What happened to Clarissa in Silent Witness, why did she leave the Lyell Center and is she in the new season?

If you're missing Clarissa in Silent Witness you might enjoy a special detail in the opening episode of the drama's new season...

Clarissa in Silent Witness played by Liz Carr
(Image credit: BBC)

Who could forget Clarissa in Silent Witness? With her dry wit, expert forensic detection skills and hilarious back-and-forth with Jack Hodgson she’s one regular character plenty of fans would be thrilled to see return. 

Forensic examiner Clarissa Mullery was part of hit BBC drama Silent Witness for seven years, played brilliantly by Liz Carr. And as a part of the central team including pathologist Dr Nikki Alexander and forensic scientist Jack Hodgson and not an unknown figure shrouded in mystery like Tom Faulkner in Silent Witness, fans got to know her well during her time on the show. She helped solve the toughest cases, bringing enormous empathy and humor to them and her departure was a poignant moment. And now the new series has started and it seems she’s had an impact on a rather major change. 

But what happened to Clarissa during her time on Silent Witness, why did she leave and could she affect Silent Witness season 26? We reveal what you need to know…

*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

Liz Carr and David Caves in Silent Witness

(Image credit: BBC iPlayer)

What happened to Clarissa in Silent Witness?

Forensic examiner Clarissa Mullery joined Silent Witness in the opening episode of season 16, Change, which also marked forensic scientist Jack Hodgson’s first episode as a Silent Witness cast member. Whilst Jack remains part of Silent Witness and is currently back processing crime scenes and dodging danger in the new series, Clarissa left Silent Witness in the season 23 finale.

From the very first moment we saw Clarissa in Silent Witness, she captured many people’s hearts as she humorously told the then-Lyell Center boss Professor Leo Dalton that perhaps her name meant something to the “person in charge” after he had no idea who she was or why she’d come to the lab. Revealing himself to be the “person in charge”, Clarissa revealed she worked with Jack and when Leo questioned what she does, she quipped simply, “I make him look clever”. 

Silent Witness David Caves as Jack Hodgson

(Image credit: BBC)

Jack had only just joined the team himself and came running into the corridor where he asked a bemused Leo if he’d forgotten to mention her. It’s later made clear that where he goes, Clarissa goes, meaning she was given a position at the Lyell too. From there her bond with Jack became a highlight of Silent Witness and she soon formed close bonds with Leo, Nikki and later Leo’s replacement Dr Thomas Chamberlain. 

Fans were also treated to several episodes which shone the spotlight on Clarissa in Silent Witness, including Hope and One Day. Clarissa’s husband Max and mother Penny were also introduced over different episodes but the character’s time on Silent Witness came to an end in the season 23 finale after seven years. 

This heart-wrenching episode also saw the horrific death of Dr Thomas Chamberlain, in an act of self-sacrifice. He risked his own life to examine a nerve agent to try and provide a clue to doctors about what a seriously-ill Jack needed to be treated for. 

Liz Carr as Clarissa in Silent Witness

(Image credit: BBC iPlayer)

Unfortunately, the protective suit couldn’t prevent him from feeling the effects of the nerve agent he was testing and Nikki and Clarissa watched from outside the sealed lab as Thomas died. Whilst she was shown to be incredibly affected by this tragedy, Clarissa had already announced she was resigning after her terminally-ill mother Penny passed away in the previous episode, Hope

“I’ve decided, it’s time for me to leave the Lyell,” she had declared, much to the shock of Thomas, Nikki and Jack in Silent Witness. And according to Clarissa herself, it was nothing to do with hating the job - far from it - but Penny’s death had made her want to spend more time with the living after seven years working to get justice for the dead. 

Why did Clarissa leave Silent Witness? 

Whilst many fans might forever miss Clarissa in Silent Witness, there’s no mistaking how powerfully her exit from the forensic drama was handled and the character stated her reasons very clearly before departing the close-knit team. Clarissa Mullery departed at the end of the season 23 finale entitled The Greater Good Part 2

The forensic expert said, “I love my work here, working with you all. I’ve never been so happy. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like but with Mum’s death…I just know, deep down, that it’s time for me to move on. To focus less on the dead and more on the living. On life.”

Liz Carr as Clarissa in Silent Witness

(Image credit: BBC iPlayer)

Following this explanation which likely had many of us in tears, her final moment came as she met up with Nikki and a recovered Jack and she delivered her final line, “Better late than never” to him. The three friends watched a video of Thomas flying a kite with his daughter Rosie and sat in silence together. 

Viewers had to say goodbye to Clarissa in Silent Witness as she set off to spend more time living, probably enjoying quality time with her husband Max. Meanwhile, her actor Liz Carr has revealed her personal reasons for wanting to say a fond farewell to the character. 

Liz Carr, winner of the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for "The Normal Heart"

(Image credit: Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)

Opening up to RadioTimes.com (opens in new tab), Liz shared, “The job was a joy. Clarissa was very loved, and I don’t take the experience or the support that I got in that role for granted at all. But I wanted to see who else I could play. Silent Witness took nine months a year, so it did cut out an awful lot of projects that I would’ve loved to do. I was almost starting to resent that, because I wanted to do other things.”

Since leaving her role as Clarissa in Silent Witness, Liz has starred in Netflix’s The OA and The Witcher, as well as FX thriller Devs. And her portrayal of the brilliant forensic examiner will forever hold a place in many people's hearts.

Is Clarissa in the new series of Silent Witness? 

There’s nothing quite like the spark of joy fans get when a former regular character returns to your favorite show and many of us might be hoping that The Greater Good Part 2 wasn’t the last we’ll ever see of Clarissa in Silent Witness. She made quite the impression during her eight-season tenure on the hit BBC drama, but sadly her actor Liz Carr isn’t expected to appear in person in the new series of Silent Witness. However, Clarissa Mullery was name-dropped rather significantly in the second part of the opening episode…

In The Penitent Part 2 it emerged that Clarissa is the whole reason new regular character Velvy joined Nikki and Jack’s team. Played by Alastair Michael, Velvy joined the team in season 26 as a Trainee Anatomical Pathology Technologist. And he apparently has one quality Clarissa believed made him a perfect fit to work on the placement alongside her friends and former colleagues, whilst Nikki herself said most people on placements at the Lyell “can’t wait to get out” of there. 

“Clarissa found you didn’t she?” Nikki asked Velvy, to which he admitted, “She said I was crazy enough to work here.”

Alistair Michael in Silent Witness

(Image credit: BBC Studios / Dan Kennedy)

The pathologist told him that this rather unusual statement “sounds a bit like Clarissa”, whilst Velvy added, “I think it was a compliment.”

“For sure. It means you’re a bit like her,” Nikki told the trainee warmly. 

This statement couldn’t have been more Clarissa and her dry sense of humor was something that will forever be remembered about her. As Nikki and Jack’s friend - and someone who had known and worked alongside Jack already for many years before they joined the Lyell - Clarissa is clearly still looking out for them. 

Liz Carr and David Caves in Silent Witness

(Image credit: BBC iPlayer)

And though it wasn’t clear what her future would hold career-wise after she left in season 23, Nikki’s comment suggests that Clarissa could still be moving in forensic circles in some form if she was able to have “found” Velvy as a rising star and perhaps suggested him for his position. It also made it clear that Clarissa's legacy in Silent Witness lives on and that although she's no longer in the show, the character still has an impact shaping the lives of her former colleagues. 

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Senior Lifestyle Writer with six years of experience working in digital publishing. Her specialist areas including literature, the British Royal Family and knowing all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and every streaming service out there. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, you can find Emma cooking and watching yet more crime dramas.