The Pirate Bob Monkhouse

Bob Monkhouse was an archivist. From very early on he collected and restored movie reels, and when home video recording became possible, he habitually recorded hours of television every day. He had a collection of some 50,000 tapes, some of which have been used to recover missing shows.

But in 1979, Bob appeared at the Old Bailey, alongside co-defendant Anthony Scott, accused of being a movie pirate. You may have heard this story before, so let’s track it through contemporaneous newspaper clippings.

Birmingham Mail – Monday 04 June 1979

The four charges related to the movies Carmen Jones, The Day The Earth Stood Still, I Could Go On Singing, The Three Musketeers, and Goldfinger. It was alleged they engaged in a conpsiracy to defraud movie distributors of hiring fees.

Here’s a slightly more emotive version of the same story.

Daily Mirror – Tuesday 05 June 1979

It may have been harder for the jury to do as instructed here, what with Bob being all over TV screens at that time on Celebrity Squares.

The Acton Gazette framed the story from the perspective of local resident Scott …

Acton Gazette – Thursday 07 June 1979

And we learn that Scott’s movies included The Mediterranean Cruise, The Culpepper Cattle Company, and The Bride Of Frankenstein.

Of course, the celebrity aspect of the trial was a bit too much to ignore, as shown by this.

The Scotsman – Friday 08 June 1979

If you think that Terry Wogan giving evidence at the Old Bailey for borrowing Goldfinger to show at his son’s birthday party is ridiculous, you wouldn’t be the only one.

Here’s a sober report about how the judge ruled there was insufficient evidence of any crime taking place.

Lincolnshire Echo – Tuesday 19 June 1979

Here we learn a little more, including the fact that the judge halted the trial to acquit.

Birmingham Daily Post – Wednesday 20 June 1979

This one quotes the judge …

‘That is not the sort of evidence which in my view, justifies you coming to the conclusion that Mr Monkhouse is guilty of conspiracy to defraud film distributors of their hiring fee.’

Seems pretty scathing to me.

The following weekend, Bob gave a nice little interview to the Sunday Mirror.

Sunday Mirror – Sunday 24 June 1979

They celebrated the win by watching Sherlock Junior. Also, a nice little nugget at the end, where Bob reveals his new show – wondering if it might be called Bob’s Your Uncle – which would later be titled Family Fortunes, of course.

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