During the evening of March the 10th, 1972, an explosion occurred on the premises of International Worldwide Spectrum Ltd, demolishing three outer offices and seriously damaging a printing press. After intensive inquiries, police arrested Trevor Luckhurst, a 27 year old freelance journalist, and Jill Sawyer, aged 20, a university undergraduate. They have been charged firstly with conspiracy to cause explosions with persons unknown, and secondly they have been charged with causing an explosion. The case is being heard before Mr Justice Waddington, sitting in Fulchester Crown Court. The jury has been sworn in, and are assembled, after four jurors had been rejected by Counsel for the Defence Mr James Elliot QC.
Original broadcast: Wednesday 13 – Friday 15 December 1972
Written by: Paul Wheeler
Directed by: Roger Tucker (1945- )
Perhaps the only Crown Court director who can boast having directed TV shows in Belgium, the Netherlands and India, Mr Tucker joined Granada straight from university after attracting attention with his student films and directed episodes of Coronation Street and several more-or-less forgotten series including Adam Smith and Nightingale’s Boys. Later work included Gangsters, Angels, Shoestring, The Professionals, Bergerac, Lovejoy, Dempsey and Makepeace, The Bill and Hollyoaks. In 2007 he directed an award-winning independent film called Waiting for Dublin but that’s his last credit to date. He was married (until her death) to future Crown Court (and Coronation Street) producer Susi Hush.
Presiding: Richard Warner as the Hon. Justice Waddington
We last saw Justice Waddington last week, in Case 8: Espionage.
Keith Bell (1940- ) as Trevor Luckhurst
Mr Bell first came to prominence as a star of the BBC’s 1960s football soap United! and after that popped up in UFO, The Protectors, The Sweeney and Minder (his final screen role, in 1984), among other things. He also played Eric Porter’s son in Hammer’s Hands of the Ripper, looking, it must be said, considerably more presentable than he does here. He is the younger brother of the more famous Tom Bell.
Trevor Luckhurst is supposedly 27 years old, which seems unlikely in the extreme. But then the 70s was an unusually harrowing decade.
Sara Clee as Jill Sawyer
Poor Ms Clee doesn’t get to give evidence in the witness box, but does have a fine shouty moment in the dock at the climax of Part Two. A prolific TV actress from the late 60s till the end of the 90s, she had an especially purple patch in the first half of the 70s, notching up appearances in The Brothers, Hadleigh, Z Cars and, in cinemas, That’ll Be the Day and Slade in Flame and starring in children’s serial Golden Hill. Later work included three Plays for Today and an impressive five appearances (as different characters) in The Bill.
Appearing for the prosecution: Bernard Gallagher as Jonathan Fry QC
Jonathan Fry is back again, having been on our screens only last week in Case 8: Espionage.
I feel I should mention the uncredited silver fox in front of him, who regularly appears as an instructing (but non-speaking) solicitor and looks from certain angles a bit like Doctor Who writer Malcolm Hulke. If anybody knows his name, do let me know.
Assisted by: David Ashford as Charles Lotterby
Charles Lotterby was in last week’s Crown Court as well.
Viewers could also see Mr Ashford this week in the BBC’s period drama anthology The Edwardians on Tuesday, in a brief appearance as a man badgering Arthur Conan Doyle (Nigel Davenport) about bringing back Sherlock Holmes.
Appearing for the defence: Charles Keating as James Elliot QC
James Elliot was also in Case 8: Espionage.
Assisted by: Dorothy Vernon as Helen Tate
Helen Tate wasn’t in last week’s Crown Court, though. She was last seen a couple of weeks ago in Case 7: A Genial Man.
Witnesses for the prosecution:
Meadows White (1901-1973) as Arthur Bell
Mr White would be dead less than year after this edition of Crown Court was broadcast but in the last couple of years of his life alone he managed to squeeze in (among other things) episodes of Dixon of Dock Green, Sykes, Love Thy Neighbour, The Adventures of Black Beauty, The Fenn Street Gang and Colditz as well as a regular role as court usher in Six Days of Justice. In fact, on the Monday and Tuesday prior to the broadcast of Conspiracy he could be seen in the same timeslot as a customer of the Woolpack in Emmerdale Farm. He’d been playing similar small parts on screen since 1937.
John Woodnutt (1924-2006) as Dr John Gold
These days Mr Woodnutt is probably best remembered for his four guest roles in Doctor Who (in Spearhead from Space (1970), Frontier in Space (1973), Terror of the Zygons (1975, as the head Zygon) and The Keeper of Traken (1980)) and for appearances in other sci-fi and fantasy series including The Boy from Space (as the Thin Man, who caused more than a few young viewers nightmares), The Tomorrow People (The Vanishing Earth (1973)), Children of the Stones and Knightmare (as both good wizard Merlin and his evil counterpart Mogdred), as well as playing the irascible Sir Watkyn Bassett in Jeeves and Wooster. He was an astonishingly prolific TV performer whose other significant roles are far too many for me to attempt to list, but among them are many more appearances in Crown Court, including a return engagement as Dr Gold and, in the show’s latter years, the long-running role of Judge Weightman.
John Harvey (1911-1982) as Detective Inspector Philip Roberts
Possessor of the most gimlet eyes in the profession, Mr Harvey was a specialist in cold authority figures and one of those actors who are so omnipresent in British film and TV of the 50s, 60s and 70s they seem like part of the furniture. I’m not going to go into a long list of his credits as I exhausted myself with John Woodnutt, but as is my wont I’ll note his two appearances in Doctor Who, in 1966’s The War Machines (in the memorable role of a scientist who builds a supercomputer at the top of the Post Office Tower and is promptly enslaved by it) and the following year’s The Macra Terror (as “Official”, a role that pretty much sums up his career). The week prior to this viewers could have seen him as Sykes‘ irascible new neighbour Major Crombie-Crombie.
Kenneth Colley (1937- ) as Stanley Meredith
Like several other British actors, Mr Colley has found that any recognition from the many other roles he’s played is dwarfed by that from playing a small role in the Star Wars saga. In fact, he played Imperial Admiral Piett in both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Not that he has to rely on his regular convention appearances to make ends meet – he still works regularly, having most recently been seen in Holby City and Peaky Blinders. He can also boast having played Jesus in Monty Python‘s Life of Brian, and shares with fellow Star Wars alumnus Alec Guinness the distinction of having played both Charles I and Hitler.
Witnesses for the defence:
Leon Vitali (1948- ) as Peter Thornhill
To viewers in 1972, Mr Vitali was best known for playing Peter Craven in series 1 of The Fenn Street Gang (Malcolm McFee, who’d originated the role in Please Sir! returned to it the year after). Nowadays his greatest fame is as a guardian of the legacy of Stanley Kubrick: after being cast in Barry Lyndon in 1975 he forged such a bond with the director that he served as his personal assistant for the rest of his life, and has subsequently overseen restoration on his entire body of work. Though to my mind Mr Vitali’s most interesting credit is as Victor Frankenstein in a Swedish-Irish film version of that story.
Tony Adams (1940- ) as Brian Parker
Mr Adams is famous, of course, for his role as Adam Chance in Crossroads, which he played from 1978 till it was axed 10 years later, returning in the bizarre early 2000s revival of the series. Before that he was already a household face as General Hospital‘s Dr Neville Bywaters. His other TV appearances include the 1973 Doctor Who story The Green Death (though he became ill during filming, meaning his character prematurely disappears before the end).
Faith Kent (1925-2008) as Elizabeth Sawyer
Ms Kent was one of the regular cast of Eldorado. I could list some of her many other screen appearances, but next to that they would pale into insignificance.
The verdict (highlight to reveal): Not guilty.
Given the nature of the case, it’s interesting that there are several members of the jury who look a little less square than usual, which leads me to suspect that Crown Court jury selection is a little less random than the real thing.
The camera seems especially interested in the long-haired chap with the beard and the very nattily dressed gentleman to his left, but the pair I found most fascinating were the man on the end who looks uncannily like The League of Gentlemen‘s Harvey Denton, and the young lady at the back who sits slumped in her seat looking thoroughly bored throughout.
The jury foreman (below) is William Wymar, a regular Granada bit-part player whose most significant credit is Ted Bates, who ran away from an old people’s home to stay with his old friend Albert Tatlock for a few episodes of Coronation Street in 1965.
As well as the jury we have an extremely motley crew in the gallery this week (they’re supporters of Luckhurst & Sawyer, obviously).
- This was the third Crown Court to be made, but the ninth to be broadcast.
- SIGNS OF THE TIMES: This case could not possibly be more early 70s. The whole thing is rooted in the radical politics of the time, particularly the Angry Brigade. “Conspiracy” was a catch-all charge regularly used by police at the time on what they saw as subversive types – the most infamous example being the trial of the publishers of Oz magazine for publishing sexually explicit images involving Rupert Bear (Francis Wheen’s study of 70s paranoia, Strange Days Indeed, is very illuminating on this subject). At this time Britain was considered just as ripe for a takeover by the far right as the far left, and this is reflected in the “fascist rag” published by International World Spectrum that Luckhurst and Sawyer protested against, which offers an extreme right solution to the country’s problems. The defendants live in a commune with no private ownership – even down to clothing. The dialogue alludes to the confusing effect of more men having long hair: doddery nightwatchman Arthur Bell insists that despite his age he can still tell the difference between a boy and a girl. James Elliot responds that, despite being considerably younger, he sometimes has difficulty.
- LUNCHTIME SWEARWATCH: Arthur Bell is alleged to have called the defendants “bloody nits”. Trevor Luckhurst tells his own counsel “Don’t be so bloody soft”, and later denounces the case as “All a bloody game.”
Conspiracy is fascinating from a historical point of view, but also one of the most entertaining Crown Courts to date thanks to a succession of vivid character turns and particularly exciting direction from Roger Tucker.
Elsewhere on TV this week:
The day of the final episode of Conspiracy also saw the first episode of Record Breakers broadcast on BBC 1.
In the charts:
Chuck Berry’s Ding-a-Ling is number 1 with the British public for another week, but here’s T-Rex with this week’s number 4. You can see the full chart for the week here: