by Harry Edgington; The Sun, January 1, 1972
My friend Pete Duel — Hannibal Hayes in the BBC series Alias Smith and Jones — died under his Christmas tree yesterday, a bullet in his head. The tragedy happened in Pete’s Hollywood home… and I’ll always wonder if I could have saved him. Because as he died, I slept in my home just twenty yards away.
Pete was 31, successful and bitter. He hated working on the Smith and Jones series, but it gave him his big break. He was on the brink of international stardom when a bullet, apparently fired by himself, ended his life.
It was Pete’s girlfriend, 29-year-old Dianne Ray, who phoned the police in “an emotional and agitated state.” She said she was in a bedroom and Pete had just been watching himself in a Smith and Jones episode on TV. Then she heard the shot. She ran downstairs and found Pete sprawled under the Christmas tree.
Could I have saved him? I’m not sure. In fact I’ll never know. But I had known Pete for six months. We were neighbours and close friends. When we met he always complained about the company making the series. He said they were inhuman, working their actors like horses. He said the show was “junk and I hope it gets scrapped.” His biggest fear was that the company would continue it for another year and “I’ll be lumbered with it.”
Pete complained that they had to work every day. He was on the set, playing opposite Ben Murphy’s Kid Curry on Christmas Eve. His death leaves a nagging doubt in my mind. For late last night as I drove into my garage. I saw the lights on in his tree shrouded house. I was going to pop in for a chat — but decided it was too late. I made a note to call on him today. I knew about Pete’s drinking problem — he had been convicted twice for drunk driving, the last time in June when he was put on probation for two years — and was also prone to depression. A police spokesman said later that Pete had been drinking heavily before he died. Perhaps I could have saved Pete’s life. If only I had dropped in for a chat.