"The Witness for the Prosecution" is a famous 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 widow, named Emily French. Since Mrs. 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.
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 stage, film and television versions) to be arrested for perjury, when Romaine grabs a knife and stabs Leonard dead.
- 1925: Flynn's Weekly, 31 January – as "Traitor Hands"
- 1933: The Hound of Death
- 1948: The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories
- 1993: The Mousetrap & Other Plays