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29 October 2014
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Inside Out investigates the disappearance of actor Leslie Howard

Inside Out returns to our screens this Monday, fronted by popular presenter Tessa Dunlop.

The series has become a favourite with West viewers for its varied reporting on heritage, history and some extraordinary characters around the region.

In the first programme, Tessa looks back to war time Bristol to uncover what happened to much loved actor Leslie Howard.

On the 60th anniversary of his death she investigates the shooting down of the Ibis, one of the small fleet of Dakotas based at Whitchurch airfield in Bristol that made regular flights to neutral Portugal. It was the so called spy-flight.

On 1 June 1943 Leslie Howard was on board the Ibis, a Dakota aeroplane, rmaking the return journey from Portugal.

He was well known for his part in Gone with the Wind and had just starred with David Niven in The First of the Few, the story of the Spitfire.

Howard was noted for his anti-Nazi broadcasts and had gone to Portugal to fight the spread of fascism.

The Dakota was heading back to Whitchurch on the outskirts of Bristol.

Today the old airfield has largely disappeared under houses, but in 1943 it was Britain's only non-military international airport, and the Avon Gorge Hotel in Clifton was airline BOAC's temporary wartime head quarters.

It was a dangerous journey. The Ibis had twice before come under attack from Nazi fighters.

It was well known that this was the route back home for escaping prisoners of war.

That day, departure had been delayed because Howard was waiting for a consignment of silk stockings to take back to his wife. She was never to receive them.

Over the Bay of Biscay the Ibis came under attack. The pilot "mayday-ed" back to Whitchurch to report the attack.

The radio operator heard the pilot say "we are being followed by an unknown aircraft. We are under attack by enemy aircraft".

And then, nothing...

The next day, BBC news reported that Leslie Howard had died, shot down over the Bay of Biscay.

Since then, conspiracy theories have grown. Were the Germans determined to stop Howard's anti Nazi broadcasts? Did they think there was a spy on board the Ibis?

Or, even, did they believe Churchill was one of the passengers?

On the 60th anniversary of Howard’s death, Tessa Dunlop steps aboard a surviving Dakota to unravel the mystery of the last flight of the Ibis.

Inside Out begins at 7.30pm on Monday (2 June), BBC ONE (West) for six weeks.

Notes To Editors

Tessa Dunlop can be seen presenting History Hunters, BBC ONE daytime, in July.

Bill Oddie is on the History Hunt (21.05.03)

Morris seeks out weird and wonderful - BBC ONE North West (30.05.03)

Art connoisseur faces his critics in the north - BBC ONE North East & Cumbria (02.06.03)

Scientist's radiation fears of North Yorks base - BBC ONE North East & Cumbria (02.06.03)

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