‘That must have made you so angry Mrs Whitman. Seeing the man, who promised you his affair was over, but having dinner with this same woman.’
‘I was furious, I didn’t want to believe he could do that to me,’ Martha said.
‘Was it then you came up with the plan to murder your husband?’
Martha stared up at the gallery. ‘I was angry with him, but when he took me home he explained he was there to break up with her.’
‘Are you trying to tell me that he just took you home and you believed whatever he said?’
‘Yes, Thomas wouldn’t lie to me about something as important as that.’
‘Really Mrs Whitman, you seem like an intelligent woman, and you couldn’t see what was going on in front of your eyes!’
‘He told me it was over.’
Richard Blake stepped back towards the jury and gave a short brittle laugh.
‘Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, put yourself in Mrs Whitman’s shoes. Can you really believe she wasn’t so angry with her husband at this obvious betrayal that she didn’t plan on murdering her husband in revenge? Nearly thirty years of marriage and you are about to be flung on the scrapheap. Let us leave that aside for a moment.’ He picked up Martha’s diary, placed in a plastic cover, and turned to face the jury. He held it aloft in his hands like a trophy from a hunt.
‘Mrs Whitman, is this your diary?’
Not proud of what she had written inside, Martha merely nodded.
‘Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I am introducing into evidence ST14. What you are about to read are Martha’s own words about her marriage. In these pages you will read that far from being the demure woman you see before you, Martha Whitman is a woman who not only hated her husband but wanted to kill him.’
As the photocopied extracts from her diary were passed around the jury, Martha knew it was the only witness that would show her as the immoral woman she was. It didn’t matter what Theresa or Laura said, her diary spoke volumes. Martha couldn’t remember the exact details of Thomas’s demise, but she could recall each word written in those pages. As they read intimate details of a domain, she only resided in, a watchful gaze was kept on all of them.
‘Not only did Mrs Whitman hate her husband but she wanted to kill him too. From the evidence we have heard and seen, she was a victim, but even victims can turn into monsters if they are pushed hard enough.’
Martha didn’t flinch as he read the words out loud. Private thoughts, which were hers alone, now belonged to everyone. That wasn’t important. Her words would convince the jury of her hate.
I haven’t seen Laura, Tabitha, and Theresa for months. I was going stir crazy. I had to get out of the house. Why doesn’t he see my side for once? Thomas told me, no ordered me, to stay away from them. Why is he so stubborn? He loved her once. How I miss our maisonette on Langley Road. He used to carry her on his shoulders, and she was so light then. They would stay in the park for hours while I cooked dinner. Now all he does is drink too much, blames work, and stress for his drinking and then drinks another bottle. Expects me to forgive him the next morning. Sometimes I feel like a prized bull, paraded out to the neighbours. My cakes, pies, and small talk. Mrs Carmichael fawning over him. Mr and Mrs Stoddart agreeing with him and even Fred. If only he knew what Thomas said behind his back. What Thomas says about me when the doors are closed. The perfect wife in a cut out magazine, that’s all I am. God forgive me, but there are some days when I’ve got to force myself to love him. Then I look at my painting. At the young man in a shirt from Oxfam, and he’s in there somewhere. Waiting for the right moment to sweep me off my feet again. I felt like his precious flower in danger of being crushed. His strong arms were so gentle then. I want that man back. I don’t know how much longer I can tolerate his madness. God forgive me, but sometimes I wonder what it would be like if he just disappeared off the face of the earth and never returned.
How dare he! All those times when he was staying late at work, and he was probably with her. That woman, so whimpering on the phone. Get help. What in the hell did she mean by that? Get help. It’s Thomas that needs help. He threatens me and takes what he wants from me. Then throws me away like I am some piece of rubbish on his shoe. Maybe, my hand should slip when I make his dinner tonight. Something tasteless, just like his suits. A touch of his car’s anti-freeze should do it. A small amount and I would watch him writhe on the floor, and he would beg me to help him. But I would just stand there and let him die. I could be free of him, and even being in prison would be better than living with a pompous man like him.
Why do I stay with a man who uses his fists to control me? He wouldn’t stop, not even when I begged him too. Did his hate continue when I passed out? Probably, it’s how he gets his kicks. You’re a whore Martha. Push me down Thomas, and I’ll take it, but Laura, Tabitha. They’re off limits you bastard. I will give up drinking for you Martha! I love you Martha! Then he pounds me into the ground with his fists. It’s about time he realised the truth. I should go outside now. Knock on every door and show them exactly the man Thomas is. A bully with fists that are used for talking. That would spoil a Christmas dinner wouldn’t it? I might just do that and tell them about his mistress too. While I’m at it, I could go to Charles, he can’t say I’ve done this to myself. Even Charles would take one look at his bloodied knuckles and see the truth for once. He is just like Thomas, and never thinks of anyone but himself. No, he’s gone to Elizabeth. Maybe she should feel some of the pain I endure, then Thomas would be home right now. He thinks I don’t know what he’s up to. Who he is with? He chose to be with Elizabeth today and picked a fight to do it. His affair has never been over. I am stupid, stupid, stupid. Stupid to think he can change. I should have listened to James, and not married Thomas. I couldn’t see his control then, but it was there. It’s there in spades now. I hate this marriage. I hate myself, but most of all, I hate you Thomas.
How could he do this to me after all I have put up with? God knows I’m difficult to deal with sometimes, but haven’t I been a dutiful wife? I’ve never refused him! Never complained about my life. How could he carry on with the affair when he told me it was over? He promised me, I had nothing to worry about. Oh, he expects me to be perfect. Blames me when other men used to leer at me. But where he is concerned – the rules don’t apply. He is just like those kids at school, A bully, and one day he will get his comeuppance. I will stand over him, and he will beg me for forgiveness. He doesn’t love me, he never has. Why should I forgive him this? I put up with his fists flying over every little thing he doesn’t agree with. I’ve lost Laura and Tabitha because he is too stubborn to listen to reason. One of these days, when he least expects it – I will kill him. Would Elizabeth mourn him? I certainly wouldn’t. I would dance on his grave every day. Shred our worthless marriage certificate and throw that ugly vase into the bin where it belongs.
‘Mrs Whitman, can you confirm that these extracts are from your diary?’ Richard Blake asked, passing the photocopied notes into her hands.
Martha studied the words, in her own handwriting. She recognised the rage she felt when she wrote them. ‘Yes, these are extracts from my diary.’
‘On more than one occasion you have said that you wished your husband dead.’
‘I was furious with him, but Thomas always said I was prone to anger.’
‘Did you mean those words in your diary because it seems to me that you did.’
He took a step back.
‘I was angry with him; I meant every word at the time.’
‘At the time? It seems to me that your diary is full of quotes like this, which only got worse as the year went on.’
‘I was highly strung. It was the only thing that relieved some of the stress.’
‘You say that, but this one quote One of these days, when he least expects it – I will kill him. Would Elizabeth mourn him? I certainly wouldn’t. I would dance on his grave every day. Shred our worthless marriage certificate and throw that ugly vase into the bin where it belongs. You did kill him and with his mother’s vase too. Was there a moment when you thought justice had been served?’
The juror’s expressionless faces mirrored her own. Did they see what Martha saw? A guilty woman, who deserved to stay in prison until she came out in a wooden box.
‘When you killed your husband, did you think you would be free of him? Do you really expect the jury to believe you don’t remember a thing?’
Martha’s next words were considered and calculated. ‘I wanted him dead.’