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. In 1948, it was finally published in the American 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 defense 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 defense. 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). 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[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 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]