on BBC Radio 4.
Helen’s trial: the case for the prosecution
Matthew Scott, Pump Court Chambers, Temple, London
Members of the jury, I prosecute and my learned friend, Mr Norsworthy, defends. You now have copies of the indictment, which sets out the two counts the defendant faces. Count one alleges that she attempted to murder Robert Titchener. Count two alleges she wounded him with intent to cause him grievous bodily harm. For the defendant to be guilty of attempted murder, you must be sure that she intended to kill Mr Titchener. For her to be guilty of wounding with intent, you need only be sure that she intended to cause him really serious injury.
Could I now ask you to look at this album of photographs? I’m afraid that you may well find them very disturbing…
It seems there was an undercurrent of violence running just beneath, occasionally breaking through, Mrs Titchener’s surface calm. We will hear, for example, that some months earlier she had actually expressed a wish to kill her husband.
On 3 April, Mr and Mrs Titchener ate an evening meal together. An argument started over the trivial issue of the food. Then Mrs Titchener picked up this. A large kitchen knife. Mr Titchener calmly asked her to put it down. Instead she plunged the knife into his lower abdomen. He had no chance to defend himself. He collapsed unconscious onto the floor. The knife penetrated deep into his bowels but missed his most vital organs. The medical evidence is that he suffered three separate knife wounds.
What Mrs Titchener then did throws considerable light on her intent. With her husband apparently bleeding to death on the floor, she sat her young son Henry in front of a television and put on a DVD. She then picked up her phone, not to call an ambulance but to talk to a friend. We suggest there is only one reasonable explanation for why she did not immediately dial 999. She wanted to ensure that he was dead before help could arrive. She very nearly succeeded.
For days, his life hung in the balance; fortunately, the doctors were able to save him. She was of course arrested and questioned by the police but – as was her right – gave no explanation for her behaviour.
Our case is simple: we may never know whether her attack was planned or whether Mrs Titchener simply lost her temper. What we can say for sure is that as she plunged that knife into her husband’s guts, she can realistically have had only one intent: to kill him.