The Witness for the Prosecution

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"The Witness for the Prosecution" is a short story and play by Agatha Christie. The story was initially published as Traitor Hands in Flynn's Weekly edition of 31 January 1925. In 1933, the story was published for the first time in the collection The Hound of Death that appeared only in the United Kingdom. The American audience had to wait until 1948 when it was included in the collection The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories.


Leonard Vole is arrested for the murder of a wealthy older woman, named Emily French. Since Miss French made him her principal heir, not aware that he was a married man, things look bad for Leonard's defense. But the final blow comes when his wife, Romaine, agrees to testify, not in Leonard's defense, but as a witness for the prosecution. Through a complicated and elaborate plan, Romaine was in fact working to free her husband all along. By first giving the prosecution its strongest evidence and then arranging for new evidence to come to light that discredits her testimony, it is more likely that Leonard will be acquitted than if she was simply a defense witness. It is then revealed that Leonard Vole actually did kill Emily French.

Plot alteration[edit]

The original story ended abruptly with the major twist, Mrs. Vole's revelation that her husband was indeed guilty. Over time, Agatha Christie grew dissatisfied with this ending (one of the few Christie endings in which a murderer escapes punishment), and, in her subsequent rewriting of the story as a play, added a mistress for Leonard, who appears at the end of the play. The mistress and Leonard are about to leave Romaine (called "Christine" in the film and television versions) to be arrested for perjury, when Romaine grabs a knife[1] and stabs Leonard dead.

The play was also made into a 1957 film, starring Charles Laughton as Sir Wilfrid Robarts and Marlene Dietrich as Romaine (whose name is changed to "Christine")

Publishing history[edit]

Film adaptation[edit]

TV adaptation[edit]

International versions[edit]

  • 1953 Witness for the Prosecution
  • 2002 Witness for the Prosecution (Russian: Свидетель обвинения)
  • 2005 Khara Sangaycha Tar (Marathi)
  • 2011 Witness for the Prosecution (Japan)


  1. ^ Christie, Agatha (2000). The Mousetrap, & other plays. New York: Penguin Putnam Books. ISBN 978-0-451-20114-0. 

External links[edit]