Reverend Charles Crowthorne
Witness for the Prosecution
Martha felt the disappointing regard of Charles, who she saw most Sunday’s since the first day of her marriage. He was one of only a few people allowed houseroom and broke up the insanity of a Sunday afternoon.
Yet, he was always closer to Thomas.
‘How long have you known Mr and Mrs Whitman?’ Richard Blake said, and resumed his place at the podium.
Charles’s greying hair limped over his temples. Strands were combed over so the gaps wouldn’t be on show. ‘About thirty years now. I presided over Thomas and Martha’s marriage.’
‘Can you tell the court about the victim?’
‘Thomas was a regular attendee to my church, never missed a Sunday service.’ His proud voice carried around the courtroom like an echo. ‘Devoted to the parish. Never ashamed to put his hand in his pocket to help the poor.’
‘What were your impressions of how he treated his wife?’
The vicar answered straight away. ‘He was a kind and thoughtful husband, always very attentive to Martha. Even when she was having one of her episodes.’
‘What do you mean by this?’
‘He told me she wasn’t well and suffered bouts of depression. This became much worse when her daughter went off the rails and got pregnant – it upset Martha greatly when she left home.’
Martha returned steady hands to her lap. Charles was entitled to his opinion, just as much as she was to hers.
Barbara Craven gave a loud sigh. ‘Objection! This evidence is only hearsay. How can this witness know of the defendant’s health?’
‘Sustained. Jurors you may disregard the evidence.’
His voice carried across the courtroom and the jurors sat still in their seats.
‘Did you have any contact with the deceased apart from him attending church?’ Richard Blake studied his notes. He fixed his eyes back on Charles, who was more than ready to answer the question.
‘We were both members of the local neighbourhood watch. He was an integral part of the team and was successful in convincing the council to increase their bus service to run later in the evenings. It was important to Thomas that everyone remained safe in our neighbourhood. Such a generous man, both with his time and money.’ He puffed out his chest, his attentions turned to the jury, as if he were talking to them on a Sunday sermon.
‘In all the years you knew him, did you see him get angry with his wife?’
‘He was always very patient, making sure she was okay. Always made sure she wore her coat so that she didn’t get ill.’ Charles gave a sympathetic look towards Martha, as if she were a child, who stole an apple. ‘Thomas often spoke to me about how worried he was about his wife. I advised him to seek help on many occasions.’
‘Did you ever see the victim hit the accused?’
‘Thomas was more than patient with his wife.’
‘When you visited their home did you find any evidence to suggest that the accused was unhappy in the marriage?’
‘Do you think that the accused could be capable of murder?’
‘She wasn’t stable. Thomas, on more than one occasion, felt threatened by his wife. Martha tried to think of any time when Thomas was apprehensive in her company, but she had only stood up to him on one occasion.
‘I ask again, did you ever see him raise a hand to his wife?’
‘No, I always thought many couples could learn from their wisdom.’
‘Thank you, no further questions,’ Richard Blake said, sitting down.
‘Reverend Crowthorne, you have said that the deceased was a kind and caring husband?’ Barbara Craven began her questioning.
‘You have told us many things about Mr Whitman, but what are your thoughts on the accused.’
‘Quiet, unassuming almost, charming woman.’
‘Not capable of murder then?’
Charles pulled at his dog collar, which was tight around his neck.
‘In your view, do you think she would be capable of cold-blooded murder?’ Barbara Craven talked directly to the younger members of the jury.
The judge raised his gavel.