okay, I'll try again. The apache server our site runs on is set up to parse
.html files as php. If you pass a url of a non-existant file to the server
the client gets a php parse error back rather than a 404 error ...
pass in 
and you get
Fatal error: Unable to open e:\program files\apache
group\apache\htdocs\dev\maintenance\fred.html in Unknown on line 0
pass in 
http://www.sitename/fred.htm (which apache hasn't been told to treat as PHP)
and you get the expected 404 error which I am well aware can be trapped in

(n.b. http://www.sitename/bill/fred.html where bill is a non existant
directory, gives the 404 error okay)

Either this happens to everyone (which apparently it doesn't) or I've got
the configuration wrong somewhere in Apache or PHP. I've trawled through the
on-line documentation for both and haven't found anything relevant. I'm a
programmer not a network or web administrator, but here I'm all there is.
Any ideas what and/or where the problem is?

        Tim Ward
        Senior Systems Engineer

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