‘I have worked at Reading Prison for over ten years and have seen countless women with violent partners.’
‘How does long-term domestic abuse affect the victim?’
‘They feel they have no choice but to believe their abuser will change. They are in constant fear of their lives and little by little they feel like they cannot live without their abuser.’
Was it true? Did Martha put up with his violence because it was all that she knew? Her childhood was marred with excuses, but she was aware of right from wrong.
‘During your examination has the accused told you of her actions on January 12th, 2014?’
‘No, she has difficulty in talking about her husband’s death.’
‘I now come to loss of control, in your professional opinion, do you think that is what happened to Martha when she killed her husband?’
‘I’m in no doubt Martha didn’t know what she had done until she was told about his death.’
‘So, do you think Mrs Whitman is capable of premeditated murder?’
‘No,’ her voice didn’t falter.
Martha’s hope began to fade, as she turned to see the sympathy written in between the lines of the jurors’ faces.
‘What makes you so sure?’
‘Throughout our sessions, I can see that she loved her husband. His excuses have become her excuses. To the point where she believes she is to blame.’
‘It has been said that she has no real memory of the actual event. Is this possible?’
‘Objection,’ the prosecutor interceded. ‘The defence is leading the witness.’
‘Overruled, you may answer the question,’ the judge said.
‘Perfectly, the shock of such an action, from a person that acts completely out of character can cause memory loss in some cases.’
‘No further questions, Your Honour.’
Martha swallowed her concern as she stared at the jury once more. A few of them seemed genuinely shocked at every twist and turn in the evidence and were determined to hear every version.
As soon as Barbara Craven sat down Richard Blake was ready for action.
‘You have informed us, in your opinion, that the accused isn’t capable of premeditated murder?’ He took a step to the side.
‘That is correct.’
‘We have heard testimony of an alleged affair. In your own words, can you tell the court how that would affect the mind of a victim of domestic abuse?’
‘All cases are different,’ Helen said, shifting slightly in her seat.
‘In your professional opinion, what could happen?’
‘In some cases, they would have a pathological fear of their abuser leaving.’
‘If the defence is to be believed, Mrs Whitman suffered at the hands of her husband for all of their long marriage. She has stayed loyal to him because she feels her husband loves her. Only to find out that he has betrayed her in the worst possible way. Could she not be capable of wanting to kill that person, who she has stayed loyal to – in a fit of rage?’ As he spoke his voice appeared to build up momentum at every pause.
‘ It is highly unlikely.’
‘But it can happen – can it not?’ he asked again.
‘Yet, you say that the accused isn’t capable of premeditated murder?’
‘I think she wasn’t in control of her actions that afternoon.’
‘Just think?’ he called out as loudly as he could. ‘Just a moment ago you were certain that the accused couldn’t plan her husband’s murder, now you only think?’ he laughed trivially, as his eyes glittered in triumph towards the jury.
Helen gave a little cough and reached for her water.
‘I put it to you, that the affair tipped a normally placid person over the edge and because of this she planned to murder her husband.’
‘It is possible but in my opinion her loyalty to her husband was too strong. Even in death he has a hold over her.’
‘Members of the jury are we to believe that the accused wasn’t angry at the affair. How would you feel if your husband of just under thirty years, who repeatedly beat you, now wants to leave you for another woman?’ He turned back to his witness and repeated the question.
‘Still it is possible?’
‘It’s possible, but Mrs Whitman would have to have been under tremendous pressure to do so.’