In 2006, Patrick Malahide played Derek “Chopper” Hadley in the S03E04 episode of the BBC series “New Tricks“, titled “Diamond Geezers“. This was a fun character to watch who could, in hindsight, be considered a sort of precursor to Jack Turner in “Hunted“, if Jack was to eschew his usual fondness for blunt objects for a small axe and abandon trilbies for flat caps.
Invitation to a Funeral
The story opens with ex-detective-chief-superintendent-retiree Jack Halford (James Bolam), one of three retired detectives drafted into a cold case squad, receiving an anonymous invitation through his letter box to attend the funeral of a Victor Hadley. He doesn’t recognize the name but decides to attend anyway, as a sort of “networking for the older man”, as he explains aloud to his dead wife, Mary.
It turns out to be not the best decision he’s ever made. Upon his arrival, Jack is unceremoniously ushered to a pew at the very front of the church, directly across from the deceased’s son, Derek Hadley, who is not at all pleased to see him there. As a matter of fact, he’s being eyed with animosity by nearly everyone in attendance, though he has no idea why. He also notices that his usher has no fingers on his left hand – a detail that will become important. Later, Hadley steps up to the pulpit to deliver a eulogy for his father (and Malahide employs a Cockney accent), whose death he blames on being “exiled from the land of his birth by the Inland Revenue and the Metropolitan Police” (cue more angry glares at Jack). Sporting a diamond stud in one ear, Hadley also mentions that his father is “deeply mourned” by himself, his sisters, and their “stepmother, Chanterelle”, a woman at least half Derek’s age (if not less) who’s hilariously tanned to a bright orange – yet he does speak of her respectfully. He concludes by describing his father as “a jewel among men – a diamond geezer.” Ooo, foreshadowing!
A Little Rough Stuff
After the graveside service, Jack is waylaid by the same fingerless henchman for a private word with Hadley in his limo. Hadley accuses Jack of infiltrating the funeral for police purposes, rejecting the invitation Jack received with an indignant, “It’s not even embossed! What do think we are?? It’s been knocked off on some copier!” It’s interesting how very interested in the niceties of gentility Hadley is for a gangster. 😉 He decides that Jack’s purpose in being there is to “wind [them] up”, so they take Jack to a remote location and rough him up a bit before Hadley warns him off: “Do you like funerals? You keep your snout in my business, you’ll find yourself at another one.” Jack manages to call for help and gets fellow ex-detective-sergeant-retiree Gerry Standing (Dennis Waterman, formerly of “Minder“) to pick him up.
Researching “Chopper” Hadley
The two are joined at Jack’s place by their third partner, ex-detective-inspector-retiree Brian Lane (Alun Armstrong), to pool their knowledge on Hadley. Nicknamed “Chopper” (you just know this detail will become significant later), Hadley was a “big-time drug dealer” in the Nineties who was never convicted of any crime, either because drug raids never found anything or witnesses were always too intimidated to come forward (sound like Jack Turner yet?). He converted his drug money into lucrative real estate investments (even more like Turner – well, except for the drugs bit), left the U.K. to live in Spain, and “reputedly carried an axe – and used it, frequently” (not so much like Turner but certainly not beyond him, if he didn’t have a blunt object handy). Brian notes that Criminal Intelligence indicates Hadley’s back in the U.K. not just to bury his father but also to sell off some of his investment properties before returning to Spain. In addition, Hadley’s suspected of being involved in the murder of a “small-time villain” named Micky Springer, whom Jack was one of the last to see alive. A possible connection?
Setting Up the Case
The three present their case to their supervisor, Detective Superintendent Sandra Pullman (Amanda Redman). After he offered to “grass up” (snitch) on an unknown higher-level criminal, Springer’s headless, handless body was recovered from the river Lea. Springer was a known associate of Hadley’s and indeed Hadley was “in the frame” for the crime, but the police were unable to obtain enough evidence to extradite him. Sandra agrees to use the opportunity of Hadley’s presence in the U.K. to try to gather evidence for the murder before he leaves, and Gerry volunteers to undertake surveillance (amusing when you consider how often the shoe was on the other foot with Malahide’s Detective Sergeant Chisholm and Waterman’s Terry McCann in “Minder”).
Over the course of the surveillance, the squad identifies Jack’s fingerless funeral usher as one Tommy Gerrard (Christopher Fairbank), another known associate of Hadley’s who has been meeting with him a lot since his return, including in the cemetery. However, Gerrard couldn’t be directly pinned down for anything with regard to Springer’s murder either. A hunch of Brian and Jack’s leads to the discovery of a mummified head and hands entombed in the cement floor of one of Hadley’s former properties, shortly after Gerrard was witnessed in the area back in 1997. The remains are identified as Springer’s and the cause of death was… a blow to the head from a heavy blade, such as… an axe! Dunn duuunnn duuuuunnnn…!
Gerry also finds that Hadley’s had a bit of a falling out with his estate agent (if “falling out” means “threaten with physical violence”) and the squad decides that the best way to get close to Hadley and gather sufficient evidence would be an undercover sting operation with Sandra and Gerry posing as prospective buyers for one of Hadley’s properties. However, their boss, D.A.C. Strickland (Anthony Calf), overrides Sandra, selecting Brian (due to his OCD-enhanced penchant for details) and relative rookie D.I. Tina Murray (Emma Cunniffe) to go undercover instead.
A Charming, Well-Dressed Gangster
We haven’t seen much of Hadley since the funeral, except for Gerry’s surveillance. Yet like his cousin Jack Turner, he does seem to appreciate nice jackets and clothes, even if he chooses sleek dark grey or black suits rather than flamboyant checks and pinstripes, and flattering monochrome turtlenecks rather than brightly striped shirts and ties – but maybe Chopper’s been studying GQ while living in Spain. At any rate, he’s very cordial upon meeting Brian, who’s posing as a somewhat shady wheeler-dealer with lots of cash to spread around, and Tina as his “personal assistant” (in one of the best scenes of the show, Brian carefully reassures his wife, Esther (Susan Jameson) that he’ll be faithful to her while he’s undercover with an attractive young woman, and Esther dissolves into helpless laughter at the thought he’d be anything else).
A very well-dressed Chopper is in a hurry to dispose of the property “at the right price” (he’s asking £5 million) and seems to take to Brian as a kindred-spirited semi-crim right away. He doesn’t seem averse to a little flirting with Tina either, eyeing her suggestively, calling her “darling”, and bestowing some rather charming smiles. He’s miffed at first when Brian offers him only £3.25 million, but mollified when Brian says that’d only be for the books and there’d be a further £1 million cash under the table. The offer is decidedly attractive but Chopper doesn’t immediately bite; he’s cautious enough to decide that he needs to verify Brian’s and Tina’s identities before proceeding.
An Even Bigger Deal
Brian successfully allays Chopper’s suspicions by out-thugging a snooping Tommy Gerrard and everything’s a go. Chopper’s very pleased to receive the cash downpayment, but Tina almost blows the entire deal by pushing him just a little too hard about his nickname, asking, “Did you ever actually use an axe on somebody?” Chopper deflects her questions with unexpectedly circumspect politeness, replying, “You’ll find out what I can do if we’re ever up against it.” (More foreshadowing!) Luckily, he’s not too put off by her blatant nosiness to ask Brian if he’d be interested in another deal, “something massive”, and Brian says that he is, of course. However, the catch is that they’re not allowed out of Chopper’s sight until he’s shown them “the goods.”
Meanwhile, Gerry’s uncovered a link between Tommy Gerrard and the harassment Jack’s been experiencing, finally realizing that Gerrard has been doublecrossing his boss by deliberately trying to provoke Jack and Chopper into a confrontation. The reason is not revenge for Gerrard’s chopped-off fingers (Chopper’s penalty for screwing up), but rather because Gerrard considers both Jack and Chopper to be responsible for Micky Springer’s death: Jack for refusing Springer’s offer to “grass up”, and Chopper for forcing Gerrard to assist with dismembering Springer after Chopper discovered Springer’s disloyalty and killed him. And as if all of that weren’t enough, Gerrard and Springer were lovers! So Gerrard has decided that pointing the finger of blame (no pun intended) at Chopper for Gerry’s murder would be a suitable form of final revenge. Whew!
Paying Respects to a Last “Diabolical Stroke”
While all of this has been going on, Chopper, Brian, and Tina arrive at St. Joseph’s Cemetery, site of Chopper’s father’s burial only a few days before. Chopper says they’re going to dig up his old man; there’s £20 million in diamonds hidden in his coffin, smuggled from Sierra Leone through Spain and into the U.K. He really is a diamond geezer. And of course it was “the least” Chopper could do for his dad but to see that the old man went out pulling one last “diabolical stroke”, so it’s all quite touching, really. Chopper’s got everything figured out; they’ll get Tina to do the heavy digging, and he and Brian will do the “delicate work” of pulling his dad out of the coffin. Tina’s rather freaked by the idea, but then everything’s interrupted by the sudden arrival of Gerrard and Gerry. It’s a crowded cemetery tonight!
Gerrard rats out Gerry as working for the police and Chopper immediately starts beating him up – if you were ever curious what it would look like if an older, far less moral Chisholm took his long-anticipated, dreamt-of revenge, this is it, right here. Brian manages to pull Chopper off briefly, saying he owes Gerry “a bloody good clogging” too, but Chopper’s righteously incensed and won’t be distracted for long: “This is the last resting place of my beloved father! These sodding bollocks, is there no respect in the world??” Never mind that he was about to dig up dear old Dad himself, that’s different! Chopper decides to pull out the heavy artillery – or rather, cutlery – saying to Tina, “You wanna know how I got my name, sweetheart? Just watch this,” while whipping his axe out of his sheepskin jacket. Tina seems very sorry she ever asked, but clearly Chopper is a man well prepared for almost every situation.
The Cavalry Arrives
Unfortunately, before Chopper can show off his expertise (and elate Chisholm fans everywhere), he’s distracted from chopping
Terry Gerry by the timely arrival of Jack (see? crowded cemetery), who has a cell phone picture (taken earlier by Gerry) that proves Gerrard’s been winding up Jack and putting the blame on Chopper. Jack also correctly fingers Gerrard (no pun intended) for the fraudulent invitation to the elder Hadley’s funeral. Chopper quickly switches targets from Gerry to Gerrard but is interrupted again by the arrival of Sandra and additional police back-up (very crowded cemetery). He yells “Bollocks!!” to the demand that he surrender peacefully and goes after Gerrard anyway, but he’s brought down by a lucky shovel-smack to the back by Brian. Tina panics and screams, disgracing herself as an undercover officer.
And that’s it, except for Sandra tearing a strip off her boss for insisting on an inexperienced undercover officer who nearly jeopardized everything, and a hilarious scene with Brian attempting a smug gloat roll in front of his wife: “Well, I’ve solved a ten-year-old murder, picked up twenty million pounds’ worth of smuggled diamonds from the grave of a notorious killer. All this came through a gay gangster who was forced to dismember his dead lover.” Sadly for Brian, Esther is completely incredulous: “If you can’t say anything sensible, just let me go back to sleep.” Poor Brian!
An Oddly Charming Crim
It was great fun to watch Patrick Malahide as Chopper Hadley. He really seemed to be sort of a comparatively lower-rent (only in terms of scale, but still quite expensive) precursor to Jack Turner, complete with Cockney accent, old-school gangster tactics, hair-trigger temper, manipulatively charming demeanour, dangerous smiles, expensive wardrobe, and propensity for impulsive bloody mayhem. He also conveyed an odd but fascinating sort of old-fashioned chivalry in his respect for his orange stepmum. But even without the comparison to Turner, Malahide was completely engaging, especially as things picked up steam in that very crowded cemetery at the end. Still, it might’ve been vicariously satisfying had he gotten a few more licks in on