As the Apollo 11 crew continued their journey to Moon orbit , ITV screened the seventh episode of London Weekend Television’s serial The Gold Robbers at 9pm on Friday 18th July 1969.
Continuing the ongoing format of the show, An Oddly Honest Man by former Plane Makers script associate David Weir, opened with the standard sequence of the armed attack on a plane delivering gold bullion to an airport. It then branched off to show the van full of gold being loaded onto a Bristol air freighter piloted by this week’s guest star Ian Hendry.
Picking up the trail, Inspector Craddock (Peter Vaughan) checks a list of every Bristol airfreighter in the country on the day of the robbery and narrows their whereabouts down to one plane which was supposedly sitting in an airfield in Beek, Holland, waiting for a contract to be signed by the Nigerian owners. Craddock establishes that the plane was in the air on the day of the robbery and the broker (Christopher Benjamin) tells him he let a friend, Tom Goodwin (Hendry), take the plane for a test flight as the plane had not been officially sold at that point.
Goodwin, a former mercenary pilot, has been imprisoned in South America on unspecified charges. Records show that when he returned to England, a month before the robbery, he declared £30,000 cash to Customs. Since he was not required to show the cash, Craddock suspects he was establishing an alibi for his payment from the robbery. Goodwin has married his girlfriend Dee (Wanda Ventham – two years before their pairing in the BBC’s The Lotus Eaters)and bought a riverside hotel to give them a solid future.

A series of point of view shots of the broker, Goodwin and Goodwin’s accountant shows them answering Craddock’s questions, proving he is unable to break down Goodwin’s alibi. The relentless Craddock gambles that, as a pilot Goodwin has always been up in the air, divorced from the consequences of whatever he’s been involved with. He goes to the hotel and confronts Tom and Dee with the face mask used by one of the robbers when they squirted ammonia in the faces of the guards and coshed them. “Look – you can still see the policeman’s blood there…he’s blind in one eye..”

Craddock tells Dee that he likes Goodwin, but eventually he’ll nail him. And he’ll no longer be the man he was. “After ten years in jail – courage, dignity, personality. Everything goes.” His only chance is to confess for a lighter sentence.

With Goodwin determined to stick to his alibi, Dee packs her bags and leaves. She can’t face a life looking over her shoulder waiting for Craddock to strike. “I don’t want it like this. I still love you..but I can’t live without hope. With nothing to look forward to.”

As Craddock returns to the hotel, he sees Dee stood at the bus stop with her suitcases. He finds Goodwin sitting at the bar. Director Bill Bain allows 23 seconds to elapse before Craddock says, “Hello Tom”. Hendry walks to the bar, gets a bottle and pours Craddock a drink. Another 1 minute 40 seconds elapses before Hendry says, “Must be a frustrating business, being a copper.” Craddock agrees: “I’ll get that pilot in the end, though.”

The titles roll as Craddock and Hendry sit drinking in silence. Another tightly scripted episode by David Weir balancing the procedural detail as Craddock zeroes in on his man, with Goodwin’s doomed attempts to make Dee’s dream of a riverside hotel into a reality. Director Bill Bain makes good use of point of view shots to heighten the atmosphere – when Craddock first goes to interview Goodwin, for instance, the idyllic shot of Hendry and Ventham looking over the river is overlaid with the crunch of Craddock’s footsteps on the gravel. They turn to look towards the camera, and the apprehension grows on Hendry’s face as the camera lurches towards him.

Read about The Yo Yo Life of Ian Hendry by Gabriel Hershman

Official Ian Hendry Tribute Site