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In the 2012 Downton Abbey Christmas Special, the prosecution seems to have a very good idea of all sorts of things Mr. Bates said in various "private" moments - during a side conversation with Anna that was overheard by O'Brien, while dressing his Lordship, and while talking on the phone with his wife in a private conversation that Mrs. Hughes overheard.

Things might have just been condensed for narrative clarity, but it really seems like the the prosecutor knew exactly who to call up and what to ask them. However, none of the other people mentioned would have voluntarily revealed anything (not even O'Brien, I think, since she seems to have had a change of heart at this point).

I just don't see how this information could have gotten to the prosecutor, so I'm curious: how did the prosecution find out about these remarks? Did the police interrogate those three off-screen and I missed it? Or is there another character who could have overheard all those conversations, and tipped the prosecutor off?

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It's my personal theory that while being interrogated, Bates told the prosecution about all those things he said and who could confirm it, just because he's such a giant dramaface. –  Tacroy Mar 28 '12 at 17:06
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To agree with the comment that Tacroy has put forward.

I can only assume that Bates was honest to the core and admitted these things to the police under interrogation as he did not want to be mis-interpreted or omit anything that would just get him into more trouble.

However, it could be that one of the other servants, namely O'Brien who never liked Bates and could have been listening in on conversations (as she was accustomed to do) and then told the police about the discussion with the Earl. I don't think she had a change of heart about disliking Bates, but about the fact that he could have been executed for it.

Maybe it's a plot hole that will come to light in the next series, who knows.

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