Witness for the Defence
‘How long have you known the accused, Martha Whitman?’
‘Twenty-five years,’ Theresa said, confident she could stand the pressure of the witness box.
‘Can you tell me where you first met?’
‘I worked at Saint Mark’s Hospital as a cleaner.’ Theresa didn’t hesitate once.
The truth finally had to be aired.
‘Was Mrs Whitman employed at the hospital?’ Barbara Craven relaxed her body against the podium.
It was like they were having a casual chat over a cup of coffee.
‘Laura was about three years old. She was in there to have her tonsils out. Martha was allowed to stay there with her daughter. I was cleaning under her bed, we got chatting. I had a child about the same age, and we clicked straight away. She told me her husband was visiting later on that evening,’ Theresa said.
‘What was your first impression of Thomas Whitman?’
Richard Blake jumped to his feet. ‘Objection, we are not here to see the witness’s viewpoint of the victim.’
‘Sustained, you must stick to the facts of the case Miss Craven.’
‘Did you meet her husband while she was in hospital?’
‘Once, he seemed more concerned at how Martha being in the hospital affected him and even tried to persuade her to come home. She was on the verge of packing her things and leaving, but I managed to change her mind.’
Not giving anything away, Richard Blake rifled through his papers.
‘Were there any other visits to the hospital since you met the accused?’
‘About a month later she found refuge in my home. She said she tripped down the stairs and couldn’t breathe.’
‘Did you manage to persuade Mrs Whitman to go to the hospital?’
‘Not at first.’
‘Can you tell me a little about your friend’s injuries?’
‘Objection, this witness hasn’t got any medical knowledge.’
Richard Blake frowned, as he pushed his insistence in the judge’s direction.
‘May I remind you not to lead the witness Miss Craven,’ the judge said, as if he were talking to a child.
‘Sorry, Your Honour. Can you tell me what injuries were sustained once she had gone to hospital?’
‘Martha had broken one of her ribs. I knew she was making excuses for Thomas but couldn’t prove it. I hoped I could persuade her to tell the truth, but Thomas arrived at the hospital half an hour later. Martha wouldn’t say anything once he arrived.’
‘Were there any other visits to hospital that you are aware of?’
‘Most of the time she just refused to go.’
‘Did she ever confide in you about what was really happening?’
‘Gradually she began to trust me.’ Theresa remembered the day that Martha had lost her second child. Thomas only began to show any remorse when he found out it was a baby boy he had lost.
‘What did she say?’
‘She was about five months pregnant, had started to bleed.’
Laura gripped Martin’s arm.
It was a secret Martha wanted to take to her grave, having said goodbye at the hospital, knowing she wasn’t able to have any more children. Theresa could tell that this new revelation pushed her to the very edge of her limits.
‘Did she tell you Mr Whitman was responsible for the loss of her baby?’
‘She told me about falling down the stairs again, but I just snapped, told her point-blank that I didn’t believe her.’
‘What happened next?’
‘She just crumpled and told me he pushed her after an argument.’
‘In your own words, what exactly did she say?’
‘He had been hitting her since the death of her mother-in-law. She blamed her actions, tried to defend him.’
‘It must have been difficult for Mrs Whitman to reveal what was happening to her?’
‘It helped I think, just to let someone else know of her life.’
‘Do you think that the accused was to blame for any of the violence shown towards her?’
‘She did nothing to him but love him. He bullied my friend and hit her so hard that she always had some bruise or broken limb. He had her well trained – she deserved a better life away from his violence, but she just couldn’t see it.’