Wexford to hang up his trilby?
Article by Kevin Briscoe • Frontline • Oct 1, 2000
A Hampshire detective with a worldwide reputation for solving the grisliest of crimes could be on the brink of putting his ticket in. Detective Chief Inspector Reg Wexford might be about to hang his trademark trilby hat up behind the door of his fictional incident room for the very last time.
In an exclusive interview for Frontline, on the set of what could be the last Ruth Rendell Mystery to star actor George Baker as the Hampshire sleuth, the 69-year-old said he may be about to call it a day.
“I don’t want to end up like Jack Warner playing a policeman in my 70s and 80s,” said George, during a break in filming for Harm Done which has yet to be scheduled for transmission. “I am still wildly out of date now at my age - but I think the sell-by date has been reached and passed.” He added: “Wexford is still a tremendous character though - and everyone wants to know when we are going to do another one. Ruth Rendell and I have become very great friends and that is lovely too.”
Harm Done will be the 23rd time in 13 years that George has adopted the guise of the Hampshire detective along with his sidekick, Detective Inspector Burden (played by Christopher Ravenscroft).
It is a story which rings a chilling note given recent news - a young girl disappears, and it is feared a local paedophile may be responsible.
While filming for previous Rendell mysteries has often included Hampshire, most of the internal scenes for Harm Done were filmed at RAF Northolt on the outskirts of London.
The producers of the film approached the constabulary to try to ensure that a police incident room and a press conference looked as realistic as possible. As a result, the Force Identification Bureau set up some dummy Police National Computer pages for the programme’s suspect after getting a detailed description of him from the Blue Heaven Productions team. And Media Services provided the press releases and the press conference backdrop for a crucial scene in the film.
George, who at the time of filming was nursing some fractured ribs after a nasty fall said he would always have strong links to Hampshire.
“The first one of these I did 13 years ago, I lived in Nursling and in North Baddesley for another,” he said.“I got to know Romsey very well and got to know very many people in Romsey too.”
“I have been very fortunate to be invited to CID dinners in Hampshire in the past as well.”
He admits, however, that a policeman’s lot has never held any appeal for him. Life as an actor and writer was all that he wanted. It also means he can claim a terrific clear-up rate for his inquiries.
“I have always said that the difference between a real police officer, and someone like Wexford, is that real officers have all sorts of murders and unsolved crimes hanging about all the time. But I can always solve all mine in two or three hours, according to the time slot we have.”
Photographer Nick Scott and Media Services Officer Kevin Briscoe were allowed to spend a day on the set at Northolt - and have the chance of stardom after securing parts as extras playing journalists in the press conference. Whether their efforts end up on the cutting room floor remains to be seen.