Peter Barkworth as Martin Hewett in The Case of Laker, Absconded by Arthur Morrison
Adapted by Philip Mackie. Directed by Jonathan Alwyn
Martin Hewitt (Peter Barkworth) and Jonathan Pryde (Ronald Hines) have a new contract. They’ve been retained by the City Guarantee Society, an insurance company who guarantee the integrity of bank employees. So in the case of fraud or theft, the City Guarantee Society are naturally keen for the culprit to be apprehended as quickly as possible. And so are Hewitt and Pryde (they earn no fee, but collect a percentage of the monies recovered).
The case of a junior bank clerk called Laker seems to be open and shut. Laker is a walk-clerk, responsible for collecting money from various banks during his round and then returning it to his own bank – Messrs Liddle, Neal & Liddle. But after collecting fifteen thousand pounds, he disappears.
His fiance, Emily Shaw (Jane Lapotaire), remains convinced of his innocence and she begs Hewitt to help her. When the evidence of his guilt starts to pile up, even she starts to doubt him. But Hewitt wonders if some of the trail is just a little obvious – it’s almost as if he wanted to be tracked. Emily tells Hewitt that Laker is a clever man, so why has he acted in such a careless way, throwing clues about?
The Case of Laker, Absconded was the third and final Martin Hewitt story by Arthur Morrison to be adapted for the first series of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. The original story appeared in The Chronicles of Martin Hewitt, published in 1895, and it can be read here.
Jonathan Pryde, the Hewitt substitute from The Case of the Dixon Torpedo appears briefly, but this is very much Hewitt’s case. He spends the majority of the episode in the company of Emily Shaw and together they attempt to prove or disprove Laker’s guilt. Barkworth is his usual solid self and Jane Lapotaire impresses as a woman who remains unswervingly devoted to her finance – even though all the evidence suggests that’s he’s jilted her and run away to the continent with a horde of stolen money.
There’s two possible solutions to the story and it quickly becomes clear which is the more likely. So this isn’t a complex or surprising tale – instead the enjoyment comes from the lead performances of Barkworth and Lapotaire, as well as some of the supporting cast.
Chief amongst these are Leslie Dwyer and Toke Townley as two lost property men at the local railway station. Laker’s lost umbrella (which Hewitt recovers) is a minor plot point, but the main pleasure in these scenes is the comic timing of Dwyer and Townley.
Toke Townley isn’t the only connection to Emmerdale (he played Sam Pearson from 1972 to 1984) as Mr Wilks himself, Arthur Pentelow, appears as Inspector Plummer. Like many of the other policemen in the series, he’s always a couple of steps behind the private detective but Plummer doesn’t seem to mind – especially since with Hewitt’s help he manages to round up a dangerous gang of crooks.
The Case of Laker, Absconded brought the first series of The Rivals to a close. Overall, it was a very consistent run of episodes with some strong central performances from the various detectives. The series would return for a second, and final, series – which promised new detectives and more baffling cases for them to solve.