Free Victoria Bell; legal eagle stories
He started it!
Mark Donaldson looked quite rough and ready as he sat at the same table as Victoria Bell.
The very least he could have done was have a shave, at least he'd washed which helped; body odour was a big thing for Miss Bell. He wore jeans and trainers and a plain black tee shirt which showed the tattoos he had on his arms.
"Call Martin Chalk," Colin West said, the Prosecuting Barrister's voice was deep and he sounded relaxed, the problem was he always did.
A man in his mid fifties stepped into the witness box; he wore a dark suit with a purple polo neck.
He stated his name and took the oath, he looked and sounded apprehensive, sweat shining off his forehead and the Courtroom was neither hot nor cold.
"Good morning Mr Chalk, it’s my understanding that you don't know either of these men is that correct?" Colin West asked.
"Did you see what happened between these two men at the 'Cock and Bull' public house on the tenth of March two thousand and thirteen around four o'clock in the afternoon?"
"Yes, yes I saw some of it anyway,"
"Did you see who initiated the fight?"
"Sorry I don't understand the question,"
"In other words Mr Chalk did you see who threw the first punch?"
"I was sitting in the beer garden minding my own business. It wasn't as busy in the beer garden as the pub itself. Voices started to get louder behind me and I turned to see two men fighting!"
"So the fight had started when you saw it?"
"The younger guy sitting at the table there," the witness pointed to Mark Donaldson, "he looked and sounded very angry,"
"Could you tell the Court what you saw that afternoon,"
"I'd gone to the pub for a couple of drinks and a read of a book. It was a warm afternoon so I went out to the beer garden as the pub was busy. After about twenty minutes I could hear an argument a few tables away but tried to ignore it as I was into my book by then. The noise got louder and when I looked up the man that was standing was holding his nose which was bleeding, the other man was getting up off the floor,"
"Which man had the bleeding nose please Mr Chalk?"
"The man sitting at the table," again he pointed to Mark Donaldson.
"Thank you, please carry on,"
"Well the guy that got off the floor went for him with a right hook but he missed getting a punch in the mouth for his troubles. He was then kicked and went to the floor,"
"Did Mr Donaldson use excessive force in your opinion?"
"Objection! Putting words into the witness's mouth," Miss Bell said getting to her feet.
"Sustained. Mr West I urge you to think about your questions before asking them. Remove the question from the records please,"
Colin West bowed to the Judge by way of an apology.
"What happened next?"
"The man on the floor shouted, 'I'm not finished yet!' Then ran at him with them both going to the floor. At that point the landlord had come out and pulled the two of them apart,"
"The Old Bill turned up not long after and sorted things out,"
"And what did the Police do when they arrived?"
"They were told what went on and arrested both men. When the men had gone the Police asked for witnesses and that's why I'm here,"
"Is there anything else you wish to add?"
Pointing at the accused, the witness said, "He was very aggressive when he was arrested and the Police warned him,"
"Thank you Mr Chalk," Colin West said then folded his arms and relaxed in his chair.
Victoria Bell stood up and walked to the front of the table leaning on it as she read a piece of paper.
"Mr Chalk, just so I get this right, you say you heard the shouting but didn't see who threw the first punch, is that correct?"
"Yes that's right,"
"You recall my client being aggressive; do you recall what he said?"
The witness scratched his head then shook his head from side to side, "If he did I can't remember,"
"I have here a copy of the statement you made just after the incident and I quote, "The guy with the bloody nose said, 'Why am I being arrested when he hit me first. That Bastard started it!' Can you remember it now?"
The witness nodded, "That's what he said yes,"
"Thank you. No more questions," Victoria Bell said then returned to her chair.
Mr Chalk was thanked by the Judge and stepped out of the witness box with a look of relief.
Colin West stood up and slightly adjusted his head attire which was slightly tilted at an angle, "Call Navin Mittal,"
The witness walked in and a couple of the jurors were surprised at the size of him, six foot three and well built. He wore a grey suit that looked tailor made, a white silk shirt with a dark tie, the lights of the Court shining off his shoes. He had the look of Omar Sharif only with slightly darker skin and clean shaven.
"Good Morning Mr Mittal," Colin West said after the witness was sworn in, "Could you tell us what the argument was about on the tenth of March last year?"
Mr Mittal adjusted his tie which didn't need adjusting, a sign of nerves, "Well it’s like this right, Dons and I used to go to the same gym and I was impressed with the weight he lifted. We got talking and he told me he could get me work as a door supervisor. He was supposed to pay me but it was well short, it started from there,"
"Mr Donaldson hired you?"
"Look Dons said he could get me seven nights work at a ton a night so I was a little taken back when he gave me a monkey and before you ask, yes it bothered me,"
"So you were expecting seven hundred pounds and were only given five hundred, is that correct?"
"Yeah," Mr Mittal said nodding his head.
"It wasn't a misunderstanding by any chance?"
"I may not have done well at school but I know about money. One hundred pounds a night over seven nights is seven hundred pounds. I can't see any misunderstanding in that," the witness smiled at his own answer.
"Did Mr Donaldson tell you why it was only five hundred pounds?"
"He said it was his cut but we didn't agree on any deal so I asked for all the money and not just some of it,"
"And his reply was?"
"Words were exchanged, in the heat of the moment I can't remember what exactly was said," Mr Mittal answered.
"Had you said anything to Mr Donaldson for him to strike you first?"
"Objection Your Honour! My client is charged with Grievous Bodily Harm, who threw the first punch or blow is vital in this case. The question is leading and non factual," Miss Bell said while she kept seated.
"Sustained. Remove the question please and members of the jury please forget the question asked. Proceed Mr West but with a little more caution," the Judge said.
"Apologies to Your Honour and the Court. Now Mr Mittal was there something said by your good self that upset Mr Donaldson?"
"The man just exploded on me! He had my money yet he was the one having a go at me! I mean how does that work?"
"I meant some expression or word that upset him. Something specific that set him off?"
"I remember calling him a thief and that set him off a bit. When I said it a few times it got his back up and he didn't ask, but told me to stop,"
"The fight got physical and you went to the local hospital for treatment. What did they discover?"
"A fractured wrist and a broken jaw," the witness touched his jaw and moved it a bit for show.
"Was this as a result of the altercation with Mr Donaldson?"
"I remember falling on my wrist but he hit me hard on my jaw, a lucky punch but a good one, and yes it was injuries from the altercation,"
"Has Mr Donaldson paid you the money back since the incident?"
"We both still use the same gym and we've seen each other a couple of times but nothing has been said,"
"Not even an apology?"
"As I said, nothing has been said,"
"Thank you Mr Mittal that is all the questions from me," Mr West said sounding satisfied.
Victoria Bell was listening to her client who was whispering in her ear, she nodded and as she was about to stand he told her something else and she looked surprised! Just as the Judge sat forward and was about to say something the Defence Barrister stood up and walked towards the witness. The Judge sat back, taking his glasses off.
"Mr Mittal, what time did you get into the 'Cock and Bull' Public house on the day of the alleged incident?"
The witness's eyes shot from one side of the Court to the other, "I can't honestly remember,"
"Not even a rough idea?"
"Could have been around three I suppose,"
"Did you watch the football game that was on the big screen?"
Again the witness's eyes shot around the Court and he looked uncomfortable, "Yeah I saw some of the game,"
"The whole game, from kick off?" Miss Bell asked in a friendly manner.
"Yes I think so, I say I think so as I watch a lot of football,"
"It was an FA Cup game if you recall, Leyton Orient against Chelsea. A big upset by all accounts with Leyton Orient winning by two goals to zero,"
"Yes of course, yeah I saw the game. And it’s not zero but nil," the witness smiled.
"That game started at twelve thirty, my client didn't get to the pub till around four O'clock. So it’s safe to say you were there at least three hours before him?"
"I'm over twenty one and as far as I know it’s not against the law to go to the pub!"
"Were you drinking alcohol at the pub?" Her tone had got a lot more serious.
"Again it’s not against the law so yes I was drinking,"
"And just how much had you had to drink before you met my client?"
The witness shrugged his shoulders before saying, "I don't count how many drinks I've had so I wouldn't know,"
"Mr Mittal were you sober when you had this 'chat' with my client?"
"I wasn't drunk if that's what you mean!" He snapped back.
"If you calculate at two pints roughly an hour, just as an average, you would have had, again roughly, around five or six pints; wouldn't you agree?"
"It’s possible I suppose but I wasn't counting,"
"Can you remember any of the conversation that took place between yourself and my client that afternoon?"
"We talked for a good twenty minutes before it got out of hand so which part do you want?"
"Mr Mittal, please remember you're under oath while I ask, did you at any point in the argument threaten my client?"
"Sorry lady but how do you mean threaten? As a door supervisor we are trained for situations and some people joke and some are serious, so it would depend on the angle,"
"First of all this has nothing to do with the job that you do; and second of all I hardly think you were joking and neither did my client. So I shall ask you again, did you threaten Mr Donaldson during the argument."
"Things were said, heat of the moment stuff you know,"
Victoria Bell returned to the Defence table and sifted through a few papers before picking one up, "You see I don't know Mr Mittal, I've never said it to anyone," she found the information she wanted, "And I quote, 'Don't think because there's a crowd here that I won't think twice about breaking your neck and shitting down your throat!' Did you say that to Mr Donaldson Mr Mittal?" The witness's eyes were now dancing around in his head as if he'd lost control.
"I might have done, I can't be sure. Look the man owed me money!"
"What about, 'If I don't get my dough your family better be prepared for a funeral', can you remember saying that?"
"So I might have over done it with the words. The man owed me money then broke my jaw!"
"Yes, about your jaw, of which I have no doubt was broken. You say my client broke it and yet my client is adamant he never hit any part of your face,"
"He was the one shouting the odds, and he hit me once he caught me off guard a few times around the head. Have you tried speaking with a broken jaw? It’s like speaking through gritted teeth and damn painful too!"
"You tried to attack my client but he was too quick and you fell over a table; is that true Mr Mittal?"
"I don't remember that,"
"No more questions," Miss Bell said and returned to her seat.
Mark Donaldson had the same look on his face that he'd had since the beginning of the trial; it was hard to tell what he was thinking or feeling.
Colin West stood up and walked towards the jury, "Call Mark Donaldson,"
The accused man adjusted a thick silver chain hanging around his neck.
He walked to the witness box and took the oath.
"Mr Donaldson could you tell us please as to what time you got to the 'Cock and Bull' public house?"
"Don't have the exact time but about half past three, there or about there anyway,"
"Did you meet with Mr Mittal as soon as you got there?"
"No. Saw a couple of friends and joined them,"
"When did you meet Mr Mittal?"
"Around four, he was in the beer garden,"
"Did you have a couple of drinks with the friends you met before meeting Mr Mittal?"
"Be rude if I didn't! Yes I had a couple of drinks before I met him,"
"When you met Mr Mittal did you buy him a drink or was it the other way round?"
The witness paused for a moment, "I bought the first round as I remember,"
"Did Mr Mittal buy the next round?"
"Yes he did, it was after that things turned ugly,"
"So you had about four or five drinks?"
"I wasn't counting but yeah about that,"
"My learned friend suggested that Mr Mittal was intoxicated in an earlier conversation; it sounds to me as if he wasn't the only one, wouldn't you agree Mr Donaldson?"
The witness laughed a little before replying, "You're right! But it was Sunday so a day of rest. Don't bother me though, I don't drink alcohol, never have done and never will. Before you ask I'll tell you my Mother was an alcoholic and seeing her that way, well, I promised her and myself I'd never drink and never have,"
The Prosecuting Barrister walked back to his table, looking at his notes; he was buying thinking time.
"Had you explained you'd be taking a percentage for the job Mr Mittal had done?"
"I told him there’d be a 'finder’s fee,' and he replied something along the lines of, 'Always a catch',"
"If the shoe as it were, were on the other foot, would you say Mr Mittal was right to be angry at you?"
"I honestly don't know what upset him. He made easy money with the job I gave him. There wasn't one bit of trouble there, hardly ever is at 'Michelle's,' a well run night club,"
"He was upset because he didn't get the money he thought he'd get. Then his jaw is broken!" Colin West was trying to rattle the accused.
"Look as I've explained before, I never broke his jaw, I never landed a punch on his face, trust me, if I had he'd have a lot worse than that,"
"No more questions," Colin West said.
Victoria Bell looked down at her notes before looking up at her client with a faint smile, "Mr Donaldson, in your line of work are you taught or do you practise self defence?"
"In my line of work self defence can, without putting too fine a point on it, save your life. When people have a drink some think they can take on the world, we appear as a target. I go on a weeks course every two years,"
"Did you use self defence with Mr Mittal?"
"Yes, yes I did, I could have made an example of him but he was doing that himself!"
"Thank you Mr Donaldson, that is all," Miss Bell sounded satisfied.
The accused man rejoined his Barrister.
The Judge told the jury as to what would happen next, the summing up by both counsels and then himself. It took just over half an hour and then the jury were sent out to reach a verdict.
Once the jury and Judge had left the Courtroom Mark Donaldson turned to his Barrister and said, "I'm going outside for a cigarette if you don't mind,"
"I think I'll join you,"
"Didn't have you down as a smoker Miss Bell,"
"I'm not, far from it! A bit of fresh air never hurt anyone,"
"Yeah but this is London air so it might!"
She followed her client out.
The jury deliberated for just under four hours before finally coming to a verdict.
The foreperson stood up, she wore a black business suit that wouldn't look out of place at a funeral.
"Have you come to a decision on which you are all agreed?"
"Yes Your Honour we have,"
"And how do you find the defendant on the charge of Grievous Bodily Harm?"
The whole Court seemed to hold its breath.
"We find the defendant not guilty,"
For the first time in the Courtroom Mark Donaldson smiled, he was a free man.
"My client fully admits being in the house that night as she will testify. What has happened is a tragic accident. I ask you all to remember, unless you are one hundred per cent sure she is guilty, one hundred per cent," she paused, "then she must be found innocent," Victoria Bell said, finishing her opening statement in the murder case. She sat down knowing she'd got her message across; the problem was the Barrister for the defence wasn't sure if her client was guilty or not guilty.
It really shouldn't matter but to Miss Bell it meant a lot. She'd turned down cases before as she couldn't bring herself to fight a guilty person’s corner, of course they weren't told that.
Kylie Wilkinson was ageing with every second she stood in the dock, she looked more like a forty year old than the twenty six years she was.
"Mr Fisher, please call your first witness," Judge Mary Johnson asked the prosecuting Barrister.
"Call Julie Austin," he called and within moments a lady in her fifties was standing in the witness box. She took the oath properly the second time after saying it wrong at the first attempt, to say she was nervous was an understatement!
She wore a purple and green dress and it was obviously not something she was used to wearing; she looked uncomfortable when she walked and even worse when she stood.
"Good Morning Mrs Austin. I understand this must be very hard for you but we are here to obtain the truth. For the benefit of the jury and people in the public gallery Mrs Austin is the Mother of the accused, Kylie Wilkinson, she is also the Daughter of the deceased, Maureen Donald. We can take this as slowly as you like Mrs Austin, I realize this must be a very upsetting experience for you,"
Julie Austin managed a vague smile and nodded her head a little.
"Could you tell us, in your own words if you please, as to the relationship between your Daughter and her Grandmother?"
"Kyles and Mum had a very good relationship. Mum was one that was always there, when I needed her you know," she looked up to the sky, as if for reassurance.
"Was Mrs Wilkinson a problem child growing up? By that I mean did your Mother help out with her?" Jack Fisher smiled, trying to relax the witness.
"I don't think it’s any secret that Kylie was Mum’s favourite. I have five children and when she was younger, well she needed more attention than the others. I mentioned it to Mum and she suggested she could help. It went from there really," she had a 'far away' look as she finished the sentence.
"Could you elaborate a bit more please Mrs Austin; just so we know a bit of the history of the relationship," Mr Fisher asked and again smiled, which was starting to get on the witness’s nerves already.
"Kylie began to spend more and more time with Mum and moved in with her when she was either eighteen or nineteen, I'm not sure. It was what they both wanted and she'd stayed there so often it seemed like the best move,"
"Did it upset you?"
"Not at all! I don't mean to sound callous sir but knowing they had each other kind of made it safer. Looking out for each other I mean,"
"And before your Mother passed away, were there any arguments between the two?" He asked it as if it was a 'throw away' question but it was a very important one.
"Kyles wanted her to slow down which was easier said than done. Mum was very independent and had been since my Father passed on ten years ago. 'Age is just a number,' she used to say,"
A single tear rolled down the cheek of the accused who couldn't bring herself to look at her Mother.
"Did the relationship change when your Daughter got married? By that I mean did your Mother approve of her Granddaughter’s choice in Husband?"
"To this day I don't know why she didn't like Jason; she never told me,"
"Did she go to the wedding?" He knew the answer he just wanted it confirmed.
"Of course! Her dislike for Jason was nothing like her love for Kylie,"
"And who paid for the wedding?" Mr Fisher’s tone raised slightly.
"If I may I'll redirect the question; who put in the most money for the wedding?"
"Objection!" Miss Bell said but stayed seated.
"On which grounds?" The Judge asked; she'd worked out why but had to ask.
"The relevance of the question Your Honour. Mrs Wilkinson got married four years ago; I fail to see the bearing on this case?" Victoria Bell replied then looked straight at Mr Fisher. "I'm merely bringing the jury up to date and showing how the family works,"
"On this occasion I shall overrule on the objection but I shall ask you to move on a bit Mr Fisher," the Judge said.
Mr Fisher bowed his head in acknowledgement, "Your Mother and Daughter still met twice a week is that correct?"
Julie Austin was nodding her head before she started to speak, "Saturday afternoons and Thursday evenings. I know Mum so looked forward to it,"
"It’s my understanding they went to the local Bingo hall, is that correct?"
"Yes. Mum and Kyles are well known at 'Goldmine', Mum went there for years!"
"I understand a regular winner too! What about Mrs Wilkinson, how was her luck?"
"Kyles had wins but Mum was luckier I suppose,"
"So lucky that she in fact won a quarter of a million pounds in a nationwide game!" He waited for the information to be taken in by the jury, "Mrs Wilkinson must have been pleased?"
"We all were! Nobody more than Kylie. Mum threw a party, no expense spared. It was a great evening and to top it all she bought us gifts. My youngest Son Matthew helped buy them on the interweb,"
"At this party did Mrs Wilkinson ask about a winning share?" The prosecuting Barrister's questions started getting more urgent.
"Are you on about the agreement they had?" Mrs Austin asked, she wanted to make sure she was answering the right question.
"Yes! Please if you could explain that to the Court," Mr Fisher snapped back as if she should know without asking.
"Anything under one hundred pounds you kept, anything over that and it’s split down the middle,"
"So your Daughter thought she had won, or she at least thought she was entitled to half the money?"
"That I don't know, we never discussed it," the witness confidently replied.
The door at the back of the Court opened and in walked a man that had a striking resemblance to Prince Harry, only with black hair. He walked up and sat at the defence table. He handed over a piece of paper to Miss Bell who glanced at it before breaking into a broad smile. "Well done!" She whispered to her colleague Mark Rivers.
"Did you talk about your Mother’s winnings at all with the accused?"
"Sir, sadly myself and my Daughter are not as close as I'd like. Yes we talk about things but on Mum’s win it was what she was going to buy, not about sharing,"
Mr Fisher looked down at his notes then said something to his colleague sitting beside him and nodded, "No more questions," he said giving a small bow to the Judge.
Miss Bell took a drink of water from the paper cup in front of her before she slowly rose to her feet.
"Good Morning Mrs Austin. Can I ask how your Mother’s health was prior to her death?" The defence Barrister asked with a reassuring smile.
The witness looked sad and didn't answer straight away, "Mum’s heart wasn't the best but how many eighty six year olds are? She had her hip replaced last year. She broke her arm about three years ago and it didn't fix the way it should. Mum was from a generation that didn't moan, she just got on with it. Going out to Bingo twice a week was her highlight,"
"And she lived alone?"
"Yes we'd talked about a care home but Mum was adamant she could look after herself and when she made up her mind about something it stayed made up!"
"You said earlier that Mrs Wilkinson lived with your Mother for a while, did they get on well?"
"Mum loved the idea. She had company and someone to look after her. That all changed when she met Jason," Julie Austin looked at the floor this time.
"Could you tell us how?"
" I think the fact that Jason is a Father to a Daughter bothered Mum. Don't get me wrong, she wouldn't say it to him directly; she'd smile and be polite. I suppose it’s just Mum being old fashioned really," her eyes began to water.
"Surely when they got married it made things better all round?"
"To be honest it didn't. Kyles moved out, even though it was only a few doors away and she called in every day, the 'bond' had gone,"
"Mrs Austin, am I correct in saying you took your Mother to 'McDonald and Clarke,' the Tuesday before her death?"
"Yes, yes I did. Said there was something that needed signing. I walked in with her and then she asked me to wait outside in the car. The clerk at the front desk phoned me when she was ready," the witness was a little bit confused.
"Your Honour, it has been brought to my attention that Mrs Donald, the deceased, changed her will on the Tuesday, the fourteenth of June, four days before her death," there were murmurs from the public gallery as she handed over copies of the information her colleague had just given her. A copy was also given to the Judge.
Miss Bell waited just over a minute before carrying on, "Mrs Wilkinson I'd like you to think hard before answering this question. Did my client, in your opinion, know anything about the changes your Mother made to her will? Or has she talked about it?"
The witness looked a little bit lost, her brain was sending her lots of messages at once and some were getting mixed up.
"I can honestly say that the first person Mum would have spoken about it to would have being me. She said it was just a bit of paperwork that needed signing. She never said anything about changing her will, trust me I would remember such a thing, and I'm sure Kylie would have talked to me about it and she hasn't,"
"Have you ever talked about your Mother's will? Recently or in the past?"
"Only to get Mum to do a will. A friend of the family had problems when a family member died, no will was left. Both Kylie and Mark, he's my second Son, talked Mum into it. That was about; let's see, six or seven years ago or maybe even more,"
"So as far as you're concerned she knew nothing about the hundred and fifty thousand pounds she was left in the will?"
The look on Mrs Wilkinson's face showed she was stunned. It’s exactly what the defence Barrister wanted.
"No more questions," a satisfied Miss Bell said.
Mr Fisher stood up and looked at the Judge, "Call Jason Wilkinson," he said in a confident voice.
A man entered the Court dressed as if he was going to a funeral, black shoes, tie and suit with an ironed white shirt. He had ginger hair with a ginger beard the same length, his skin quite pale.
He was sworn in and waited for the first question, winking quickly at his wife.
"Mr Wilkinson, could you sum up your relationship with your Grandmother in law as you see it please?"
Jason frowned, as if stalling for time, "She wasn't a big fan of mine if that's what you mean. She wasn't unkind if you understand but not overly welcoming,"
"What did your Wife think about this?"
"It upset her a little I suppose. They were close, maybe a bit of jealousy, I don't know. I never done anything bad if that's what you mean,"
"Did your Wife ever ask her Grandmother why she didn't like you? Or did you yourself ask?"
The witness looked nervous, his eyes stuck like a rabbit’s in headlights. His right hand started to shake ever so slightly.
"There were a few times, when 'words' were exchanged but not for a good couple of years. Kyles loved going to her Nanny,"
"Was she upset about not being given half of her Grandmother’s winning? She must have said something about it?"
"I wouldn't have said she was upset, she said something along the lines of, 'it will be sorted'..."
"Meaning?" Mr Fisher rushed the witness.
"Objection! How is this man supposed to know what his Wife is thinking?" Miss Bell said without moving an inch.
"Sustained, Mr Fisher if we could just stick to the facts please," the Judge said firmly.
"Your Honour," the prosecuting Barrister apologetically bowed his head, "Sir, you said earlier about jealousy, did you mean both ways?"
Jason Wilkinson shook his head, "Sorry, what do you mean?"
Jack Fisher walked towards the witness bench slowly, "Do you think the jealousy could be both ways? Maybe your Wife was jealous of her Grandmother? Is it not possible she was jealous of the money she had won? Not to mention not getting half?"
"You are wrong, very wrong. She saw her Nan every day, they were very close. Kyles would do anything for her," it was the reaction Jack Fisher wanted, the witness was rattled.
"On the evening she died, were you at Mrs Donald's house?"
"Yes why is that a crime now?" The witness snapped back.
"Mr Wilkinson! Would you please just answer the question," the Judge told him firmly.
Jason Wilkinson rubbed his sweaty palms on his suit jacket which now looked stretched as his shoulders were very tensed up, "Sorry," he whispered, he looked like a dog that had just been scolded.
"Carry on Counsel," the Judge said as she appeared to write something down.
"What was Mrs Donald's mood that night. Was she in a good or bad mood would you say?" Mr Fisher asked, he stood just in front of the witness box, perfectly still.
"I went round to collect Kyles as we were going out. She'd helped her Nan to bed,"
"So Mrs Donald was already in bed?"
"Yes. Kyles said she wasn't in a great mood, 'ratty,' is the word she used I think,"
"What about your Wife's mood. You said you were collecting her to take her out; did you go out?"
"Yes we went out to the pub, it was a friend’s Birthday party," the witness had got some of his composure back.
"Can you remember your Wife's mood that evening?" Mr Fisher asked again pressing the witness.
"She was worried, from what I remember. She couldn't relax and said a couple of times she wanted to go back and check on her Nan,"
"And why didn't she? If I was worried I would have,"
"Because I stupidly talked her out of it! I told her she worried too much, obviously I was wrong," Jason Wilkinson looked and sounded upset; he just about stopped himself from crying.
A single tear rolled down his Wife's face; Julie Austin was openly crying, but quietly.
"How often did your Wife give Mrs Donald her medication?"
"Whenever it was needed or asked for, I'm not sure how often,"
"And that Saturday night, did she give Mrs Donald her medication?"
"I think so but..."
"So your Wife was alone with the victim and could do whatever she liked?" The prosecuting Barrister piled on the pressure.
"What's that supposed to mean? My Wife has lost her Grandmother and all you tossers do is charge her with Murder! She didn't do it! She didn't do...it...she didn't..." Jason Wilkinson finally broke down in tears.
"No more questions," Mr Fisher said and went and sat down, his plan had worked.
"Mr Wilkinson, I realise this is a pressure situation but you have to keep your emotions in order. Court will recess in fifteen minutes, I trust by then you shall be ready for a Court of Law, if not I shall hold you in contempt!" the Judge said then stood up and waited.
"All rise," a Court usher said in a loud clear voice.
As soon as the Judge left, Victoria Bell made her way over to her client’s Husband.
"I'm so sorry, I've messed it up for her haven't I?" Jason said, he'd stopped crying and was now blaming himself.
"You fell for the 'let's see how much pressure I can put on you' trick. The only thing I'll say is the damage isn't irreparable, but you have to keep control of yourself. Don't worry, my questions will be easier," Miss Bell said with a reassuring smile.
A Court usher approached Jason Wilkinson and Victoria Bell walked back to her seat. The witness was handed a piece of paper which he read and then signed, by the time it was done the fifteen minutes was over and everyone stood as asked when Judge Mary Johnson re-entered the Courtroom.
"I hope you've had time to collect your thoughts Mr Wilkinson," the Judge said as if she were a Headteacher telling a pupil off.
"I'm very sorry Your Honour, won't happen again," the witness said.
"Proceed," the Judge said and made herself comfortable.
"Mr Wilkinson, your Wife saw Mrs Donald every day, is that correct?" Miss Bell asked, she smiled without leaving her seat.
"Yes, well nearly every day, we go out sometimes you know,"
"Do you know how many visitors Mrs Donald had, except for close family?"
"She doesn't really. Kylie and Julie, her Mum, they have keys see, stopped Nan from answering the door," the witness sounded nervous.
"I'd like you to think about the answer to this before you say anything; did you, over the last few months, talk about Mrs Donald's will,"
"That's easy it’s a no. Kyles doesn't like talking about death and that,"
"Would it surprise you to hear that her Grandmother left her a hundred and fifty thousand pounds in her will?"
"Yes I know. I mean it’s generous but I'd have thought more," Jason looked and sounded uncomfortable.
"So you had discussed it then?"
"Sorry, you're confusing me now. If you're asking did we talk about the will then the answer is no, most definitely no,"
All of a sudden an idea came into her head that she wasn't a hundred per cent sure of but went with anyway, "At the party you went to Saturday night," she looked down at her notes for a couple of seconds, "Barry Henna's party I believe, did either of you have a lot to drink?"
"Kyles had a few more than me I suppose,"
"According to your Wife's statement she had 'the hangover from hell' the morning after her Grandmother died. The only fingerprints at the scene were from family members. There was no sign of forced entry. Mr Wilkinson, I'll remind you you're under oath. Did you go back to Mrs Donald's house after the party?"
The witness looked directly at his wife and started to sob. His nose ran a little and a long dribble fell from his mouth. He started to move his lips but no sound came out.
"Mr Wilkinson, will you please answer the question," the Judge insisted, you could hear a pin drop in the half full Courtroom.
"She told me she was tired and asked about ways of ending it, even offered to pay me to do it. I told her she was being silly. On Thursday, the seventeenth, while Kylie was in the kitchen her Nan told me about leaving her one hundred and fifty grand in her will," he stopped and rubbed his eyes. He'd regained a bit of confidence, as if telling the story was relieving pressure. "If I wasn't prepared to do it by the twenty second then she'd cut Kyles out of the will. That made me angry," he shook his head, telling himself 'No,'
"What did you do Mr Wilkinson?" Victoria Bell asked calmly.
"I took Kylie home from the party on the Saturday and put her to bed. When she'd told me that Nan was behaving strangely I took her keys and went round to check on her. I knocked on her door and when I looked in she was still awake. I asked her if I could get her anything, you know, a drink or food or whatever. She asked if I'd thought about what she'd said to me previously and I laughed it off. 'You say you want the best for Kylie yet you're watching a hundred and fifty big ones go!' I told her I thought she was kidding. 'All you have to do is inject an overdose, that's got to be the easiest money ever!'" He shook his head again before wiping his nose and his mouth with his sleeve.
"She told me I'd never make a good poker player, just didn't have the face. I was convinced and still am to this day that I did what was best for Kylie,"
"What did you do Mr Wilkinson?" The defence Barrister asked.
"She talked me through what to put in the needle. I didn't want to do it but she kept saying, 'think of the money and me out of pain, and how much more time you could spend with Kylie,' I agreed and filled the syringe then put it in her hip. She thanked me after the injection then I left and went home,"
"Bastard! You pig! How could you?" Kylie shouted from the dock.
"Take Mr Wilkinson away," The Judge said as whispers and murmurs went round the Court.
"Mrs Wilkinson it appears the case against you has collapsed. You are free to go," the Judge said and banged down her hammer.
"All rise," the usher cried.
Once the Judge had left, Kylie, whose make up had slightly run, walked up to Victoria Bell,
"How did you know?"
"Things just didn't add up. He was vague and didn't want to..." Miss Bell was interrupted.
"He killed my Mother and you brought him into our lives! I'll never forgive you for this! I...I...hate you!" Julie Austin said to her Daughter, venom in her voice.
Victoria Bell was the last one to leave the Courtroom. This case had split up a family, perhaps for good, but justice was done.
There's always another case waiting.
Tania Street was a famous actress who had a string of theatre work as well as films behind her.
She was voted Britain's sexiest woman in two thousand and ten.
But now she was standing in the dock, looking as if she'd aged twenty years.
Her hair was tied in a bun and she wore little make-up. Her dress was conservative blue which again made her look older than her twenty nine years.
The murder trial was now in its third and final day and the accused didn't hide the black bags under her eyes; sleep was sporadic.
She could afford the best defence team in England and had no fewer than four Barristers in Court with two sitting at the table and two sitting just behind.
Victoria Bell was assisted by John Hollins, someone she both respected and liked. If there was a flaw in a statement or in a testimony then John Hollins would find it, he nearly always did.
"Call your next witness," Judge Rosemary Jones-Hammond said, she looked like a sweet old Grandmother but she could be very tough when needed.
Miss Bell and Mr Hollins whispered for a few seconds, and then Miss Bell said, "Call Tania Street,"
The actress made her way to the witness box where she took the oath, her voice almost a whisper.
"Miss Street, how long had you known the victim, Mr Peter Jennings for?"
"A long time, I would say, well, I suppose about fifteen years. We worked together when I was about fifteen I think," again she spoke just above a whisper.
"Miss Street I'd like you to speak up please, it’s important we all hear you, especially the jury," the Judge said.
"And you were a couple for how long?"
The witness cleared her throat, taking heed of what the Judge said.
"We got together in two thousand and eight, April the first as I recall. He sent me a dozen red roses and I thought it was a joke, being April fool’s day," she could be heard by everyone in Court now.
"And when did the relationship end?"
"The fourth of July last year," Miss Street said then looked down at the floor.
"You're very precise with the date; I take it the break-up wasn't amicable?"
"Looking back I was a bit of a fool to be honest. Of course that date is synonymous with Americans and Peter and I arranged to meet up for dinner. In my own mind, well, I thought, as it’s such an easy date to remember, Peter wasn't great at remembering dates you see, that well, and he said on the phone he wanted to talk about something important, well," she tried to put her fist in her mouth and looked quite uncomfortable, "l thought he would ask me to marry him," she rushed the last sentence.
"And the important thing he had to talk to you about was what exactly?"
"We were separated a lot through our careers and we talked about our future," the actress’s voice was started to lower again.
"Your future as a couple?"
"That was talked about yes,"
"Could you tell us the outcome of that talk please Miss Street, it’s important,"
"Peter thought it was best to end our relationship,"
"That must have been upsetting?"
"It wasn't expected I will say that,"
"Did it make you angry?"
"It was upsetting, as you asked previously,"
"Did Peter ever talk to you about Nancy Billington?"
"Yes they were working together on a film, 'Revenge of the people,' he complained a bit about her but Peter often complained,"
"Were you aware of his affair?" Miss Bell had the attention of the whole Court.
"Not until after his death, no I didn't,"
"Had Mr Jennings had other affairs that you knew of?"
"Yes I'm sorry to say,"
"Peter was a totally handsome man and had lots of female admirers,"
"How many affairs Miss Street?"
"He only admitted one to me and we talked about it,"
"Who broached the subject?"
"It was about a year into our relationship when I was told a rumour about him seeing one of his co stars. In the line of business we are in rumours go round all the time but this one was told to me by a close and trusted friend. I approached Peter about it and at first he was in denial but then admitted it, he also said it was over and how stupid he'd been,"
"What happened after that?"
"We talked and I mean talked. I think we got to bed about five in the morning,"
"You forgave his affair?"
"He told me it was over and he'd been very silly and given into lust; it was me he wanted to be with. He wanted to show more commitment and suggested we move in together,"
For the next half an hour they talked about the relationship and the trappings of fame.
"Did you trust Peter Jennings?"
"I don't mean to sound big headed but being good looking people, Peter and I were chatted up all the time. Unofficially, flirting is part of our job and it can be a lot of fun, as long as people know that's all it is. One man asked me what time he was picking me up one time, it was scary and security took the guy away. A fan of Peter’s said he was the Father of her child and Peter had never even met the woman! I suppose what I'm trying to say is trust is very important in a relationship in the public eye,"
"You did trust him?"
"Yes I did. We are all human and have weaknesses,"
"But the relationship wasn't the same after he admitted the affair?"
"Your Honour I think we are all aware that Peter Jennings had an affair. These are the same questions reworked; can't we just move on?" John Thorpe, one of the Barristers for Miss Street interjected.
"Miss Bell is there a point to this and if so get to the point or move on please," the Judge said.
Mr Thorpe, who looked as if he should have retired some ten years before, bowed his head at the Judge, showing a full head of hair, every one of them as white as snow. He was known as 'The white bear' in legal circles.
Victoria Bell was changing tact anyway; she felt she'd got the accused trust, well as much she was going to get anyway.
"How long after you split did you work together?"
"Filming started on the tenth of July,"
"Didn't that make things difficult?"
"The one thing we agreed on was we would remain professional, no matter what,"
"Is it true you gave your ex partner a black eye just three days before he was killed?"
'The white bear' was about to object but stopped himself just in time.
"It was a difficult scene and it had taken a few takes to get it right. Peter himself said afterwards his timing was off; he cleared me of all blame,"
"Yet his Sister said he sounded furious on the phone the night it happened. She told us he called you a number of names, why would he tell her that?"
"Objection! How is my client supposed to know what Mr Jennings is thinking?" Mr Thorpe said without getting out of his chair.
"Sustained. Miss Bell's last question shall be wiped from the record. Could the Prosecution please ask questions based on fact,"
"Apologies Your Honour. Miss Street did you apologise to Mr Jennings for the black eye,"
"Of course I did, it was an accident! As I've said before, we behaved in a professional manner, in our industry sadly accidents happen,"
"Two accidents in four days and your ex lover is dead and we are supposed to believe it was an accident on both occasions?"
Miss Street snapped back, "I’ve done nothing wrong!"
"Mr Jennings was from a wealthy family and indeed had amassed a personal fortune through his career of twenty million pounds plus. You were named in his will and indeed his life insurance which would give you around twelve million pounds, is that correct?"
"I don't know the figures that's why I have an accountant,"
"Now it’s my understanding that a few of your investments haven't worked out as well as you'd like, is that correct?"
"Again I'd need to speak to my accountant about it as I don't have the figures,"
"So you are telling us here today that you don't know how much money you have?"
"That’s exactly what I'm telling you as it’s the truth!"
"Did Mr Jennings tell you about the will and the fact that you were in it?"
"We talked about it a couple of years ago but I can't remember exactly what was said,"
"Did he mention you were in the will?"
"I'm sure he did but as I say I can't remember a lot of the conversation,"
"Can you remember any figures Mr Jennings mentioned?"
"It was a couple of years ago, it’s a vague memory but I can't remember any figures that he said if he said any," the accused was getting tired and a little annoyed.
"So we are to believe that you talked about your ex partners will to your ex partner and you can't really remember the conversation or the amount of money involved? Did he discuss or tell you anything after he ended your relationship?"
Miss Street was told the Prosecution might try to antagonise her so didn't bother with Miss Bell's first comment or question.
"He had said a couple of days before the accident that he wanted to talk to me about something other than work so it might have been that,"
"What else could it have been?"
"Maybe me getting my stuff out of his apartment or his out of mine, after all we lived together, just not in the same country all the time! I don't know what he meant! Somebody switched the prop knife for a real one so we'll never know!" The woman charged with murder was on the breaking point.
"Thank you for bringing me on to the next point. As you yourself have just said, 'somebody'," the Barrister put up her fingers to show it was inverted commas, "must have swapped the fake knife, or prop knife as you call it, for the real one. The problem is there isn't anyone else that's a suspect! I put it to you that you found out about Peter's affair and wanted revenge?"
"You didn't like the idea of another woman having your man so if you couldn't have him nobody could! That's what happened isn't it Miss Street?"
"Miss Bell! Anymore of that and you'll be held in contempt! I hope I make myself clear," the Judge said sternly.
Victoria Bell nodded and the Judge seemed satisfied.
"I'd just like to clear one more thing up please Miss Street," Miss Bell said after receiving a piece of paper from her colleague John Hollins, he'd circled the important bit for her to read, "I asked you earlier about Nancy Billington and her affair with Peter Jennings; you denied all knowledge of hearing about it until after his death, is that correct?"
"That is correct,"
"If I may and a quote, 'I always knew he had other women, I bet he was banging that Billington bitch,' this is one of the answers you gave when interviewed by the Police shortly after Peter Jennings death, when you claimed you knew nothing about an affair,"
At first the actress looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights but answered back, "It was a guess and I was in shock!"
"No more questions," Miss Bell said handing her colleague the piece of paper back with a smile.
Mr Thorpe whispered with his team for a few moments before standing up and approaching the witness stand. 'The white bear' was just over six foot tall with wide shoulders, he didn't look the type of man you'd want to cross swords with. He smiled at his client to try and make her more relaxed.
"Miss Street did you love Peter Jennings?"
"Love isn't like a tap you can just turn on and off, I wish it was. Yes I loved him, I loved him with all my heart," tears rolled down her face, if it was an act it was a very good one.
"I'm sorry Miss Street would you like a moment?" Her Barrister asked.
"It’s fine, honestly," she answered then dabbed her eyes with a tissue.
"We've heard from previous witnesses about Mr Jennings and how likeable he was. In your opinion did he have any enemies?"
"In the profession that we are in, as in life, it’s very much dog eat dog. The answer to that question is very hard, very hard indeed. While you get some great salt of the earth people who are genuinely happy you get a good part or lead there are others who, while smiling and shaking your hand, are really just jealous that they wanted the part for themselves. I think every actor has enemies, finding them is the hard part, they are actors after all,"
"We've all seen the accident on the first day of the trial, when did you realize things had gone wrong?" Mr Thorpe's voice was very smooth, as he intended.
"I thought for a moment that the bag of blood was overfilled, blood was everywhere. He was crying out in pain and the colour of his skin changed. Silly as it may sound but it was his crying out in pain that made me realise something was wrong, Peter never fluffed his lines and couldn't understand people that did. Then 'cut!' was shouted and it was very obvious something had happened, everyone gathered round him," once again she dabbed her eyes even though there weren't any tears.
"What happened next?"
"I knelt down beside him and took hold of his hand which was cold. I still didn't know what had happened; all I knew was Peter was in a bad way, a very bad way,"
"Who else had access to the set?"
"It was a big production. Pinewood is huge and so were the sets. I don't know the exact number but at a guess about three hundred plus,"
"On the day of the accident four hundred and fifty two were on set. That's four hundred and fifty one people that could have put the knife there. Thank you Miss Street, the defence rests," Mr Thorpe said.
"Thank you, you may step down," the Judge said.
As Miss Street left the witness box she collapsed on the floor with no warning. A Court usher ran to help her; she took off her coat and wrapped it up to use as a makeshift pillow. She carefully moved Miss Street's head over the temporary pillow then took her pulse and waited.
The Court usher was now joined by two more colleagues; it was obvious this wasn't the first time this had happened.
"Heart beating a little fast but strong,"
"Think she fainted Pam?"
"It would be at the top of the list,"
Five minutes later the actress regained consciousness and was checked out by a doctor. The accused woman hadn't eaten a great deal during the trial for fear of it coming back up.
"We shall recess in fifteen minutes," the Judge said, everyone except Miss Street and the Doctor looking after her stood as the Judge left the Courtroom.
When proceedings reconvened the accused had eaten a chocolate bar to help her blood sugar levels.
Victoria Bell summed up the case for the Prosecution in seven and a half minutes; Mr Thorpe in just under half of that time.
The Judge gave her summing up and the jurors went away to make their decision.
Five hours later the jury sat in Court; it was a nervous atmosphere.
"Have you reached a verdict on which you are all agreed?"
"We have Your Honour," the foreperson answered.
"How do you find Tania Street on the charge of Murder?" The Judge asked.
There wasn't a spare seat anywhere in the Courtroom and the tense atmosphere could be felt everywhere.
"Not Guilty," A couple of cheers went up and the free woman broke down in tears.
Three weeks after the trial the Jennings Family challenged the will made by Peter Jennings. It’s not over for Tania Street yet and she'll soon be back in Court fighting for what is rightfully hers.
"Call the first witness," Judge John Madison said, he looked bored already and it was only the beginning of the trial!
Samantha Russell looked at her little list on the desk in front of her to reassure herself, "Thank you Your Honour, call Angela Smart," she said as she put down her pen.
A woman in her late forties wearing a light grey business suit stepped up into the witness box; her makeup and hair looking perfect. She repeated the oath perfectly which wasn't a surprise, she'd actually practised it a few times the day before.
"Mrs Smart, I understand you're a good friend of my client, the victim, and his family. Is that correct?"
"Indeed, I've known Henry over ten years now. We live a couple of streets away from each other, our families are always up to something or another," the witness said confidently.
"And on the evening of September the third, two thousand and eleven, I understand you were at my client, Henry Townsend's house, is that correct?"
"Yes we'd had a barbecue, it had been a hot day and Henry suggested it, everyone else had left and I was helping to tidy up,"
"Can you tell the Court if the music was very loud?"
"It wasn't overly loud. I mean it was a barbecue you know, a party as it were,"
"Did you see or hear anyone complaining about the noise?"
"Only that Michael Tucks. He nearly broke the door down before Henry answered it. He used such foul language that I shan't repeat if you don't mind,"
"Of course," Miss Russell said with a courtesy smile, "Could you tell us what mood the accused, Mr Tucks, was in,"
"Oh not a good one! Henry invited him in as he didn't want a scene. First of all Mr Tucks went on about the bins and how his Mother told him she didn't want them left outside her house and blamed Henry. Then he moaned about the music being played loud all day. Yes his mood was angry and upset," as she finished her answer the door to the Courtroom opened and in walked a woman looking very pregnant.
"And what happened after they'd exchanged words?"
"Well Henry asked him to leave," Angela Smart paused, thinking back to that evening, "The next thing I know they are fighting!"
"Could you tell who started the fight?" Miss Russell wanted more from the witness.
"It had to have been Tucks but I can't be one hundred per cent sure. Edward, that's Henry and Jane's Son, well he'd come into the kitchen and distracted me. To be honest I just wanted him out of danger and took him into the next room,"
"How long were you out of the room?"
"I would say no more than twenty seconds, thirty at most. When I returned Henry was bleeding and Tucks was heading for the door. There was a lot of blood, that I will say,"
"What did you do next?"
"I phoned the Police and an ambulance,"
"Where was Mr Tucks?"
"He'd gone; slamming the door behind him,"
"Thank you Mrs Smart, you've been very helpful," Samantha Russell said then looked over at Victoria Bell.
The defence Barrister stood up and walked in front of her desk.
"Mrs Smart, you've told the Court my client 'wasn't in a good mood'. Surely Mr Townsend's mood wasn't the nicest either after Mr Tucks complained?"
"Henry kept his composure when this man was being abusive; in fact he asked him to 'calm down,' on more than one occasion,"
"Are you suggesting Mr Townsend didn't lose his temper at all?"
"He did yes but only when he was really pushed,"
"Mrs Smart did you see my client, Mr Tucks, bring a knife when he entered Mr Townsend's property?"
The witness seemed lost for a moment, as if she didn't understand the question.
"Mrs Smart can you answer the question please,"
"I never saw him with a knife but..."
"Thank you. You said you left the room and the fight started where Mr Townsend was injured. Had that fight started before you left the room?"
"Yes it had, that's why I choose to take Edward out to another room,"
"By 'fight' I mean in the physical sense. Did you see who threw the first punch?"
"Sorry but Tucks came in to the house in an aggressive manner. Henry was bloodied and Tucks ran away; if that's not a sign of guilt then what is?" She sounded like she was getting annoyed with the questions.
"That as maybe, but it didn't answer the question.
Did you see who threw the first punch?" Victoria Bell asked then rose from her seat and walked in front of the witness.
"No, no I didn't see who threw the first punch," Mrs Smart said as she looked down at the floor.
"No more questions," the defence Barrister said and returned to her seat.
Mrs Smart looked as if she was going to cry but stopped herself as she left the stand.
"Call Mr Henry Townsend," Miss Russell said and moments later a man dressed in a sharp dark blue suit with a jet black shirt and black tie. His hair was gelled back, it almost looked as if he'd come out of a shower. His silver rimmed thick glasses didn't really go with the image he was going for.
He took the oath and waited for the questions; he looked quite unflappable.
"Good morning Mr Townsend. Could you tell us in your own words, what happened at your house on that evening in September?"
"From what I recall it had been a fine day and I was clearing up after having a few friends over. Angela stayed behind to help, despite me objecting. I'd just changed the CD when the front door was banged on and I mean hard! Edward and Angela looked concerned, I must admit I wasn't sure if I should answer it but I did,"
"Can you tell us, in brief, as to the person’s mood when you opened the door?"
"It was Michael Tucks and he smelt like a brewery. He used profanities that, in my opinion, were very uncalled for. I asked him in as I thought we could sort the situation out,"
"Mr Townsend, for the sake of the jury and the Court, could you give us the brief history that led to the argument please,"
"It all started a couple of years ago. The council sent a letter out asking us to leave our rubbish out at the end of Charlton mews on a Thursday evening for collection on a Friday. Mr Tucks' Mother asked if we could not leave it so close to her pathway, our bins are numbered and the dustcart has trouble coming down. Mr Tucks then asked me, a few weeks later, why was I the only one who couldn't do what his Mother had asked. I assured him I'd done nothing wrong, it started from there really,"
"How far apart do you live from each other?"
"His house is number seven and we are at number twelve, so five houses apart,"
"Thank you now if we can get back to events that happened that night. What happened when you let Mr Tucks into your home?"
"To be honest I was fed up with the ill feeling, I suppose I wanted it sorted out. Asking him in seemed a good way to do it. His shouting calmed down once he came inside. After a couple of minutes he started shouting again and then pushing me, then I felt my right cheek was wet and I had a pain in my face, very close to my eye. Mr Tucks ran out the door and Angela told me I was bleeding,"
"Mr Townsend, did you see the knife at all,"
"Only when it was on the floor after I was bleeding,"
"Did you recognise the knife? Was it from your set of knives or belonged to you?"
"I hate knives I really do and I'd never seen that one before in my life,"
"Thank you Mr Townsend, no more questions from me," Miss Russell said and sounded pleased.
Victoria Bell looked at her notes far longer than she needed; Henry Townsend rubbed his palms nervously on his legs. After about a minute she stood up and looked at the witness.
"Mr Townsend, may I just quote you for a moment, 'It was Michael Tucks and he smelt like a brewery', was your reply to a question from my learned friend. Now as you and Mrs Smart have told us you had a gathering of friends that afternoon. Was there any alcohol at this gathering?"
The witness looked a little scared, "Yes of course. It was an afternoon with a few close friends and yes wine was poured,"
"And you yourself sir, did you partake in a glass or two?" Miss Bell asked looking directly at the witness.
Again the witness looked tense as he pulled the collar of his shirt as if it would let heat out.
"Yes I had a glass or two but took it easy as I was cooking,"
"How about after the food was cooked? Did you drink a bit more?"
The blood seemed to drain from the man's face.
"I suppose. I know I had at least one glass afterwards,"
"So how many glasses, approximately, did you have before answering the door to Mr Tucks?"
The more questions Victoria Bell asked the more the witness lost confidence.
"Maybe four or five?" He replied, he looked uncertain.
"So will you agree that you had a few drinks yourself? Merry maybe?"
"I suppose so,"
"Mr Townsend, did you see my client, Michael Tucks, with a knife at any time during the fight you had?"
Henry Townsend looked as if he'd been asked for his school dinner money by a school bully and didn't have it on him.
"It had to have been his knife; I'd never seen it before,"
"Mr Townsend, could you please answer the question I asked,"
The witness paused, thinking about the question. He nodded his head then it went side to side, "I cannot recall seeing him with the knife but it wasn't mine and I'd never seen it before,"
"Thank you Mr Townsend, that will be all,"
"The knife was his, it wasn't mine. I don't leave knives lying around, I have young children you see, I'd hate any harm to come to them. I'd never seen it before, I swear,"
"Thank you Mr Townsend, that will be all, you may step down," the Judge said, it was more of an order than a suggestion.
Miss Russell looked very confident as she stood up, "Call Michael Tucks,"
A man with broad shoulders wearing a silver suit that was slightly too small for him made his way to the stand. He wore a white shirt that had faded through time; his grey tie wasn't very new either.
"Good Morning Mr Tucks, can you tell us as to why you went round to my client’s house that evening?" "Yes, because he was playing his music far too loud. It was the third time I'd been there that day. I didn't get a reply the first couple of times, maybe the music was so loud they didn't hear me, I don't know," "Can you remember what Mr Townsend said after answering the door?"
Mr Tucks gave a little smile, "He invited me in to talk about it. I have to admit he took me by surprise," "Could you tell the Court your mood that evening?"
"At first I was annoyed. Knocking on the door twice with no answer can do that. When Mr Townsend invited me in I have to say it chilled me, wasn't expected you know,"
"Mr Tucks, how drunk were you that evening?"
"Objection! My client can't possibly know that," The Judge nodded in agreement with the defence Barrister,
"Miss Russell it would save us all time if we stick to the facts. Objection sustained and the question shall be removed from the records and the jury shall disregard the question. Carry on,"
"My Lord," Miss Russell said by way of apology. "Mr Tucks, can you remember, approximately, how much you had had to drink that day?"
"Sorry but I wasn't counting. I'd had four or five cans I suppose, but I can't be sure,"
"You had some 'Dutch courage' and thought you'd have it out with Mr Townsend. Might I suggest you grabbed a knife and went round to confront the man that was making your life hell?" Miss Russell wanted to anger the defendant.
"The music started around midday and was non-stop. Now I've had run-ins with Mr Townsend before, he left his bins where my Mum couldn't get past; A prisoner in her own home. That was sorted and then the music. In answer to your question I don't use knives, except for cooking,"
"What were your intentions when you got to my client’s house?"
"To ask him to turn the music down; funny enough I was hoping it was third time lucky,"
"Who threw the first punch then?"
"I know the answer to that one. He said something along the lines of 'We can't all be country and western fans', I replied with a bit of sarcasm, 'You'd have to be dead to get me to be a fan,' then he went for me! Looking back, it was probably the wrong thing to say,"
"Mr Tucks, my client could have lost his sight because of this, luckily he didn't. I will ask you again, did you bring a knife to Mr Townsend's house?"
"And I will tell you and anyone else that asks me; I don't like knives. I don't carry one, never have, even when I was on the streets, and I know most do but not me,"
"Do you know how my client was covered in blood? You caused that with a knife!"
"Look lady, I said something wrong that Townsend didn't like, a fight happened and he got cut. He started the fight but where the knife came from I don't know! The struggle was over after about a minute and I thought I'd broken his nose, with the blood and all that,"
"Did you feel the knife in your hand?"
"I can't remember feeling it I must admit,"
"This is my theory; you went to Mr Townsend's house and took the knife for protection. Before you know it my client is nursing a wound and you have run off, it doesn't look that good for you at the moment," Miss Russell wanted to smile but resisted the urge.
"It was his fucking knife, I swear!"
"No more questions," the prosecuting Barrister said.
"Mr Tucks, swearing is not permitted in a Court of law unless it’s in a case and it’s merited," the Judge said by way of warning him.
"Sorry, I'm just a bit sick of getting the blame for the knife. It wasn't mine. I shall try and control my language," the defendant said sincerely.
Victoria Bell spread out her paperwork on the table she sat at. "Mr Tucks, what did you do when Mr Townsend had hit you?"
"To be honest I was shocked! We ended up on the floor, don't ask me how, it was all in the heat of the moment,"
"Do you remember picking up or handling a knife at any point during the fight?"
"Not at all; the first I knew of the knife was when the Police turned up at my house. As I told them as I'll tell the Court once again, it wasn't my knife and I haven't a clue as to where it came from,"
"Did you hit Mr Townsend? By that I mean can you remember punches thrown?"
"You see that's the strange part. We grabbed each other and rolled on the floor. It was more like a school fight. I think I may have got a punch in more than him," he sounded pleased which didn't help his case.
"Can you remember where the punches landed on Mr Townsend's body?"
"Sorry I don't, as I say it was over in a matter of seconds. I thought I'd caught his nose or he banged it on the floor. When I saw the blood I stopped,"
"So did you see a knife at all during the fight?"
"The only time I saw the knife was when it was on the floor. I didn't know or think it had cut him. I never connected the two I really didn't!"
"Mr Tucks, you are charged with 'Wounding', which means that you went to Mr Townsend's house to intentionally wound him. Are you guilty of this crime?" Miss Bell hoped the talk they'd had before the trial started was still in his memory; or he could land himself in prison!
"I went round to Mr Townsend's house to ask him to turn the music down. I defended myself when he was the one who started it. I had no intention, none at all whatsoever of hurting him," he looked at the jury as he'd been told.
"No more questions, thank you Mr Tucks," and the defendant let out a little sigh, it was relief.
The Judge looked at the paperwork in front of him before saying, "We shall have a fifteen minute break before we hear each side sum up the case,"
"All rise," the Court usher said.
Miss Russell headed out to have a cigarette while Miss Bell looked over her notes.
"Did I do all right?" Michael Tucks asked his Barrister after talking to a couple of people in the public gallery.
"Shall we say you didn't do yourself any harm," Victoria Bell replied, it was an honest assessment.
"I was nervous see and I haven't touched a drop; but I was tempted. Ten months and sixteen days, this did happen fourteen months ago and I’ve met Allison since then," he said proudly.
Before Miss Bell answered Miss Russell returned and sat at the prosecuting table. A few moments later the usher announced the Judge was back.
"Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, you've heard from all the people involved with this case and now we shall hear from both counsels in their summing up. After they have finished I shall give my own summing up," Judge Madison said then relaxed back in his chair.
Miss Russell took just under ten minutes to sum up, pointing out what a good citizen Mr Townsend was. Miss Bell took just over twelve minutes, pointing out that her client has told the truth the whole way through. She also pointed out they had to be one hundred per cent certain of it; if not then there was only one decision.
"Now it’s your job to decide if Mr Tucks is guilty of 'Wounding' Mr Townsend. He has fully admitted going round to Mr Townsend's house and talking to him and the ensuing fight. We shall take an early lunch for an hour and then it’s up to you to decide,"
"All rise," the Court usher said.
"What now?" Mr Tucks asked his Barrister.
"Now we wait and hope. Get yourself something to eat but don't go too far, the jury may come to a quick decision,"
"With the condition Allison is in we can't go far anyway," Michael Tucks said with a smile.
At just after three O'clock in the afternoon the jury filed back into the Courtroom; none of them giving anything away.
"Have you reached a decision?" Judge Madison asked.
A man in his forties, respectfully dressed, stood up, "Yes we have Your Honour,"
"And how do you find Mr Michael Tucks on the count of wounding?"
The foreman of the jury cleared his throat before answering, "We the jury find him not guilty Your Honour," Michael Tucks had a huge smile on his face; Victoria Bell stayed professional.
"Mr Tucks, while the jury found you not guilty on the wounding charge, you did break your parole for a previous offence. Mr Canning could you read out the offences Mr Tucks has been guilty of please," The Court usher stood up and read a list of previous convictions; the jury looked horrified.
The pregnant woman at the front shouted, "Oh God! I think my waters just broke!"
"Its all right Allison," Michael Tucks said trying to reassure his girlfriend.
"Mr Tucks, as you have shown quite a remarkable change in character I'm prepared to be lenient on this occasion. For breaking your parole I'm sentencing you to two years,"
"No!" Allison cried out, but not at the Judge but the sharp pain.
"Two years in prison, suspended for two years. Now can you take that lady to Hospital and be quick about it," the Judge said and nodded at Mr Canning.
Two weeks later Victoria Bell was visited at her office by Michael Tucks and his girlfriend Allison. They introduced her to their Daughter, Vicky.