Countdown (lost unaired episodes of British game show featuring convicted criminals; 1997-2013)

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This article has been tagged as NSFL and NSFW due to its discussion of sex crimes.


Countdown logo.

Status: Lost

Countdown is a Channel 4 game show that has regularly aired new episodes since 1982. It provides match-ups between two contestants who attempt to establish the longest words from a defined set of nine consonants and vowels, reach or come close to a given target using only six provided numbers, and resolve nine-letter anagrams, all within a 30-second time limit. Over 8,000 episodes have been produced, featuring thousands of contestants from various social positions in society. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it has meant some competitors have had criminal pasts. Particularly, two episodes have never been aired as it was revealed a contestant from each had been convicted of child sexual offences.


Under the current application form for Countdown, hopeful contestants must disclose any previous criminal convictions or current investigations against them before they are considered.[1] Failure to do so would typically result in the immediate removal from the show, no prizes being awarded to offending contestants, and the possible media reporting of the crimes in question.[1] Channel 4 would still nevertheless consider some applicants providing their criminal record was not especially serious.[1] The show has featured successful contestants who would later be convicted of serious crimes. Among these included Series 55 champion Richard Brittain, who faced 13 months of prison time in December 2015 for the stalking of one woman and the serious assault on another who criticised his book online;[2][3] and Series 62 semi-finalist Craig Chittenden, who is serving a 12-year sentence for a variety of child sexual offences he was convicted of in February 2022.[4][5]

These events occurred well after Brittain and Chittenden's respective episodes aired, in 2006 and 2010 respectively.[3][5] At the time, both were of good standing in society and so there were no barriers to prevent Channel 4 from broadcasting them.[1] The same could not be said, however, for two episodes that featured now-infamous one-time contestants of the show, Allen Horn and Mark Harrison.[6][7]

Episode 2045

Episode 2045 was the eighth produced for the show's 36th series.[8][9] It was planned to air on 9th July 1997 following Joy Hill's 52-45 victory over Paul Harrison the day before.[9][8] Hill was the defending champion against 58-year-old Allen Horn, who resided in Bridlington, Humberside.[10][11][9][8] Limited information is known surrounding the game itself, with Hill ultimately triumphing 42-22.[9][8][6][10][11] David Jacobs, a prominent BBC Radio broadcaster, joined lexicographer Catherine Stokes in Dictionary Corner for one of his 62 Countdown appearances.[12][13][11] Following this game, Hill was defeated by Andrew Davis 42-31.[9][8]

Horn never appeared on Countdown following this.[8][9] As it turned out, Channel 4 were extremely fortunate Horn was eliminated after a single game.[6][10][11] A former official at HM Customs and Excise, Horn like all other contestants had a pre-publicity photograph taken of him.[6] Unbeknownst to the producers Yorkshire Television, Horn had sexually abused two girls who were below the age of 14.[6] In 1982, he was arrested and charged with thirteen counts of gross indecency.[6] He later pleaded guilty to five counts and was acquitted of the rest, where he was sentenced to two years behind bars.[6][10][11] Post-sentence, Horn remained a notorious figure in Bridlington.[6]

Thus, residents were horrified when they discovered the publicity photograph in local newspapers.[6] A prompt backlash at Channel 4 and Yorkshire Television prompted a consensus between both companies that airing Episode 2045 would subsequently be inappropriate.[6][10][11] Based on a Channel 4 spokesman's comments, the broadcaster presumably would never have allowed Horn to compete had his criminal record been uncovered beforehand.[6][1] Episode 2045 was replaced by The 2000th Edition, which The Countdown Page noted was the show's first episode to be repeated.[10][11] To date, 2045 remains unreleased.[8][10][11]

Episode 5723

Episode 5273 was planned as Series 69's second episode.[14] Intended for a 2nd July 2013 broadcast, it was to feature two new opponents as Glen Webb had become an Octochamp in the previous episode.[15][14] One of these contestants was Steve Grimble, who returned following a one-off appearance in Series 11 back in 1987.[16] However, 5723 went unaired for then-unexplained reasons.[17][18][16][14] The following episode saw host Nick Hewer confirm Grimble was the defending champion, with Grimble later defeating Erin O'Reilly 84-77 and Kaz Ali 77-76, before losing 81-71 to Dan Skelton.[16][14] It is known that former GMTV presenter and journalist Penny Smith joined lexicographer Susie Dent in Dictionary Corner, having appeared in five consecutive episodes.[19][17][16]

2nd July 2013 instead saw S40 be broadcast, a special featuring former contestants Ryan Taylor and Michelle Nevitt, who had become a couple following their initial appearances on the show.[15][17][16] While the Countdown community was thrilled to see the long-awaited special, its unexpected airing also drew great consternation since it occurred incredibly early into Series 69's run.[17][18][15] Speculation persisted that Episode 5723 had been promptly replaced by S40, though the rationale behind Channel 4's decision remained unknown among even the most dedicated fans.[18][17] Rumours began circulating that 5723 had suffered the same fate as 2045.[18][17]

By December 2013, confirmation was achieved regarding the episode's cancellation. Grimble's first opponent was found to be 48-year-old Mark Harrison, a former maths teacher at St Monica’s Roman Catholic High School.[20][7] By 2013, after opting for early retirement, Harrison was simply volunteering for the school's orchestra and stage show.[7][20] However, this did not stop his deviant actions, where he began to extensively groom a 14-year-old girl.[7] After a lengthy and graphic online discourse, Harrison met up with the girl in person and committed sexual abuse on multiple occasions.[20][7] Despite suffering extensive mental and physical harm, the victim was able to muster up the courage to inform the school's inclusion officer about the assaults.[20][7] This led to the former teacher's arrest, where he was formally charged on 10th September 2013.[21] On 25th October 2013, he pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual activity with a child and one count of grooming, with his defence that the girl led him on inevitably being dismissed by the Judge.[22][20][7] He received a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence and was given a decade-long Sexual Offences Prevention Order.[7][20]

As the investigation began before the episode's airing, Channel 4 promptly cancelled its broadcast.[14][18][16] The broadcaster was again fortunate considering Harrison only appeared on Countdown once, losing to Grimble.[14][16] Ultimately, not even the final score for 5273 has been publicly released, making it unclear whether the game was a close affair or relatively one-sided.[18][14][16]


Episodes 2045 and 5723 are among sixteen editions of the show that remain unreleased by Channel 4 for various reasons. But unlike the others, neither episode is likely to ever see the light of day because of their sinister context and out of respect for Horn and Harrison's victims. The only relevant media known to be publicly released are publicity photographs of Horn that were shown in local Bridlington newspapers.[6] It is unclear which issues contain the illusive images.

See Also

External Links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Application form for Countdown. Retrieved 7th Nov '23
  2. Daily Mirror reporting on the life, crimes, conviction and early release of Brittain. Retrieved 7th Nov '23
  3. 3.0 3.1 The Countdown Database listing all episodes of Series 55. Retrieved 7th Nov '23
  4. BBC News reporting on Chittenden being sentenced to twelve years for child sexual offences. Retrieved 7th Nov '23
  5. 5.0 5.1 The Countdown Database listing all episodes of Series 62. Retrieved 7th Nov '23
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 25th June 1997 issue of The Daily Mail reporting on Horn's episode being pulled from air after his past was uncovered (report found on The Countdown Page). Retrieved 7th Nov '23
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 Archived Manchester Gazette reporting on Harrison being sentenced to two and a half years imprisonment following his conviction. Retrieved 7th Nov '23
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 The Countdown Page listing all Series 36 games and results, and noting the Horn episode never aired. Retrieved 7th Nov '23
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 The Countdown Database listing all episodes of Series 36 including the unaired Horn episode. Retrieved 7th Nov '23
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 The Countdown Page summarising all known information of Episode 2045. Retrieved 7th Nov '23
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 11.7 c4countdown recapping the unaired Episode 2045. Retrieved 7th Nov '23
  12. The Guardian's David Jacobs obituary. Retrieved 7th Nov '23
  13. The Countdown Page noting Jacobs made 62 Countdown appearances. Retrieved 7th Nov '23
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 The Countdown Database listing all aired episodes of Series 69, omitting the one planned for 2nd July. Retrieved 7th Nov '23
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 c4coundown summarising S40, which replaced 5723 (referred to as S39 in the post). Retrieved 7th Nov '23
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 16.6 16.7 c4countdown summarising Episode 5724 and noting the previous episode's disappearance. Retrieved 7th Nov '23
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 17.5 c4countdown discussing S40 and the reasons behind why Episode 5723 was replaced. Retrieved 7th Nov '23
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 c4countdown discussing the lack of information surrounding 5723's cancellation and the rumours that began circulating. Retrieved 7th Nov '23
  19. BBC News reporting on Penny Smith leaving GMTV after a 17-year stint. Retrieved 7th Nov '23
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 20.5 Daily Mail reporting on Harrison's conviction and sentence. Retrieved 7th Nov '23
  21. BBC News reporting on Harrison being charged on child sexual offences. Retrieved 7th Nov '23
  22. BBC News reporting on Harrison pleading guilty to child sexual offences. Retrieved 7th Nov '23