Juliet Bravo – Fraudulently Uttered

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Doris Latham (Patricia Hayes) works part time as a tea lady at Doe Electrics. Elderly, Irish and genial, she would appear to be the most unlikely criminal you could ever hope to meet. But over the last four years she’s embezzled the company out of more than thirty thousand pounds ….

Although Patricia Hayes might be best known as a comedic actress (appearing alongside the likes of Tony Hancock, Arthur Askey and Benny Hill, amongst many others) she proved to be no slouch when she moved over to drama – winning a BAFTA for the 1971 Play For Today, Edna the Inebriate Woman, for example.

She continued acting well into the 1990’s, racking up credits on popular series such as Heartbeat and Lovejoy whilst her film career included such diverse roles as Daisy in the classic Ealing wartime propaganda film Went The Day Well? (1942) and Mrs Coady in A Fish Called Wanda (1988).

Fraudulently Uttered is, of course, enhanced no end by her performance (although the Irish accent took a few moments to get used to). As Doris is a female prisoner, Jean finds herself (as the only female officer at Hartley) cast in the role of her jailor (and also interrogator). A curious mixture of innocence and steel, Doris proves to be a tough nut to crack.

The sight of a little old lady locked in a cell at Hartley nick is a powerful one, but Doris’ belief in the righteousness of her actions – she admits stealing the money, but never kept any for herself – gives her a curiously detached air. Even when she asks Jean what her sentence will be, it doesn’t seem to concern her too much. As she says, with only a pension and a cat to go home to, what does it really matter?

The innocent Doris has been manipulated by the far from innocent Jimmy Harker (Ray Smith). Harker, a second hand car salesman, caught Doris’ sympathy after he fed her several sob stories. So as a result, she was quite prepared to steal huge sums of money for him …..

With my accountancy hat on, I have to say that I’m amazed the fraud was undetected for so long. Despite only being the tea lady, Doris was entrusted with taking the cheques at Doe for signing each week. This is just about credible, but it’s the next part which is difficult to swallow. Somehow Doris had stolen a company cheque book and from time to time would slip in one from this book. Fine so far, but when these dodgy cheques were cashed they’d show up on the bank statement with all the others – so surely then somebody would have realised that something was wrong (they wouldn’t have been able to tie them back to an invoice, the cheque numbers wouldn’t have matched the others, etc). Reconciling your bank statement back to your ledger is pretty basic stuff.

Taking my accountancy hat off, there’s still plenty to enjoy in this episode. Ray Smith is wonderful as Jimmy Harker. Harker purrs with silky villainy, taunting DCI Jim Logan (Tony Caunter) that he has nothing on him. But things start to unravel dramatically after Harker tells his associate, Edward Bass (Dicken Ashworth), to take Arthur Hill (Arthur Kelly) out to the quarry and persuade him (with a hammer) that he should keep quiet.

Hill might have been an unwitting part of the fraud, but his testimony could prove fatal for Harker. That Bass and Harker are an inept pair of villains is made clear after a frantic Bass phones Harker to tell him that although he only tapped Hill a few times (!), he thinks that he’s killed him. This is the signal for Harker to make a break for it ….

All Harker’s scenes so far have had a faint comic edge and his attempted getaway carries this theme on. The sight of Harker speeding away on a moped whilst two officers crawl behind in a commandeered car driven by a vicar (played by Hugh Latimer) makes this plain.

This part of the story also gets us back on film after the largely studio-bound nature of the rest of the episode. I like the moment when we see Harker jogging for freedom down the high street. Given the number of passers-by who stop and stare at him, it’s plain that the street wasn’t closed for filming. Therefore these ordinary members of public unexpectedly found themselves television stars for a few seconds.

Another strong script from Ian Kennedy-Martin, Fraudulently Uttered has a lighter tone than Shot Gun and is a highlight from the early run of the series, thanks to Patricia Hayes and Ray Smith.

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