Ambridge’s wronged spouse Helen Titchener has been given an Archers trial date – Sunday 4th September.
Radio 4 today confirmed that the dramatic showdown kick off that day at 7pm to begin a special “Trial Week” which will see Helen (Louiza Patikas) face two charges: Attempted Murder and Wounding With Intent, after stabbing her abusive husband Rob (Timothy Watson).
Helen’s trial will follow the trajectory of a real-life court case in order to give the prosecution and defence time to explore evidence as realistically and in as much depth as possible, says Radio 4.
Evidence from both sides will be heard on-air.
The prosecution will be hoping to paint a picture of Helen as an unstable and volatile perpetrator and the defence is likely to argue that she acted in self-defence, driven by months of abuse and the need to protect her child.
Sean O’Connor, outgoing editor of The Archers, who created the storyline said: “I can promise both a shocking and deeply moving trial, as we reach the climax of this story that has had the nation gripped. Working with charities and legal advisors, we’ve been telling Helen’s story as realistically as possible over hundreds of episodes, in all its detail and horror, and it’s a kind of realism that only radio drama can achieve. When I joined as an editor I did wonder, was it possible in the 21st Century to create a moment as dramatic and memorable as the death of Grace Archer in 1955? It turns out that you can.”
The Helen storyline has been much discussed by fans and has been slowly developing on air over the past three years, over which time Rob’s controlling and abusive behaviour towards Helen escalated.
It culminated in her stabbing him in the Blossom Hill Cottage in an episode on 3rd April 2016, which became the most requested radio programme across the BBC in April with 375,000 requests on iPlayer Radio.
Listeners of The Archers will be aware of the abuse Helen has experienced at the hands of Rob. On air, however, the villagers remain split over who to believe, with many characters remaining in the dark about Rob’s true nature, believing him to be an innocent victim.
Helen herself has felt unable to share many of her experiences with her lawyer Anna Tregorran.
The Archers production team has been working closely with women’s charities and various expert advisors to reflect the story as accurately and sensitively as possible, Radio 4 said today.
Both Women’s Aid and Refuge have helped the team develop a realistic understanding of the issues involved in coercive control and domestic violence, and Patikas, who plays Helen, has also met women through them who have suffered in the way Helen has.
According to Refuge and Women’s Aid, which run in partnership the National Domestic Violence Helpline, in the month of February as the storyline intensified, there was a 17% increase in calls to the helpline.