Miles Kington: Hazlitt: the cop who loves the scum of the earth

'He worked in a bank. He dealt with big numbers all the time. He tried to cover up his nought blindness'
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The Independent Online

It is the dream of every writer to find a corner of the police world that has not been cultivated by other writers. Pathologists, police psychiatrists, DNA experts, coroners – they've all been done. Except one. The forensic archaeologist. That is why I have created Hazlitt, the first ever police archaeologist to hit the small screen – or he will be, as soon as a TV company takes an interest.

Meanwhile, here is another Hazlitt mystery, already in script form to ease adaptation to television...


The scene is the small suburban home of Mr Oscar Lyttle. Mr Lyttle is not there. He has vanished. The bank where he works is worried about his absence, because he seems to have taken £5m with him. That is why Inspector Whitstable and his trusty sidekick Sergeant Bollard are crawling all over the house, looking for clues.

Bollard: Don't see any bloodstains, sir.

Whitstable: Of course you don't see any bloody bloodstains, Bollard. There has not been any bloody murder. This is a missing man case.

Bollard: Don't see any missing man, sir.

Whitstable: Of course you don't see any missing man, Bollard. Missing men don't stay at home.

Bollard: So what are we looking for, sir?

Whitstable: Clues, Bollard. Like travel arrangements or things missing or little notes saying: "Dear World, I am going to Nepal to find my lost youth."

Bollard: Lost youth, sir? Is this a lost youth case as well...

Whitstable: No, Bollard, it's... The door opens and a man comes in carrying a spade, a big bag and a metal detector ...Hazlitt! Thank God you're here! We're absolutely at our wit's end. This man has run off with five million quid and there's not a clue!

Hazlitt: OK. Just give me a little time to look around.

Whitstable: How long?

Hazlitt: Oh, two or three weeks. Now, if you don't mind, I have some digging to do...

Three weeks have elapsed. The garden is now totally excavated, a neat dig with labels, string and signs saying: "Tony Robinson not wanted on site."

Whitstable: Any luck, Hazlitt?

Hazlitt: Terrific – I've found a medieval rubbish heap about three feet down, and it's got the most amazing early false teeth...

Whitstable: Never mind about that – what about the missing money?

Hazlitt: What? Oh, that. Yes, I've found something very interesting indoors...

Cut to interior. Enter Hazlitt with Whitstable and Bollard.

Hazlitt: It's this lump of rock here on the mantlepiece. It's been labelled by Oscar Lyttle himself. "Fossil-bearing rock from the Carboniferous era, 30,000,000 years BC".

Whitstable: So what, if Lyttle had a mild interest in geology?

Bollard: Do you mean this lump of rock was the murder weapon, Mr Hazlitt?

Hazlitt: You dolts. Don't you understand? This was carefully labelled by Lyttle himself. Yet he got it wrong. The Carboniferous era wasn't 30,000,000 years ago – it was 300,000,000 years ago!

Whitstable: Meaning?

Hazlitt: I think Lyttle was a good amateur geologist. I also think, because he got such a basic date wrong, that he suffered from "nought blindness", a condition that makes it hard for the sufferer to count noughts in big numbers.

Whitstable: So?

Hazlitt: Lyttle worked in a bank. He dealt with big numbers all the time. He tried to cover up his nought blindness, but just once he let a mistake through. I don't believe he ever took that money. I think it was just another bank error.

Whitstable: All very clever. But then why did Lyttle vanish three weeks ago?

Just then the door opens and Lyttle walks in.

Lyttle: What on earth..? Who are you all and what are you doing in my house?

Whitstable: Police officers, Mr Lyttle. We want to know why you have been missing for three weeks.

Lyttle: I haven't been missing! I've been staying with my mother. I told the bank I would be away...

Hazlitt: You told them you'd be away in Week 30. This was Week 3. Old nought blindness at work again, wasn't it?

Lyttle: Oh, God – how did you know about that? I thought nobody knew...

Hazlitt: Oh, we police aren't all buffoons, you know. Right, I must be off. Perhaps I'll leave the Inspector to explain what happened to your garden...

Another Hazlitt mystery coming soon...