Terence Edmond: Actor whose career began with 'Z Cars' and ended with 'The Bill'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

When the BBC launched Z Cars, the writer Troy Kennedy Martin's creation revolutionised the way in which the police were depicted on television. The cosy, Dixon of Dock Green image of the kindly bobby apprehending criminals with a "come quietly now" approach was replaced by a harder edge, with violent criminals, newly built tower blocks that became breeding grounds for crime and, most courageously, police officers who were seen to be flawed.

The actor Terence Edmond joined the new series straight from drama school, in 1962 as PC Sweet, and one of the familiar lines from those early episodes was Desk Sergeant Twentyman (Leonard Williams) instructing him: "Put it in the book, Sweet!"

While Stratford Johns depicted the bullying Detective Inspector Barlow and Jeremy Kemp's PC Bob Steele was portrayed as a wife-beater, Edmond was cast as a character more in the Dixon mould – sweet by name and nature. So it was a genuine shock to the nation when, in a live 1964 episode, Ian Sweet drowned while trying to rescue a boy.

It was a major talking point on trains and buses and in workplaces the next day. The reaction was a result of the screen event happening at a time when there was no advance publicity for such major storylines and a response to the "reality" of a police officer being seen to die in the public's living rooms. After appearing in 78 episodes of the ground-breaking series, Edmond never gained such attention again but settled down to taking character roles on screen, as well as writing and directing stage plays.

Terence Stutter was born in Bristol in 1939 and changed his professional name to Edmond on training at Rada, before making his screen début in the film thriller The Mind Benders (1962, starring Dirk Bogarde).

Following Z Cars, the actor cropped up in popular series such as Mogul (1965), The Saint (1968), The Persuaders (1971), Bless This House (1974), Shoestring (1979) and Cribb (1981). He also played Alan Scully in A Taste for Death (1988), starring Roy Marsden as P.D. James's poetry-writing detective, Commander Adam Dalgliesh, and had a short run in the John Sullivan-scripted sitcom Dear John (1986-87) as Ken, the married work colleague who envies the new-found but unwanted freedom experienced by John (Ralph Bates), whose wife has left him.

But Edmond could never fully leave his Z Cars role behind, again playing police officers in the films Murder Ahoy (1964) and The Sex Thief (1973), and on television in the sitcoms My Name Is Harry Worth (1974) and Hallelujah (1983, starring Thora Hird as a Salvation Army captain).

Edmond took his final screen role as a coroner's officer in The Bill – the modern-day Z Cars – in 1994, the year in which he wrote in The Independent of how his auditioning habit of claiming any attributes or skills demanded by casting directors and producers almost led him to become a prime suspect in a rape case.

He had matched the photo-fit of a rapist and was subjected to questioning at a police station by a detective constable, who eventually told him he was in the clear. "Unless, of course, I had a scar on my abdomen and could speak with an Irish accent," Edmond recalled. " 'I am half-Irish', I promptly volunteered, 'so I can'. He gave me a long look and my mouth went dry. He wasn't to know that I was following the actor's rule: always claim the attributes wanted for the part. Knee-jerk reaction.

"I didn't want the part but the habit prevailed. I bit my tongue. Moments later, in a last attempt to redeem my position, I was on my feet pulling at my shirt and easing down my slacks. I did have a scar, I said, but not down there, directing his attention to my unmarked midriff. I was clear. Innocent, unblemished. The ordeal at last was over, no harm done."

Alongside stage plays that Edmond wrote and directed in regional theatres, he scripted two television sitcom pilots, Who's Your Friend (1970, starring Bernard Cribbins as a male escort) and And Whose Side Are You On? (1972, set among German officers during the Second World War), but neither was turned into a series.

Edmond's only marriage, in 1963, ended in divorce six years later and he had no children. He died from the lung condition bronchiectasis, from which he had suffered since childhood.

Anthony Hayward

Terence Stutter (Terence Edmond), actor and writer: born Bristol 22 November 1939; married 1963 (marriage dissolved); died London 14 March 2009.