Who Is Hetty Wainthropp?

Meet the intrepid investigator who never stops until she unmasks local villains – even if it means being late for tea.



When we first met Hetty Wainthropp, she had just hit a big heavy milestone in her life: her 60th birthday. Cue a deluge of twee, pastel-coloured cards from her friends, all irritatingly eager to welcome her to the 60-something club. "From one seasoned senior citizen to a new arrival," read one of the cards, much to Hetty's frustration. "I'm not a senior citizen and I'm not joining club," she declared. Quite the contrary: Hetty felt as fresh as a daisy, and ready to embark on new pursuits. Pursuits which definitely did NOT include knitting scarves, playing bridge, or wasting her days watching black and white films on the telly.

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She may look like someone's harmless nan, but Hetty Wainthropp has the heart and soul of an action hero. Take the time, before she became a detective, she turned up at the local post office and stepped straight into an ugly confrontation between a racist biker and a member of staff. Lesser ladies would have timidly done a runner, but not Hetty. She waded right in without thinking twice, as if she were a headteacher and the biker a mucky-faced schoolboy. He was so dumbfounded that he meekly scurried out of there - the first of many scoundrels to be sent packing by Hetty Wainthropp.


As Hetty herself well knows, every crime-fighter needs a good sidekick. Hetty has Geoffrey: a plucky teenage urchin who starts off on the wrong side of the law. They first met when Hetty spotted him nicking things from a shop, including a giant charity collection pot. She made a citizen's arrest, he struggled free and scarpered, chortling all the way. Yet it was Hetty who had the last laugh, when she later found him working at the local supermarket checkout, and threatened to contact the police. To be fair to Geoffrey, the poor lad really was in a dire situation, so Hetty took him under her wing, turning him from Artful Dodger to Dr Watson in no time.

Patricia Routledge as Hetty Wainthropp.

Patricia Routledge as Hetty Wainthropp.


While Hetty was desperate for new adventures when she turned 60, she didn't just wake up one morning and decide to be a detective. It happened completely accidentally. While working at the post office, she stumbled over a couple of fraudsters cashing someone else's pension cheques. "I don't like mysteries," Hetty declared (a statement which Geoffrey quite rightly ridiculed as obviously untrue). The case was a success, and Hetty got on the front page of the local paper, under the headline "Post Office Part-Timer Solves Pension Fraud". Hetty Wainthropp the private investigator had arrived.


When your wife of several decades suddenly decides to become a crusading detective, you're going to be a little baffled. So we have to forgive Hetty's husband Robert for being incredulous about it all. Indeed, he was downright miffed to begin with, especially when she announced that being a sleuth was her calling. "My wife. That's your calling," he sniffed. And it didn't help when she casually spent a wedge of their savings on printing business cards and adverts in the local paper. Adverts which, by the way, had to come under Personal Services. "We ended up amongst all the massage parlours!" Robert complained. Ah, never mind, he's come around to the idea since then. A force of nature like Hetty Wainthropp just cannot be denied...