The Archers Trial Week: The Key Players
Helen's trial will be presided over by Judge Loomis at Borchester Crown Court. Appearing for the prosecution is Julian Bywater and for the defence it's Anna Tregorran.
Who will they call to appear at Helen’s trial – and who will convince the jury?
Meet some of the key witnesses in the case.
The Accused: Helen Titchener
Helen is pleading not guilty to two charges: Attempted Murder and Wounding with Intent. Both charges relate to the night of 4 April 2016, when she stabbed her husband Rob twice in the presence of her five-year-old son Henry.
Since then Helen has been remanded in custody, where she gave birth to son John Anthony Archer (Jack) on 21 May.
At first, Helen wanted to plead guilty as she might serve a shorter sentence. Her barrister Anna Tregorran urged her that if she had acted in self-defence she must plead not guilty.
Anna has been trying to piece together the case for the defence but Helen’s reluctance to talk about the traumatic abuse she has experienced, and the shortage of evidence and reliable witnesses, is making this a challenge.
Finally, on day 3 of the trial, pushed by Anna about her call to the helpline, Helen finally admitted to the court that Rob raped her, not once but time and time again.
The Victim: Rob Titchener
Rob nearly died from blood loss in the attack, and suffered a punctured lung and a perforated, infected bowel, which required a temporary colostomy. Supported by his mother Ursula, he has depicted himself as a loving husband and father, the innocent victim of a disturbed woman who was a danger to herself, Henry and their unborn child.
But he has also proved ruthless in gaining custody of Henry, has coached him in what to say to social workers, and has tried to put pressure on his ex-wife Jess.
Hearing that Helen will have Ian as a character witness, he mounted a charm offensive in the village, with mixed results.
On the first day of the trial, Rob gave a fulsome testimony from the witness box about the night of the attack. Anna accused him of being a bully. Rob broke down and exclaimed "Why Helen? All I ever did was love you. Was that so very wrong?".
After the attack, Helen phoned her best friend Kirsty and told her she had killed Rob. Kirsty, who was expecting to hear Helen had left him, rushed over and, finding Rob still alive, called an ambulance.
Kirsty tried to tell the police about Rob’s abuse of Helen, but couldn’t offer any proof of violent behaviour. Being first at the scene, what Kirsty saw is vital evidence and she will be called as a prosecution witness.
She has not been allowed to contact Helen since her arrest, but has become closer to Pat.
Rob's depiction of Kirsty is a jealous, bitter marriage-wrecker (they have never got on).
On the second day of the trail Kirsty appeared as a witness. Anna's cross-examination of Kirsty provoked an objection from the prosecution. Riled Kirsty continued to speak her mind about Rob, ignoring a warning from Judge Loomis that she'd be held in contempt. That's fine responded Kirsty - she'd said what she came to say.
Helen’s mother Pat is being called as a prosecution witness. She confirmed to police she heard Helen swear she would kill Rob if he sent Henry away to school. Denied contact with Helen, she bitterly regretted missing Jack’s birth in prison.
Pat had at first been suspicious of Rob but buried her misgivings, convinced that Rob and Helen were rock solid. She now tortures herself for being fooled. "Why didn’t I trust my gut feeling? Rob was so obviously a chauvinist."
She now sees that stopping Helen driving and working, which she agreed to, were not protective care, but sinister control.
Rob’s mother came to stay at Blossom Hill Cottage to help Helen, and while friendly at first, quickly imposed her own domineering routine.
She prevented Helen from talking to Kirsty, pressured her to have a home birth against medical advice, and enthusiastically supported Rob in his plan to send Henry away to school. She told Pat she blamed herself for not protecting Rob from Helen: "She’s a madwoman. She’s dangerous. I don’t know why I didn’t take it more seriously."
Five-year-old Henry’s world was turned upside down when he saw his mother attack his ‘Daddy’ with a knife. Tactful questioning by police revealed he knows what ‘truth’ and ‘lies’ are, so his account may be judged helpful to the case.
Pat and Tony expected Henry to live with them afterwards, but Rob quickly asserted his rights and won a hearing to have custody until after the trial.
Rob seems very fond of Henry, defending him against his father Bruce’s description of him as ‘a snotty-nosed kid, a freak of nature, conceived in a test tube’. But whether Rob is playing a longer game, to gain custody of his ‘real son’, Helen’s baby Jack, remains to be seen.
Henry gave his evidence in court via video. When asked about the night of the incident, Henry said that his daddy was angry with him for coming downstairs when he was not supposed to.
Local policeman Harrison Burns attended Blossom Hill Cottage after the stabbing and later told girlfriend Fallon he was shocked by the bloody scene.
Harrison admires Rob’s cricketing skills and was impressed by his heroics in the flood. When Susan Carter helpfully told him about Helen’s past troubles, Fallon said he shouldn’t take her gossip seriously because Helen was his friend. "Maybe… If you’d seen what I walked in on, you might not be so sure," he said, as he weighed up reporting Susan’s comments to the investigating team.
The character witness: Ian Craig
Helen’s old friend Ian quickly came to mistrust Rob, spotting his arrogance, bullying ways and thinly-disguised homophobia. Their mutual dislike came to a head at a ‘Rough and Tumble’ challenge for Sports Relief 2014, when Rob goaded Ian throughout. Ian won, but punched Rob in front of guest star Sir Bradley Wiggins.
He tried to warn Helen about Rob, but she was offended. Finally, believing Rob’s poisonous gossip that Helen knew about Adam’s infidelities and didn’t tell him, Ian cut her off. But when Anna asked Ian to be a character witness, he wrote Helen an affectionate letter, which gave her confidence. Rob was not best pleased when he found out.
The character witness: Neil Carter
When Anna approached Neil Carter to be Helen’s character witness he was uncertain that he was the person for the job. However, Anna persuaded him that his objective voice, combined with his standing as Chair of the Parish Council would help ensure that the jury would get a fair picture of who Helen really is.
When Susan found out that he had agreed to take the stand for Helen, she was livid: "You’ll turn Rob against us; let alone most of the cricket team and half the village!" she argued. But Neil is a man of his word and stuck to his guns, pledging to show the jury that, whatever she had done, Helen is a far cry from 'the monster' that the papers made out.
The trauma surgeon: Mr Ellis
Mr Ellis is the trauma surgeon who operated on Rob following the incident on the night of 4 April. He can confirm the extent of the injuries that Rob sustained: three wounds - a stab wound to the abdomen, another to the chest and a laceration of the wrist.
Rob had been given an emergency thoracostomy at the scene of the incident to relieve a collapsed lung and all who treated him agreed that Rob was ‘lucky to still be alive’.