Fraud Squad 1969 TV series

Fraud Squad

1969 - United Kingdom

In their continuing search to find a new twist on police procedurals, the television companies of the late 1960s and early 1970s experimented with all types of formats. But in the main they all dealt with the same type of criminal activity; murder, robbery and burglary. Fraud Squad ignored the hard-nosed blaggers and concentrated on confidence tricksters, financial swindlers and other rotten scoundrels.

Of course today we are all patently aware of the dangers of fraud in the modern technology driven world – who hasn’t been bombarded with emails claiming that $10million in your name is just waiting to be collected, or you’ve miraculously won a lottery that you never bought a ticket for? And what about that email from your bank to advise you that your account has been frozen and you need to reset your password immediately? Curious though, because I don’t remember opening an account with the bank in question (no I’m not going to tell you who I bank with!)

But pre-email, a lot more thought and planning had to go into any attempt to part you with your goods and chattels. Yes, the swindlers were just as detestable as they are today, but perhaps they had just a little more guile and resourcefulness about them? Scams took time to set up, they invariably required face-to-face communication to make them successful and they were often aimed at the gullible or the plain greedy.

Scams may be the bane of our modern age, but they’ve been around since 300 B.C. when a Greek merchant by the name of Hegestratos tried to swindle his insurance company. The hapless corn merchant came to a watery end as his plan sunk even quicker than he did. But it didn’t deter people from following in his footsteps ever since.

But I digress. You didn’t come here for a history lesson, nor how to protect your tech – you came here to read about a television series that either a) you never heard of – b) you vaguely remember – c) you are wondering if its worth being parted with a small amount of your income to buy the DVD. Well, the answer to the latter question is, if you like 1960s television and are a fan of police procedurals then you won’t go far wrong.

This being 1960s television it’s all a little slower paced than you’d expect today. There are no car chases as such, no armed conflicts and no Reganesque advice such as “Get your trousers on Tinkerbell, you’re nicked!” However, there is, to the show’s credit, a female detective in a leading role. One of the earliest in British television drama and long before Maggie Forbes flashed her warrant card in The Gentle Touch.

Fraud Squad 1969

Detective Inspector Gamble played by Patrick O’Connell (The Brothers) and Detective Sergeant Hicks played by Joanna Van Gyseghem (Pig in the Middle, Rumpole of the Bailey), run the fraud section of their local Metropolitan police force which in turn is overseen by their boss Superintendent Proud played by Ralph Nossek (Poldark, The Borgias). Their job is to track down confidence tricksters and financial swindlers and solve fraudulent crime anywhere between the board room and the bingo hall. If I were a little more cynical though, I’d be ordering an investigation into DI Gamble and wondering why he is not driving around in a police car and how he can afford to go to every investigation in a MGB Roadster sports car with personal plates.

Fraud Squad 1969

Despite its attempt to be cutting edge drama with a different view of police work, it is really a standard police procedural that is elevated by the roll-call of guest artists that graced the two series that were made, (one in black and white and the other in colour of which only two exist in all their tinted glory, whilst the remainder are in monochrome).  

Featuring guest appearances by Richard Vernon, George Baker, Dandy Nichols, Rupert Davies, Michael Gambon, Angela Brown, Anton Rodgers, Paul Eddington, Martin Shaw, Andrew Sachs, Derek Fowlds and Colin Welland, among others, you’ll get a kick out of playing spot the guest-star, and, if like me you have a propensity for shouting out the names of famous actors when you see them in an old TV series (“That’s Geoffrey Chater…”), you’ll probably have to watch each episode twice so you can catch up on the bit of plot you missed because you were too busy talking (“…brilliant actor. He was great in Callan!”)

Fraud Squad was created and mostly written by Ivor Jay who had previously written a number of episodes of Orlando and he apparently wrote the original story of one of my favourite films of all time, The Wrong Arm of the Law, before Galton and Simpson gave it the full comedy script treatment. He later became the script editor of Crossroads.

The series is available in two volumes – it was released by Network and can be purchased from Amazon using the link below.

There are 26 episodes and like any other TV series the quality of the stories vary and, as previously mentioned, it is typical 60s fayre – quite wordy at the cost of action sequences but well written and often very absorbing. The conversion to DVD is of an excellent quality but, as usual with Network releases, there are no subtitles (why?) which means it may well be unsuitable for the hearing impaired. But if you enjoy shows like this then you won’t be disappointed.

Fraud Squad 1969 and 1970 DVD

Published on February 10th, 2023. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.

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