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Fraud Squad: The White Abyss (ITV 26 Sep 1970, with Peter Jeffrey)



In The White Abyss much liked bank employee Henry Cornwallis is supposed to have died whilst on a mountaineering expedition in Switzerland. The residents of his home town have set up a memorial fund to support his wife and children.

Meanwhile rumours are circulating that Cornwallis has faked his own death. Gamble is sent to Switzerland to investigate. Hicks is convinced that his wife knows more than she is letting on and continues the investigation at home. She quickly learns that Cornwallis had also embezzled three hundred pounds from his bank but his manager covered up the incident.

Despite initially believing that Cornwallis is dead Gamble, once in Switzerland, discover he is very much alive. Gamble has a warrant for his arrest but he has no authority outside of the UK.

Back at home Hicks discovers that Cornwallis has set up a mountaineering room at his home and when listening back to tapes made by Cornwallis it’s clear that his obsession has unhinged him somewhat. She also learns that Cornwallis’s boss has designs on Henry’s wife.

As is usually the case for the time period the studio backlot stands in for Switzerland but the production cleverly uses tapes recordings of Cornwallis practicing for his climb to suggest the atmosphere. In fact much of the episode takes place in just two sets – a buffet car en route from Switzerland to Milan and the moutaineering room at the Cornwallis home.

Given Cornwallis’s state of mind there is a certain sense of inevitability when he throws himself from the train.

Fraud Squad The White Abyss

Sgt Hicks listens to Cornwallis’s increasingly bizarre tapes in his mountaineering room.

production details
UK / ITV – ATV / 1×50 minute episode / Broadcast Saturday 26 September 1970 at 9.00pm

Writer: Stuart Douglass / Production Design: Gerry Roberts / Director: John Sichel

Series: Fraud Squad Season 2 Episode 2

Patrick O’Connell as Gamble
Joanna Van Gyseghem as Vicky Hicks
Ralph Nossek as Proud
Peter Jeffrey as Henry Cornwallis
Wendy Gifford as Angela Cornwallis
Alan Browning as Percy Sayers
Ronald Mayer as George
Alan Cullen as Gordon
Basil Henson as Phillips