A private eye on Jeremy

It’s Wizard looks at fingerprints and crime detection

TVTimes masthead
From the TVTimes for week commencing 12 March 1961

NOTHING captures the imagination of children more than playing detective. But after Granada’s It’s Wizard on Thursday at 5p.m., they will be able to play the game with much more assurance.

Twenty-nine-year-old Gordon Luck, who presents the science-with-smiles show, thought back to his own schooldays (“I always enjoyed going round the house with a magnifying glass, trying to spot fingerprints”), and decided that an edition of It’s Wizard devoted to criminology would be just the thing for his millions of young viewers.

So, on Thursday, Gordon, the scientist-turned-actor, plays detective with his schoolboy assistant, Jeremy Purser. At the beginning of the programme Gordon will appear in traditional Sherlock Holmes garb, complete in every detail from deerstalker hat and Inverness cape to magnifying glass and “curly” pipe.

The idea came to Gordon while he was spending a holiday with friends in Newcastle upon Tyne. “They arranged for rhe to have a look round the police headquarters’ crime laboratory there,” he said.

“The detectives were very helpful, and I really enjoyed my visit.” He was so impressed with his back-room research that I thought a little more on-the-spot information would not go amiss and arranged for him to see the fingerprint department at Manchester City Police headquarters — only a few hundred yards from the Granada studios.

When we arrived, CID Superintendent Frank Williamson took Gordon straight to Inspector Trevor Green, who runs the fingerprint bureau for the Greater Manchester area. His “beat” extends from Rochdale and Oldham to Stockport and Salford.

Although it was only nine in the morning, Inspector Green’s staff were already bustling about checking bottles, vases and clocks brought in from the scenes of recent crimes.

But Gordon was the first “live” customer of the day when he light-heartedly agreed to have his own fingerprints taken by Sgt. Roy Jarvis. Said Gordon: “Anything in the cause of science!”

“This won’t hurt a bit,” said Sgt. Jarvis as he placed Gordon’s fingers firmly on an inked plate.

Then Gordon got the full treatment — individual rolled impressions of each finger, plus separate thumb-prints. Sgt. Jarvis reproduced them all, with the care of a real craftsman, on an official record form — which Gordon kept as a souvenir of his visit. Inspector Green, 21 years in the Manchester fingerprint department, told me: “A fingerprint officer’s evidence is never acceptable in court until he has had at least seven years’ experience classifying and comparing prints. And, of course, in each case there is a double check safeguard.

A boy looks at a man holding his pipe
Jeremy Purser admires Gordon’s handsome Sherlock Holmes outfit

“An officer, comparing prints on record with those brought in from the scene of a crime, must always have the independent opinion of another member of the department before he can say with authority that they are one and the same.”

What are the chances of two people having identical fingerprints? Said Inspects Green: “In practice it is impossible for two people to have identical prints. There are no known cases in the world.”

As we left police headquarters, Gordon told me of his plans for the programme.

“Now that I know just how it’s done, I shall be taking Jeremy’s fingerprints. Then, having already set up some booby traps I shall leave the laboratory for a couple of minutes and let Jeremy wander around.

“No doubt he will be tempted to take a swig from a bottle of lemonade which I shall leave for him, and he will go around opening drawers and cupboards. And he’ll pick up coins and other articles which will have been specially treated with the dye used to detect thefts.

“It should be an interesting experience for Jeremy.”

Interesting for the millions of would-be amateur sleuths, too. For apart from hints and tips on how to be a detective. Gordon will also be telling his young viewers how to avoid the attentions of burglars when going on holiday.

The last word comes from Manchester’s Chief Constable, Mr. John McKay. He told me: “With special propaganda films and programmes like this, television is doing a wonderful job in helping the police to prevent crime.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *