Time of Trial
I took the name of this episode from the book written by Rhona Prime (wife of Geoffrey) shortly after his sentencing. I had always intended the Prime affair to arc across the series, in this case two episode — Through The Looking Glass, about his arrest, and Time of Trial about his trial — separated, as a sort-of creative intermission, by last week’s special puzzle episode, The Wishing Fish Clock.
Rhona Prime’s account of her husband’s capture and trial is harrowing in its single-minded defence of a man who had brought their lives crashing down around them. It’s a sort-of religious tract about stoicism in the face of adversity. My Time of Trial is not that: it is an attempt, I suppose, to understand and sympathise with the disintegration of a life, and the way that this story evaporated into the mists of time.
The prime source (no pun intended) for information about the trial, was Dominic Carman, son of Prime’s barrister George Carman. In the course of one of our conversations, Dominic revealed that his father had simultaneously been representing the Calvi family in their lawsuit against the open verdict delivered on the death of Roberto Calvi, head honcho of the Ambrosiano bank. It was such a good story — and such a fun way that it intersected with the Prime affair — that I couldn’t resist ringing Gerald Posner, author of God’s Bankers, up to discuss it further. And the Cavli affair also goes into my back pocket as one of those things that, should someone with much deeper pockets than my own come along, would make a superb true crime podcast.
In the end, the story of Geoffrey Prime is one that has basically slipped away through the mists of time. When I spoke to people like Peter Picken, a detective who had worked on the case from Day 1, it was clear that the Prime affair was the single, definitive case of his career. He remembered everything about it like a man who had spent decades maintaining and regurgitating these memories. But for everyone else — even those people in Cheltenham who lived briefly under the shadow of the story, or, to this day, walk past the mural of Prime on the Starline Taxis building — it’s all just slipped away. History’s history.
I had research help on this episode from Sarah Woolley, a mystery solver, who helped with putting together the pieces of Prime’s final years.