Series 3 — Episode 1
Brief For Murder
by Brian Clemens
Designed by James Goddard
Directed by Peter Hammond
Production No 3600, VTR unknown
Production completed: April 11 1963. First transmission: September 28 1963.
TV Times summary
In which Steed is tried at the Old Bailey for the murder of Catherine Gale
Steed learns that the Lakins have secured an improbable innocent verdict for a clearly guilty man, the latest in a remarkable series of legal victories against the odds. He approaches them, claiming he must murder Mrs Gale, and they work out his defence before he commits the crime! As there’s no body, he gets off easily. Posing as Miss Patchett, Cathy tricks the two solicitors into arranging a trap where they are the quarry and Steed can finally arrest the crooked legal men.
Ronald Wescott (Alec Ross) and Dicey (June Thody) enjoy a drink at a pub near the Old Bailey, cheerfully expecting Wescott to be arrested and sent to trial. Wescott finds a card in his pocket and is troubled, he had meant to get rid of it; he hides it in a newspaper lying on the bar of the pub just before Inspector Marsh (Fred Ferris) arrives and arrests him for treason. After they leave, a man picks up the newspaper and slips the card into his pocket, as he turns the pages of the paper, we see it is John Steed (Patrick Macnee).
Catherine Gale (Honor Blackman) is at the trial with her journalist friend Wilson (Anthony Baird), who says he had his headlines all blocked up for a successful prosecution but the defence was so good he now expects Wescott to get off, even though they both agree that Wescott is guilty.
In the court, Wescott’s barrister Barbara Kingston (Helen Lindsay) weaves a sterling defence, citing the failure of the prosecution to produce the claimed double agent, ‘Johnno’, a tall, well-built, well-spoken man in a position of authority. Watching her are the solicitors Miles Larkin (Harold Scott) and Jasper Lakin (John Laurie) and they congratulate her for her masterly delivery. Steed arrives just as the verdict is announced and asks Bart (Michael Goldie) what the verdict was. When Bart tells him to buy a paper, Steed grabs him firmly by the arm until he says, “They found him not guilty”. Steed turns and greets Dicey, who has descended from the gallery, and she tells him it was no more than they expected.
Wilson congratulates the barrister. and when Cathy chimes in her congratulation as well, Ms Kingston says the credit is due to the Lakin brothers, whose briefing was thorough down to the tiniest detail. Wilson notes that the brothers were obscure, run-of-the-mill lawyers for years, but have had dramatic success after dramatic success in the last year or so, and Cathy wonders if Barbara’s claim was correct and there was no Johnno after all. In the corridor outside, Dicey kisses Ronny as he exits the court a free man, then Steed looms up behind them.
STEED: This calls for a celebration. You’re in the clear! They can’t try you twice you know.
WESCOTT: That’s right. That’s exactly right — Johnno.
Cathy and Wilson see Steed leaving the court1 with Wescott and follow them to the pub, intruding on their celebration. Cathy tells Wescott he got off by manipulating every legal loophole, then turns on Steed and accuses him of being the unidentified ‘Johnno’ in the case. Steed threatens to silence her for good if she says it again, and when he returns to the bar, he regrets having let her goad him. Wescott observes that her silence could be arranged…2
The Lakin brothers relax that evening, gloating over their successes — they may not have risen to become judges, but they will make legal history! The next day, Wilson shows Cathy the morning edition of his paper, where all editions have her accusation against Steed on page two.
Steed visits the yoga studio of Miss Prinn (Alice Fraser), looking for Dicey. He's desperate to find Ronnie as he wants to seek the legal advice of the Lakin brothers. Later on, Ronnie takes Steed to their chambers, leaving him at the door, but Steed searched by Bart when he arrives. Miles apologises for the search but observes that tape recorders are so small these days. Jasper hands him a letter to sign, supposedly sent to them the previous week by Steed — a formality they use, which has the client seeking to ask them for advice for a crime novel. Steed explains he wants the perfect defence for his planned murder of Mrs Gale. The lawyers respond with alacrity, discussing the merits of different classes of action. Steed however insists it’s just a murder he wants. Jasper asks his relationship to the “deceased to be” and when he says they were good friends of long standing, Miles gets excited.
MILES: Rex versus Mascot, ’95!3 Yes. It’s all here. Absolutely splendid defence, battle over motive. Fascinating court ruling. The accused and the victim had never been known to exchange cross words.
STEED: I’m afraid that won’t work for me I’ve just publicly had a very public row with the deceased to be.
MILES: Oh, that might be a difficulty. During this row, what did you say to the deceased to be?
STEED: I lost my temper. I said “I’ll stop your blasted lies for good if you’re not careful” …
They quickly decide that, as Steed did not elaborate on his threat, he meant he was going to bring a slander action:
JASPER: Yes, we might even start slander proceedings. Just start them you understand. The deceased to be will be dead before ever it comes to court.
MILES: (LAUGHS) I thought so, I thought so. Rex versus Norris, 1831, Norfolk Assises. Many points of similarity. Yes. The slander action then the murder. There was a two day recess to argue a single point of law! Went to appeal twice and then to The Lords. This is definitely the one for Mr Steed.
Jasper explains the terms. They know all the technicalities and detail to exploit. He informs Steed they will be giving him precise instructions, including where, when and how to commit the murder and they guarantee his acquittal, in return for a fee of 20,000 Swiss francs in cash. Furthermore, if he can do it in the next five days he will be tried under the current Assises and not have to spend too long in gaol. Steed smiles and names his victim — Mrs Catherine Gale.
Bart is sent off with a revolver, Jasper reminding him to be unsubtle; he must be seen but not caught. Steed has turned up at the yoga studio again to pick up Dicey when Cathy arrives for her own exercise. They have an obvious disagreement about what she’s been saying in the press. As Steed and Dicey prepare to go, Bart bursts in and declares he’s been chasing her for a long time and he said he’d get even - then fires two shots at her as she dives for cover.
Jasper is delighted with a second suspect to fox the jury. Steed gives him the 20,000 francs and he sits down to read the brief - they won’t let him take it from chambers. Miles says he will need an advocate of authority and Steed agrees that Barbara Kingston would be ideal - better on his side than against him!
MILES: Capital. I’ll ring her up at once.
JASPER: Miles, we cannot brief counsel before the crime has been committed.
Steed queries their security - what is to stop him from going to the police about what they’ve discussed? Jasper sternly reminds him of the false letter, so Steed asks what would stop him after the fact from telling the police. Jasper smiles and says by then he would be as involved as they are. A further query about Bart’s trustworthiness is quelled; he was their first guinea pig and cannot expose them.
Jasper surprises Steed by telling him tomorrow afternoon would be the most advantageous time to commit his crime, and so the next day Steed cycles to the riverbank of a secluded stretch of the Thames, where Cathy has moored a motor launch. She is with Miss Prinn on board as Steed lines up his revolver from the cover of an oak tree. His shot rings out and Cathy spins, stricken, into the muddy water as Steed makes his escape, his bicycle skidding in the soft mud, leaving a bowler hat behind in his wake. Miss Prinn reaches the shore in the dinghy and grabs the hat.
That evening, Steed rings Jasper and is told to proceed with phase two of the brief the next morning. Dutifully, he returns to the yoga studio and loudly tells Dicey she must tell the police he was with her between midday and half past three, ensuring that Miss Prinn overhears. She had already rung Inspector Marsh, who arrives and arrests Steed.
The Lakins visit Steed in his cell, Miles delighted by the fact that Cathy’s body hasn’t been found, as this opens new avenues of legal argument. Jasper says they had better at least pretend to prepare a defence and gets his papers out.
In court, Barbara Kingston eviscerates Miss Prinn’s evidence. First she points out that if Steed were cycling away Miss Prinn would not have seen his face. Secondly, the supposed alibi was until 3.30, but the murder took place just after 4pm. Inspector Marsh’s case collapses when the hat is dramatically found not to fit.
BARBARA: Inspector Marsh, I ask you to look at the defendant. Now I want you to tell me in all your long experience, have you ever known a man go out to commit a crime, a major crime looking quite so ridiculously conspicuous as the defendant does now?
MARSH: Well, ma’am, it takes all sorts to …
BARBARA: Please answer the question, Inspector. Yes or no?
MARSH: NO, ma’am. I have not.
Their O.J. Simpson defence ensures a not guilty verdict. Mrs Gale’s body has not yet been found by the police and indeed Steed spots her, disguised with black hair and sunglasses, smiling at him from the gallery!
Steed meets Cathy afterwards in secret and he tells her the Lakins’ system works perfectly, there isn’t a single flaw except that they don’t appear to check the payoff money. She is furious that she had a swim for nothing but Steed tells he she must be their next client.
Posing as a Miss Patchett, Cathy says she wishes to commit a fraud but is in partnership with two gentlemen, whom she wishes to be implicated in the crime. The two solicitors are intrigued by the legal aspect and the challenge presents, and easily tricked into incriminating themselves in the fraud case.
Cathy tells Steed they took the bait and sure enough, Jasper is excitedly dreaming of the potential the scheme has opened up. They could implicate anyone at any level of society, even their colleagues — solicitors, barristers, even judges; the whole court system in their hands.
Cathy re-confers with Steed who gives her the envelope of her “payment”. When she gives it to Jasper he puts it in the safe, excited that this seems to be evidence that she has already committed her fraud. He reminds her that incriminating documents are to be found in her partners’ home, and they are to be lured to a rendezvous which is found to be empty and they will look next door where they will be seen and recognised; Cathy tells them she has found a small office in Earls Court.
Steed telephones the Lakins, interrupting the conference, and says he’s been re-arrested and will be facing trial, this time for perverting the course of justice, and cites Rex vs Snuff, a case from 1731. Miles decides they must go and see him — and Steed gives the address of Miss Prinn’s yoga studio — a small office in Earls Court!
Unfortunately, Ronnie Wescott arrives just as they hurry out, and when Cathy goes to follow them he recognises her and Bart captures her at gunpoint. Jasper and Miles arrive at the empty office and promptly look next door into the yoga studio, then the penny drops:
MILES: Oh, I don’t understand this at all. The place is quite empty, looks at though it hasn’t been used for some time. Where could they have taken Steed? And what was he doing here in the first place?
JASPER: Miles, an empty office. The two partners are lured there, they quite naturally look next door. They are seen …
MILES: To be recognised again …
JASPER: … in court.
Jasper rings Bart and tells him to destroy the contents of the safe, and Bart starts trying the keys to open the safe while Ronnie points the gun at Cathy. Steed arrives and he and Cathy overcome the villains in time to take the Lakins into custody when they return to chambers. Defeated, the brother start trying to remember precedents for their own defence.
Steed and Cathy reflect on the case in the pub, Steed saying he’ll miss them. Cathy agrees, especially Miles, but they are sure to be found guilty. Steed agrees, as the case against them was prepared by experts!