BBC Radio 4, 6 August 2010
Set in 1894, this murder mystery took us back to a period of history
when the Metropolitan Police were struggling to function as a coherent unit without the help of forensic science: finger-printing
as a means of catching criminals was still frowned upon by Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone.
The play also looked at an issue of enduring concern; the ways in which Inspector
Marshall (Sean Baker) attracted all the kudos for solving the case, when in reality it was hard-working Detective-Constable
Burrell (Nicholas Woodeson) who had done all the spadework. The plot itself focuses on the murder of a 79-year-old widower
in Muswell Hill, who was popularly thought to possess a great fortune hidden under his mattress. Small-time thief Milsom (Tony
Bell) teams up with local thug Fowler (Jude Akuwudike) to commit a particularly brutal crime, with very little financial
results. Burrell pursues the two of them from London to Bath, where they are found working in a local circus. We are taken
step by step through their extended trial and their eventual sentence to death by hanging.
Burrell functions as the principal protagonist and the narrator (recalling George
Dixon in Dixon of Dock Green). He approaches his job with a mixture of resignation and tenacity; he knows he'll never
rise too far up the police ranks, yet remains determined to put criminals behind bars. The case itself functions as a rehearsal
for the notorious Jack the Ripper murders, which took place a year after this play was set,
In terms of police history, Tetherdown showed how the police obtained public
confidence during the late Victorian period through their determination and willingness to solve crimes, whatever the cost.
This was a period where solution times and statistics did not matter; it was more important to put wrongdoers behind bars
and subsequently dispose of them. Sometimes one yearns for today's Metropolitan Police to rediscover these ideals. The director
was Marion Nancarrow.