The Trial: A Murder in the Family Day 1 – Is defendant Simon Davis guilty?

Should the fictional father do time for the crime? Join the Radio Times jury

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38-year-old Carla Davis is dead. Well, just for the purpose of Channel 4’s fascinating fly-on-the-court-wall documentary, which opened its casebooks tonight. And although the fictional crime’s defendant, witnesses and victim are all actors, the jurors and all legal professionals are real.

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They’ve been asked to tackle the murder of Carla Davis, who was strangled to death in her own home. Her estranged husband, and father of her two children, Simon Davis is the man on trial.

The jury’s verdict will be delivered on Thursday (9pm, C4) before we find out what actually happened. But based on the evidence so far (see summary below), do you think Simon Davis should be declared guilty or not guilty? What’s your say on the Radio Times jury?
If you’re not sure then here’s a reminder of tonight’s evidence…

The basics

For the first episode both the prosecution and defence had to lay down a lot of groundwork for the murder case. So read closely, here are the foundations of the case.

On the morning of Thursday 24th September 2015, somebody gained access to Carla Davis’ house and strangled her to death. And it was pretty brutal. As lead prosecution barrister Max Hill QC said: “the strangler held her by the throat so long veins popped in her face.”

The accused: Carla’s estranged husband, Simon Davis, a university lecturer. The two were married in 2000 and went on to have two children. But three years ago Carla told Simon she’d been having an affair with a man called Lewis Skinner (more on him below). Simon then moved out of the family house and Lewis replaced him.

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On the day of the murder, Simon was the first to report the body to the emergency services. He claims Carla had asked for him to come over to discuss “something important”, but he found her alone and unresponsive on the floor inside.

Paramedics and police arrived on scene and Simon was taken in for questioning after Carla was pronounced dead ­– the cause was strangulation.

Police found no evidence of forced entry or burglary and the only thing out of place was some shopping bags that had fallen on the floor. Davis showed no evidence of injuries to himself and his clothing wasn’t damaged in any way.

And just to add a bit more to your timeline: CCTV shows that in the lead-up to her murder, Carla undertook the school run, went to a shop and then a nearby café before returning home.

Simon Davis’ mystery phone calls

It’s the first major mystery the jury must decipher. As the prosecution showed, Simon didn’t alert the authorities straight away. Firstly, he dialled 999 for a single second before hanging up. Then two minutes later he made another call to his friend Johnny Quinn (who we know little about for now), but Quinn didn’t answer. Six minutes later he called 999 again, saying he thought his wife might have suffered a heart attack. That means it took him eight minutes to raise the alarm.

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To further murk the waters, a witness said they saw Simon outside the property holding a phone around this time. A neighbour saw him standing in a shingled area by the back door of the house, which was open. “He wasn’t doing anything. He was just standing still, looking into the distance,” she said to the court. “He looked quite stressed.”

However, when asked by the prosecution, the neighbour conceded that Simon wasn’t attempting to conceal himself. They couldn’t verify exactly when this sighting was, either.

Was Simon Davis actually traumatised about his ex-wife’s death?

Nobody’s too sure. PC Stewart, who was one of the first on the scene says Davis looked “traumatised” and “in shock”.

However, PC Matthews, the police officer who told Simon that his ex-wife has been confirmed dead, said he didn’t react to the news in any way. “I’ve seen many people in my 20 years of service receive bad news and I’ve seen many people traumatised,” said Matthews. “And I wouldn’t describe [Simon] as traumatised. He was without emotion.”

A Second suspect?

Late in the episode the prosecution tried to shift the blame to Lewis Skinner, Carla’s current partner. The neighbour said Skinner was unfriendly and that once she heard him loudly swearing at one of  Carla’s children during a game of backyard football.

We haven’t yet heard if Skinner has an alibi.

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Whose baby was it?

Here’s a horrible twist in the tale: Carla was pregnant when she was murdered – the autopsy revealed a 10mm foetus in her womb. But who’s the father? The DNA test hasn’t been revealed yet, but this could prove crucial to the case.

Why? Neither Simon or Lewis claimed they knew about the pregnancy before she died, but both say the baby could have been theirs. Simon claims that he and Carla had recently reconciled their relationship and the prosecution argued that this would give Lewis a motive for murder.

Is Simon telling the truth? We’ll have more clues and another fascinating look at the jury’s deliberations next episode…

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The Trial: A Murder in the Family is on C4 Sunday to Thursday, 9pm