The Witness for the Prosecution

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"The Witness for the Prosecution" is a short story and play by British author Agatha Christie. The story was initially published as "Traitor's Hands" in Flynn's, a weekly pulp magazine, in the edition of 31 January 1925.[1] In 1933, the story was published for the first time as "Witness for the Prosecution" in the collection The Hound of Death that appeared only in the United Kingdom. In 1948, it was finally published in the United States in the collection The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories.


Leonard Vole is arrested for the murder of Emily French, a wealthy older woman. Unaware that he was a married man, Miss French made him her principal heir, casting suspicion on Leonard. When his wife, Romaine, agrees to testify, she does so not in Leonard's defence but as a witness for the prosecution. Romaine's decision is part of a complicated plan to free her husband. She first gives the prosecution its strongest evidence, then fabricates new evidence that discredits her testimony, believing that this improves Leonard's chances of acquittal far more than her testimony for the defence. It is then revealed that Leonard Vole actually did kill Emily French.


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). In her subsequent rewriting of the story as a play she added a mistress for Leonard, who does not appear until 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[2] and stabs and kills Leonard.

Characters (play)[edit]

  • Leonard Vole, the accused
  • Emily French, the victim
  • Janet Mackenzie, Maid of Emily French
  • Romaine Vole, the wife of the accused
  • Mr Mayhew / Mayherne, the solicitor of the accused
  • Sir Wilfrid Robarts, QC, senior counsel of the accused
  • Mr Myers, QC, the Crown prosecutor
  • Mr Justice Wainwright, the judge
  • Inspector Hearne, the arresting officer
  • Greta, Sir Wilfrid's typist
  • Carter, Sir Wilfrid's clerk

Publishing history[edit]

In other media[edit]


  • 2002 Свидетель обвинения (Russia)
  • 2005 Khara Sangaycha Tar (Marathi)
  • 2011 (検察側の証人 [Kensatsugawa no shonin] ) Witness for the Prosecution (Japan)
  • 2018 "奪命証人" Witness for the Prosecution by Carina Lau, Paul Chun Pui and Tse Kwan Ho (Hong Kong)
  • 2018 Tomar Kono Satyo Nei (Bengali)




  1. ^ a b "Witness for the Prosecution (1958), History". American Film Institute Catalog of Feature Films, The First 100 Years 1893-1993. 2019. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  2. ^ Christie, Agatha (2000). The Mousetrap, & other plays. New York: Penguin Putnam Books. ISBN 978-0-451-20114-0.
  3. ^ Ben Affleck Directing, Starring in ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ Remake
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Witness for the Prosecution (1949) at IMDb
  6. ^ Witness for the Prosecution (1953) at IMDb
  7. ^ Dowell, Ben (15 August 2016). "Kim Cattrall, Toby Jones and Andrea Riseborough cast in Agatha Christie's The Witness for the Prosecution". Radio Times.

External links[edit]