Friday, 29 October 2010

Claptrap from the Mainstream Media

I have indicated before on this blog that I don't have a very high regard for the mainstream media (MSM), yes there may be the odd occasion when they get it right but in my mind it tends to be the exception rather than the rule.  There is no doubt that significant numbers of people will have had their minds made up as to the cause of Dr Kelly's death following the release of the Forensic Pathologist's report and Toxicologist's report on the internet on the 21st October.   The presentation of these releases by the MSM in newspaper, radio or TV format could very easily influence the conclusions reached by the reader, listener or viewer.  Factual reports in the press ought to be fine although even these can lead the reader away from what should be totally non committal by the subtle use of headlines for instance.

Where I get particularly irate though is in the way certain commentary pieces are written with a total lack of objectivity.  In fact they are often just strewn with rubbish and what were once considered to be the quality papers are as guilty of this if not more so than the "popular press".  I'll just flag up a couple of examples, one in the Telegraph and one in the Guardian, that followed the recent release of the documents mentioned earlier and they demonstrate all too clearly in my view how impoverished their writers are in the opinions expressed.

So let's look at the Telegraph piece first, written by one Andrew Gilligan (remember him?).  His offering can be read here.  You will see, if you didn't know already, that Gilligan is firmly in the "it was suicide" camp.  That's fine, even though I'm leaning more and more toward the belief that Dr Kelly was murdered I'm very happy to engage with anyone with an opposite view providing they are presenting some sort of sensible, coherent argument.  Gilligan I'm afraid is coming out with rubbish.

"The only other wounds visible at all were superficial abrasions to the head and minor bruising to the limbs – consistent, says the report, with scraping against rough undergrowth (presumably as his body was removed)."  This is just one statement of his that got my blood pressure rising.  Think about it for a moment.  What Gilligan seems to be implying here is that Dr Kelly's body was manhandled through the undergrowth to the waiting hearse when it arrived at Harrowdown Hill on the Friday evening prior to its journey to the mortuary slab.  Are we supposed to take Gilligan seriously?  The undertakers would have walked into the wood with a coffin and gently lifted the body into it.  This is what undertakers do for God's sake!

"What this week’s report does do, however, is show the murder theory to be even more absurd and fantastic than it already was. For Dr Kelly to be killed, it would have needed someone to force 29 pills down his throat, making him swallow them without protest."  Another piece of nonsense from Gilligan!  As with all the "suiciders" it's a case of 29 tablets missing - therefore 29 tablets were ingested by Dr Kelly.  Let me spell it out: there is no incontrovertible proof that Dr Kelly ingested 29 co-proxamol tablets.  All we can safely say at the moment is that evidence was found of the two constituents that make up co-proxamol being in the body.  This is very different from what Gilligan is saying.  Much more from me on another day about the tablets.

There are other examples where his logic can be knocked down but I'll leave the reader with an open mind to consider them.  I now want to have a quick look at what Vikram Dodd wrote in the Guardian.  The headline is "The experts are clear on how David Kelly died" and immediately underneath we read "Not a single forensic pathologist has challenged the conclusions of the Hutton inquiry".  The implication clearly is that these two statements are two sides of the same coin - that they are effectively saying the same thing.  Now I realise that when a reporter sends his or her copy in someone else will conjure up a headline.  In this instance we are talking about commentary that appeared a few days later.  I would have thought that Dodd would have written this headline or at least agreed with it.  It took me all of a millisecond I would think to realise the incompatibility of the two statements.

Let's delve a little deeper into what Dodd is saying.  It's here.  His piece appears to be built around the premise that as none of this country's forensic pathologists have criticised Dr Hunt's findings then obviously the suicide verdict is correct.  Now we are led to assume that the experts (implied meaning; other forensic pathologists) are "clear" about something because they have never commented on it!  No logic there whatsoever so a poor start indeed Mr Dodd. There aren't many of these forensic pathologists about - I don't have a figure to hand but understand it's less than 50 - so I would be amazed if in that sort of profession one would break ranks and carp about Dr Hunt when that would suggest incompetency.  Like me these other forensic pathologists weren't at Harrowdown Hill so somewhat difficult for them to suggest that Dr Hunt was coming to the right conclusions.  I mean if one had commented who would you believe a forensic pathologist trying to protect the name of his profession or an ambulance crew well experienced in observing the aftermath of arterial bleeds.  Yet Dodd is intimating that the silence of other forensic pathologists is indicative of a correct deduction by Dr Hunt.  What planet is Dodd on?  And Gilligan come to that.   It's absolutely ridiculous - to use a familiar phrase "you couldn't make it up!"  

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Interview with Vanessa Hunt and David Bartlett

No this is not me interviewing the two ambulance crew that went to Harrowdown Hill on the morning of 18th July 2003.  Instead I want to point to the interview by Antony Barnett, one of the better people from the MSM.  You can read it here.  They were so concerned about what they considered to be the lack of blood for an arterial bleed that they wanted to put on record their worries; I believe it was Rowena Thursby who was able to get them to see Mr Barnett.  They don't appear to be people looking for the limelight, in fact they had already voiced their thoughts at the Hutton Inquiry.  In reply to Mr Dingemans Ms Hunt had said "no obvious arterial bleeding. There was no spraying of blood or huge blood loss or any obvious loss on the clothing."  At the end of Mr Knox's examination we have Mr Bartlett saying "we was surprised there was not more blood on the body if it was an arterial bleed."  The ambulance crew can also be seen talking about the lack of blood on this video. 

From Mr Barnett's report we learn that the medics had been to dozens of incidents of attempted suicide by wrist slashing and they were very familiar with the amount of blood resulting from these actions.  Now it's very easy to be seduced by all the medical terminology in Dr Hunt's report into thinking "As forensic pathologist he is the expert, look at his qualifications, look at all the tests he did on Dr Kelly, surely we must believe him rather than anyone else regarding medical matters".  My response would be "As a pathologist and then a forensic pathologist has he even once seen a death from an arterial bleed.  After all we know that almost all attempts at wrist cutting are unsuccessful so such instances would be seen by paramedics rather than pathologists."

Being as even handed as possible it has to be stated in Dr Hunt's defence that (obviously) he spent time looking at blood stains on Dr Kelly's clothes and on the body itself and so would see evidence of blood in areas that the medics might failed to have noticed.  Dr Hunt talks about heavy bloodstaining over the left arm and "a heavier patch of bloodstaining over the right knee area".  As to the other areas where blood was seen one gets the impression it was more a case of blood just getting smeared around.

There are those that are keen on the suicide explanation who say that Dr Kelly lost more blood but that it soaked into the ground or into leaf litter at the scene.  Regarding leaf litter let's remember that this was July, I've also read very erudite comments on the internet by somebody who has visited the site and stated there was no leaf litter at the location and also that Harrowdown Hill itself is composed of hard Oxford clay and is virtually impermeable to liquids that might otherwise soak into the ground.  No attempt at all had been made to analyse soil samples, to estimate the quantity of blood loss or to estimate the quantity of blood still in the body after arrival at the mortuary.

In the real world it might not be easy to get these figures with much accuracy.  But on the basis of seeing a lot of blood smeared around it would appear that Dr Hunt made the judgement that Dr Kelly had lost sufficient blood from cutting the ulnar artery to cause death.  This is not good enough.  Not nearly good enough.  One has always to bear in mind for a valid verdict of suicide it has to be shown beyond all reasonable doubt that it was suicide.  So far as the blood loss resulting from Dr Kelly's cut ulnar artery is concerned there is insufficient evidence to prove that Dr Kelly died from that cause.  Dr Hunt might paint a scenario that leads him to believe that Dr Kelly died that way.  The rock solid evidence needed is just not there. 

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The moving of Dr David Kelly's body

It will be noticed in the title heading to this post I am implying as a fact that the dead body of Dr David Kelly was moved after it was first discovered on the morning of 18th July 2003.  I am stating this not as a possibility, nor a probability, but as a fact, to me as much of a fact as seeing the sun rise in the east and set in the west.

That the fact that Dr Kelly's body had been moved by a person or persons unknown after its discovery by search dog Brock shortly before 9.20 am does not in itself prove that Dr Kelly's death was something other than suicide.  It does obviously beg the question though: why was it moved?

Let's look at the evidence submitted by the individual witnesses at the Hutton Inquiry, to which I will add my own bits of commentary where relevant.

Louise Holmes
Following the evidence of the search dog's discovery of the body of Dr Kelly these were the exchanges:
MR KNOX: What did you see?
MS HOLMES: I could see a body slumped against the bottom of a tree, so I turned around and shouted to Paul to ring Control and tell them that we had found something and then went closer to just see whether there was any first aid that I needed to administer.
MR KNOX: And how close up to the body did you go?
MS HOLMES: Within sort of a few feet of the body.
MR KNOX: And did you notice anything about the position of the body?
MS HOLMES: He was at the base of the tree with almost his head and his shoulders just slumped back against the tree.
A little further on is this exchange:

MR KNOX: I take it you did not actually go up to the body itself and feel the pulse?
MS HOLMES: I did not touch it, no. 

Ms Holmes can be seen on this video (scroll to about 6.32) confirming what she saw and what she said at the Inquiry.  Note that she had got to within a few feet of the body and that it wasn't just Dr Kelly's head against the tree but his shoulders as well.

Paul Chapman
These are the relevant exchanges:
MR DINGEMANS.: Did you see what Brock the dog had found?
MR DINGEMANS.: And what was that?
MR CHAPMAN: The body of a gentleman sitting up against a tree.
MR DINGEMANS.: And can you recall what he was wearing?
MR CHAPMAN: All I could see from the distance I got was he was wearing a dark jacket and light coloured shirt.
MR DINGEMANS.: And how close did you get to the body?
MR CHAPMAN: I probably reached about 15 to 20 metres from it.
MR DINGEMANS.: Could you see anything at all?
MR CHAPMAN: He was sitting with his back up against a tree and there was an obvious injury to his left arm.
MR DINGEMANS.: An obvious injury to his left arm. What was that injury?
MR CHAPMAN: In as far as it was all covered in blood.
So we have Mr Chapman using the words "sitting up against a tree" and then "sitting with his back up against a tree".  This again is absolutely clear that it is more than Dr Kelly's head against the tree.  We must remember too that Paul also would have seen the body a little later because in his evidence he says  "I took DC Coe in to show him where the body was."  Another point that perhaps others haven't noticed was his answer about what Dr Kelly was wearing: "a dark jacket and light coloured shirt". From the distance of 15 to 20 metres what was in his near vertical line of sight would have registered rather better than the part of the body in contact with the ground.

DC Coe  
Here is the exchange with Mr Knox:
MR KNOX: And how was the body positioned?
COE: It was laying on its back -- the body was laying on its back by a large tree, the head towards the trunk of the tree. 
It can be seen there is absolutely no mention here of the head or any part of the body up against the tree - "the head is towards the trunk of the tree".  We have the situation then of DC Coe and Mr Chapman looking at the same scene simultaneously when the former was shown the body by the latter.  It is quite clear from the testimony that DC Coe was physically shown the body, it wasn't a case of them getting to the edge of the wood and Mr Chapman pointing DC Coe in the right direction.  To my mind it is absolutely impossible to reconcile the descriptions of the body position by these two witnesses.

PC Franklin
MR DINGEMANS: And what did you see there?
POLICE CONSTABLE DEAN FRANKLIN: We walked between 50 and 70 metres into the wood up a slight gradient, and in a clearing at the base of a tree was the body of a white male.
MR DINGEMANS: Do you recall what was being worn?
POLICE CONSTABLE DEAN FRANKLIN: I believe he had a blue jacket on, a white coloured shirt and blue denim jeans.
MR DINGEMANS: And what was his position?
POLICE CONSTABLE DEAN FRANKLIN: He was lying on his back with his right hand to his side and his left hand was sort of inverted with the palm facing down (Indicates), facing up on his back.

PC Sawyer 
MR KNOX: Before the paramedics approached Dr Kelly's body, can you remember what position it was in?
POLICE CONSTABLE SAWYER: Lying on its back with its head at the base of a tree, a large tree. The head was tilted to the left. The right arm was by the side. The left arm was palm down. There was a large amount of blood on the back of the left arm. There was a watch and a curved knife by that wrist. 

Both these two policemen refer to the tree but don't indicate that the head or any other part of the anatomy were up against the tree.

Vanessa Hunt (Paramedic)
MR DINGEMANS : And when you got into the wooded area, what did you see?
MS HUNT: There was a male on his back, feet towards us. 

David Bartlett (Ambulance Technician)
MR KNOX : What did you then come across?
MR BARTLETT: They led us up to where the body was laid, feet facing us, laid on its back, left arm out to one side (indicates) and the right arm across the chest. 

The ambulance crew were as close to the body as anyone could be but there is no mention at all of any part of Dr Kelly's body up against a tree.  Later, in talking to the media, Mr Bartlett was to say that Dr Kelly's body was well clear of the tree as you can read here  I also think that Rowena Thursby had ascertained the same information from Mr Bartlett at some earlier time.

Dr Nicholas Hunt (Forensic pathologist)
Could you describe the position of the body at the scene?
MR HUNT: Yes, certainly. He was laying on his back near a tree. The left arm was extended out from the body slightly, closer to shoulder level, his right arm was laying across his chest area and his legs were extended out straight in front of him.
MR KNOX: I take it from what you just said he was laying on his back?
MR HUNT: He was, yes.
MR KNOX: Was any part of his body actually touching the tree; can you recall?
MR HUNT: I recall that his head was quite close to branches and so forth, but not actually over the tree.

Lord Hutton was obviously aware of the concern regarding apparent difference in body position as testified by different witnesses.  This is what he says in his report: 

"I have seen a photograph of Dr Kelly's body in the wood which shows that most of his body was lying on the ground but that his head was slumped against the base of the tree - therefore a witness could say either that the body was lying on the ground or slumped against the tree."

So that's all right then!  Except of course it isn't.  His Lordship's statement is quite vague as to its content.  Is the photograph one of the many taken by PC Sawyer at the scene?  In which case it being an official photo would have had a time and date stamp on it for sure with the camera set to do this automatically.  Perhaps Paul Chapman, who we know had a mobile phone with him, had a camera facility on the phone and sneaked a picture when he showed DC Coe the body.  I would suspect not but who knows.  Certainly Lord Hutton's statement doesn't resolve the issue.  At heart here (to me) are the statements by Paul Chapman and DC Coe and I consider them irreconcilable. 

Monday, 25 October 2010

A few general thoughts from me about Dr Kelly's death

Before I continue looking at the issues surrounding David Kelly's death I want to stop for a moment and jot down some of my more general thoughts before returning to the minutiae.  There is no particular order to this, just a case of recording some things I consider important.

1. Publication of the Forensic Pathologist's report and Toxicologists report.  I will be making a line by line comparison of the content of these two reports with what was said at the Inquiry but not today.  What concerns me now is the tactic the government has used to supposedly reassure the public.  For the moment let's put aside the aspect of distaste by making these intimate details available to all and sundry.  It seems to me that the correct procedure would have been to allow access to a group of medical and legal experts to not only of what has recently gone on line but all the photographs that relate in any way to the death.  The headlines that the mainstream media (MSM) were screaming following the publication of the reports were essentially the matters that Dr Hunt had previously intimated to the media.  So in that sense there were no huge surprises and the average casual reader of the reports shouldn't have found anything too amazing within them.

2. Dr Hunt and the media.  Some little while prior to the release of the reports just mentioned the forensic pathologist had been talking to the media about his examination of Dr Kelly.  Now whether Dr Hunt did this entirely off his own bat or there were others who considered it a good idea for him to do a bit of talking prior to the release of the documents I don't know.  It's possible that Dr Hunt speaking out was part of a 'holding operation' because we know about the group of concerned individuals who, using legal channels, have been endeavouring to get a proper inquest to take place.  If Dr Hunt's public intervention was wholly his own idea then I would condemn that unreservedly.  It is not acceptable in my opinion for a professional person in his position to use the media in that way particularly with the possibility of some future legal process regarding Dr Kelly's death.  Sorry to be quite so blunt about this but it is one of my 'gold standards' of professional behaviour.  Sadly it seems as if the boundaries of professional behaviour are getting blurred.

3. The hopelessness of the mainstream media (MSM).  Again I'm going to be blunt but I have to say that by and large the MSM are very poor.  One only has to look at what was said when the two reports saw light of day last week.  Mostly the same things and quite predictable.  One has to search the internet to find blogs, forums and obscure websites that give the interested person the more detailed information and independent thought that is missing from the MSM.  At this juncture and trying to be even handed I have to say that the MSM have the constant problem of working to tight deadlines and they have to supply instant gratification to the majority of their audience.  I, on the other hand, with this style of blog can take a longer more considered view.

4. Because of all the doubts about the official explanation of Dr Kelly's death it is all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that every detail one uncovers that doesn't quite fit in with our perception of the truth must mean yet again another part of a vast conspiracy.  I can see just how easily this happens and how much has to be done to keep focused on facts and not make irrational judgements.  There will always be posts in this blog intended to add to the picture of events but not intended to come down on either side of the suicide v murder argument.  Lots of writers in the MSM, commentators on TV and writers of blogs have their own political agenda,  that is inevitable of course but I want to make it clear that only the truth matters for me.  For instance I haven't yet read through Tony Blair's evidence at the Hutton Inquiry.  Whether I considered what he said was honest or dishonest that is what I would describe on this blog.

5. In forming a judgement Lord Hutton had access to a lot more information than we, reading what witnesses said at the Inquiry, were privy to.  On the official Hutton website there is a list of all the pieces of evidence submitted to the Inquiry by Thames Valley Police - I think it was Andrew in a comment who drew my attention to this.  A good deal of this paperwork from TVP was not for publication which is not surprising.  One of these I noted was a personal witness statement from Graham Peter Coe and there were statements from many other police as well.  In his personal witness statement surely he would have included the detail of the 'third man' and surely that information was something Mr Knox would have noted before his questioning of Mr Coe.  And surely Lord Hutton would have compared witness statements to the police with what was said at the Inquiry before publishing his report.  I wonder what discrepancies there were.  Certainly Mr Knox appears to have had some foreknowledge he was able to give a witness, informing David Bartlett that the ambulance used on the mission to Harrowdown Hill was number 934.

With that last piece of not very relevant information I'll end this post. 

Sunday, 24 October 2010

A leisurely approach by Thames Valley Police?

In a recent post I attempted to make sense of the time points of events between the finding of Dr Kelly's body at 9.20 on the 18th July and the declaration 47 minutes later that life was extinct.  I had, and still have, problems making the witness evidence at the Hutton Inquiry fit the available time frame.  The primary problem for me is the assertion by ambulance technician David Bartlett that he and paramedic Vanessa Hunt arrived at 9.55 which doesn't give them enough time to walk up the track to the woods and then check for signs of life, this checking procedure being interrupted by PC Sawyer taking photographs.

My gut feeling is that Mr Bartlett was mistaken and that the ambulance arrived at 9.50 or very soon afterwards.  Ms Hunt stated that it was 9.40 when Abingdon ambulance station got the call regarding Dr Kelly.  Paul Chapman reckons it took Louise Holmes 10 or 15 minutes earlier that morning to drive from the police station to the start of the search area.  It would seem that they had little traffic to contend with at that time of day.  I think it's conceivable that the ambulance did its journey in 10 minutes.  From witness evidence they arrived at about the same time as PC Sawyer's land rover.

Even though it took the police 20 minutes from the news of Dr Kelly being found to putting a call through to the ambulance station (it's possible that the call was routed through some ambulance central control room and that they in turn called the local ambulance station) we find from Ms Hunt's evidence that initially they were tasked to mobilise towards Southmoor.  En route their data screens give the further information that it is to Harrowdown Hill that they need to go.

When Paul Chapman made contact with Abingdon police station he would have said that they had found Dr Kelly and explained where.  Would he have categorically have stated that Dr Kelly was dead though or might he have said "it appears to us that he is dead".  Surely within two or three minutes an ambulance would be called and a couple of police in a fast car instructed to go to Harrowdown Hill.  No, twenty minutes are wasted in calling the ambulance and PC Sawyer with five other policeman take to the land rover in what one couldn't expect to be a fast drive to Harrowdown Hill.  

Unless ACC Page was aware that DC Coe and companions were close to Harrowdown Hill at the time the body was discovered he wouldn't have known that they were available to secure the scene.  It is possible I suppose that one of the officers with DC Coe and staying out on the track could have radioed to Abingdon that they were on site and that DC Coe had gone into the wood to stand over the body but even this scenario of events wouldn't have completed before 9.30 I would have thought.

In my opinion then there was a certain lack of urgency in getting out to Harrowdown Hill.      

Friday, 22 October 2010

Time of formal identification of Dr Kelly

Anyone looking at the pathologists report now on the internet isn't in for a comfortable read. To put times into perspective we see that Dr Hunt's examination of Dr Kelly on site extended well into the evening and that it wasn't until 19.35 that he was logged out of the police outer cordon at Harrowdown Hill.  Having initially arrived at about midday I imagine he was very much in need of sustenance before starting the grisly task of wielding the knife at the mortuary of the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.  We learn from his report that the post-mortem commenced at 21.20 hours.  From a logical point of view it would seem that at some time prior to 21.20 Mrs Kelly would be taken to the mortuary to confirm that the body is indeed that of her husband.

In my naivety I had imagined that any examination of internal organs would be confined to areas below the neck.  Not so in this instance as confirmed by what is written on page 8 of the report.  I am not going to discuss the anatomical detail revealed in the internal examination some of which I don't understand anyway.  Suffice to say what would be visible of Dr Kelly's head for a relative to identify would be much diminished and extremely upsetting.

I don't know if it is ever normal for the identification to be done following the post-mortem but in this instance there must have ample time for Mrs Kelly to complete this onerous task on the previous evening.  But, and this is absolutely extraordinary, on page 3 of Norman Baker's book we are told that Mrs Kelly accompanied by one of her daughters is taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital on the following day (Saturday) to formally identify her late husband and that the time of identification was 11.25.  I have to assume that the time quoted by NB is a matter of official record.

Here is another interesting fact regarding activities that Saturday:  PC Sawyer in his evidence to Hutton relates that he and a search team start a search at the Kelly premises at 11.05 which I imagine is close to the time that Mrs Kelly would have left for Oxford although I would think that her other daughter at least would have been still at the house.  It is all very peculiar.   

++ Pathologist's report now on line ++

Following my last post I can now confirm that the report of forensic pathologist Dr Hunt dated 25 July 2003 is now on line and can be viewed here.  I have only skimmed through it and will not comment at length about it in this post.

The conclusions made by Dr Hunt from my quick reading seem to be largely what we already knew.  An area of interest to the medical profession will I'm sure be the more detailed description of the distribution of blood, it appears that even Dr Kelly's cap wasn't immune from blood!

Two very quick points I've noted are the fact that not only was the rectal temperature taken very late in his examination at 19.15 hours, a fact already in the public domain, but it seems that it wasn't until about 17.30 that he was noting rigor mortis.  Extraordinary in my opinion.

On page 1 of his statement we have Dr Hunt saying: "He was apparently seen heading for a walk at approximately 15.00 hours on the 17th July 2003.  He was subsequently seen at 15.30 hours walking northwards.  That I understand was the last known sighting of him (at this stage)."   When one looks at the Hutton Inquiry transcripts this statement by Dr Hunt with its timings is very interesting indeed!

UPDATE: Included with this post should have been a link to the toxicologists report.  It is here.

++ Dr Kelly's Post-Mortem details to be released ++

The second item on the Radio 4 news this morning concerned the decision by the UK's government to release details of Dr Kelly's post-mortem.  Just what this will mean in practice I don't know but it is obviously an interesting development.  The content of the p-m will self evidently mean a lot to the medical expert but to the ordinary layman such as myself I imagine that it will not be shining much light on Dr Kelly's death.  I am totally unclear at this stage in fact whether the details will be available to all and sundry or whether it will be limited to a selection of doctors only.  To be honest I would be concerned if the government were to publish details on the internet of a dead man's post-mortem, this just wouldn't seem right to me when you think of the relatives of the deceased.

Anyway, there's not too much point in speculating until more details of the government's decision are released.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Event times from body discovery to confirmation of death

In my last post I had tried to make sense of the time points relating to the early morning search for Dr Kelly on the 18th July 2003 up to the point when Louise Holmes and Paul Chapman found him thanks to search dog Brock.  One of the major deficiencies of the Hutton Inquiry was the abject failure to pin down the times of significant moments relating to the tragedy.  I felt that the only timings I had confidence in were the time when the searchers reported finding the body (9.20) and the time when the ambulance crew confirmed life was extinct (10.07).

Now I want to look at that forty seven minute period in which the principal witnesses were PCs Franklin and Sawyer and paramedic Vanessa Hunt and ambulance technician David Bartlett.  It is evident from the questioning that both the PCs referred to, in addition to their normal police duties, had received specialist training in the search for missing persons.  Both were based at Windsor, and we learn that PC Franklin lived there as well.  I would think that they were called in as a result of ACC Page's meeting of about 5.15 that morning that I mentioned in my last post.  PC Franklin states he was called out at 6.15 and PC Sawyer thinks his call out was about 6 o'clock for an 8 am meeting.  It can be seen just how much of a head start the volunteer searchers had by the fact that PCs Franklin and Sawyer were going into their briefing with Sergeant Paul Woods and some 8 to 10 other officers at the same time as the volunteers had arrived at the bottom of the track up to Harrowdown Hill.

As an indication of just how wrong  witnesses can be in remembering times one just has to look at the evidence from PC Sawyer who thought that the call about the discovery of Dr Kelly's body was at about 9 o'clock.  I would judge that to be a fairly significant discrepancy from the time stated by ACC Page (about 20 minutes).  Without Mr Page's evidence one might have taken PC Sawyer's time as being correct thus lengthening the period between body being found and life declared extinct by about 50%!

From the police statements we know that the search team they had put together were on the point of leaving and I don't doubt that the party set off soon after the call about finding Dr Kelly was received.  From PC Sawyer's evidence we find out that the vehicle used was a landrover and that he and PC Franklin also had the company of Sergeant Alan Dadd and three officers to act as cordons.  Whether all six policemen and their gear were crammed into their  landrover or whether two vehicles were used isn't clear.  We can only guess at the time that the police arrived at the bottom of the Harrowdown Hill track, no information about this time came out of the Inquiry. We do find out though that the ambulance team arrived very soon afterwards.

The police met searcher Paul Chapman coming down the track, he it will be remembered was delayed in returning to the car by the fact that he went back up into the woods to show DC Coe where the body was.  This was fortunate because Paul was able to point the way up the track to where DC Coe and the body of Dr Kelly were.  We can see from the questioning that PCs Franklin and Sawyer were used to working with the volunteer searchers, in fact we learn from Norman Baker's book that Louise Holmes was the girlfriend of PC Sawyer.

It might be questioned why the police didn't reduce time by driving the landrover up the track but it must be remembered that the two police constables were in an unfamiliar area and in fact it is recorded that they did drive up to the woods later.  The ambulance crew just behind them would also I think have wondered about taking their vehicle up the unmade track.

At this point I want to mention another oddity in the evidence as to timing of events.  Mr Dingemans is asking Vanessa Hunt if she had a call that morning relating to Dr Kelly.  Receiving an affirmative he asks "What time did you get that call?"  The reply from Ms Hunt: "At 09.40 hours to the ambulance station".  Supposedly Abingdon Police Station was informed about the discovery of Dr Kelly's body at 9.20.  We are to believe then that it took 20 minutes for someone to think "Oh we ought to send an ambulance".  Perhaps someone walked from police station to ambulance station to deliver the message.  Sorry, I'm being facetious.  Mr Knox asks Mr Bartlett: "Can you remember when you arrived at the place you were going to?"  Mr Bartlett: "The time?"  Mr Knox: "Yes, the time".  Mr Bartlett: "9.55"   The context of the questions suggests I think that we are talking about arrival at the bottom of the track at this point.  It took then 15 minutes to cover a journey of about I believe 8 miles.  A slow average on the face of it but the actual location of the ambulance station in Abingdon might have quite a distorting effect on the time if the ambulance had to navigate through a lot of streets before reaching the open road.

As previously mentioned the police with the ambulance crew close behind were walking up the track and met Paul Chapman coming down.  If David Bartlett's timing is correct then we have the situation where Paul is returning to the car some 35 minutes after reporting the finding of Dr Kelly.  Now Paul, who seems to me to be a very solid witness, had stated that he had met DC Coe and his companions "2 or 3 minutes after I had made the phone call" .  At this point there  evidently was a brief discussion and confirmation of identities and Paul returned to the body with DC Coe.  If all this process took 10 minutes or so from the moment Paul made his phone call then we are looking at 9.30 or thereabouts.  Let's say Paul left DC Coe at 9.35, then from Mr Bartlett's timings we have Paul still going down the track toward the car 20 minutes later!

Earlier Paul had reckoned it would take them 10 minutes to return to the car so how does he take so long?  There might be a very mundane explanation and the only one I can think of at the moment.  Where the cars would have been parked looks to be a relatively open area, around the corner into the track leading up to Harrowdown Hill there is a degree of privacy.  Maybe Paul had arrived back at Louise's car ten minutes earlier, chatted to her and then nature called and he walked back up the track a short distance.  What I am saying is that this apparent oddity in timing might have the most innocent of explanations. 

Now another timing peculiarity to resolve.  Staying with David Bartlett's time of 9.55 as the time of arrival at the parking area then we have to add at least ten minutes to get the police and the two ambulance crew up to the position of the body bearing in mind equipment is being carried and it is slightly uphill.  This takes us to !0.05, extinction of life is recorded as being at 10.07.  We know that the ambulance crew had to keep stopping what they were doing for PC Sawyer to take pictures so the two minute time slot is not nearly long enough.  Also Mr Bartlett informs Mr Knox that the crew were at the site of the body for 5 to10 minutes which sounds reasonable to me.  They didn't leave immediately they had declared life extinct though because it seems that they had to wait a short time for PC Sawyer to take some more photos. 

As can be seen from my investigation it is very difficult indeed to reconcile all the movements and timings to fit those few times we believe we know.  After my last post Andrew had drawn attention to the looseness of the time points - how right he is!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Search timeline Friday 18 July 2003 (up to 9.20)

Following the format I have previously adopted I should be writing individual entries looking at the evidence at Hutton provided by PCs Franklin and Sawyer and by the ambulance crew Vanessa Hunt and David Bartlett.  It will be easier now though I believe to deal with certain themes that might relate to all of them and in some instances to the content of earlier witness statements which I have already sketched.  I want to try and sort out the witness evidence concerning timings from early on Friday 18th July up to the point Dr Kelly was officially pronounced dead.  As we shall see there are one or two anomalies in reported times but I'm still hopeful that some sort of sensible timeline can be deduced for those few hours.

Looking at the evidence from Assistant Chief Constable Michael Page we see that Mr Dingemans asks him about the time that he heard about the two searchers having found Dr Kelly's body to which the ACC replies: "I think within seconds of the information coming in to us but the time I have is that it was 9.20."  This is what I would call the pivotal time in as much that I believe that the timings of events just before and just after have to fit in with this.  I also think of 10.07 (47 minutes later) as the "end time" for this part of the drama because this is the declared time we are told that the ambulance crew confirmed that Dr Kelly was dead.

A quick comment about the time of 10.07.  The ambulance crew explained that they had connected a heart monitor to Dr Kelly and that the flat lines on the print out they obtained proved that life was extinct.  The print out states the time but we are told this is not normally correct being typically an hour out and so the medics add the correct time via looking at their watches (perhaps it has to be corrected for BST).  After this process was completed they handed these strips to the police.  At the Inquiry the two ambulance crew were unable to say exactly what this time was and so far as I can see it was two policemen who volunteered this information.  One of these was PC Franklin and the other, as I had mentioned previously, was DC Coe.  At one stage in his questioning DC Coe looked at his notebook and confirmed the 10.07 timing so whether at Harrowdown Hill or perhaps back in the office had seen the strips and recorded the time one assumes.

Paul Chapman states that he "got an official page soon after 5 o'clock".  The ACC described how he had arranged a meeting of key individuals to arrange resourcing for what he anticipated would be more widespread searching.  Although scheduled for 5 am at Abingdon police station Mr Page thought the meeting started at about 5.15 am.  Bearing in mind that Paul is more likely to have been paged by his search manager than the police my feeling is that the decision to call out the search volunteers may well have been enacted some time prior to Mr Page's 5.15 meeting.  Paul then goes on to say he had a further text message (we don't know the time) confirming the call out to which he replied to say he was available.  For the next piece of timing it's over to Louise Holmes who says she arrived at Abingdon police station "around quarter past/half past seven".  Back to Paul now who states that after they had been briefed the journey out to the search area (Louise driving) took "10 or 15 minutes."  Switching to Louise for the next time check we have her saying, about the time they arrived at the search area "It was about 8 o'clock".

The time period from arriving at the start of the search area to the point when the discovery of the body is notified is evidently about 1 hour and 20 minutes which might appear to be greater than expected.  Let's break things down a bit.  Paul talks about it being about a ten minute walk back down to the car when the woods are left - looking at the map I would say the distance is approximately half a mile which ties in with Paul's ten minute walk.  It is not a dissimilar distance from the woods to the River Thames with the slight difference that the gradient between the river and Harrowdown Hill is somewhat steeper.  Looking at Google Earth it is apparent that there is a gate on the left hand side of the track just short of where the wood starts.  It would seem that the searchers went through this gate because they next describe being in the field searching the southern perimeter of the wood.  Having drawn a blank they retraced their steps to the main path before actually getting into the wood proper.  They could only search so far north in the wood because of a barbed wire fence.  The search in this southern part of the wood was evidently slow going because Paul says  "There were no paths or anything so we were having to climb across trees and go round all the bushes and things." 

It was after searching the southern part of the wood that they decided to eliminate the area down to the Thames.  I would suggest it would have been something like 10 minutes to the river, 10 minutes back and say nearly 5 minutes finding the boat people and talking to them.

As we know the searchers went back up the hill from the Thames to do the northern sector of the wood.  They followed the same procedure as before, examining the outside perimeter of the wood first and Paul, in answer to a question, guesses that this bit of the search took about ten or fifteen minutes.  Again drawing a blank they revert to the main path and enter into the northern sector from the east.  Once in the wood again it is evident from what Paul says that it is about 5 minutes later that Brock discovers Dr Kelly.

There are two or three minutes lost now because Paul was unable to contact his control and had to make a 999 call instead with Abingdon police station calling him back.  I've gone into a lot of detail I know but I wanted to demonstrate how all this search time could accumulate.  This exercise also helps us to try and get some sort of fix as to the time the boat people were seen.  My own estimate of that would be about 8.40 to 8.45.      

Anonymous comments permitted

I don't think I have ever added comments to someones blog or to a forum anonymously and my natural thought in setting up this particular blog was to adhere to a policy of no anonymous comments to my posts.  While that might be appropriate in some places I've now decided that's not the case here.

Let me elaborate: so far I've had two readers, Andrew and Felix, commenting on a regular basis (thanks again chaps, your input is enormously helpful) but I'm aware that there might be other people with particular professional knowledge say who would be willing to add their thoughts providing their anonymity was preserved.  As an example - a reader might be a just retired (or even a still serving) police officer but would not wish to reveal any clues that would identify them.  If such a person wanted to comment I would be happy for them to do so under the cloak of anonymity providing they indicate simply that they are a retired police officer, or whatever.

I hope that this short post clears up any doubts on the subject! 

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

DC Coe and the questions unasked by Mr Knox

The second of September 2003 proved to be a useful day at the Hutton Inquiry with a large number of witnesses giving evidence.  Amongst these were the searchers Louise Holmes and Paul Chapman, the ambulance crew Vanessa Hunt and Dave Bartlett and the two policemen who took over from DC Coe, PCs Andrew Franklin and Martyn Sawyer.  Although there are some concerns, particularly regarding timings in some of the evidence which I'll highlight on another occasion, the quality of the interrogation was pretty good, the witnesses were happy just to respond to the questions posed to them rather than trying to set their own agenda and, with each member of the pair being questioned one after the other, it was possible to see their individual stories of events corroborating each other.

Reading these testimonies one of the things that struck me was the consistency of questioning by Lord Hutton's counsel, Mr Dingemans and Mr Knox.  As I have intimated before this is in absolutely stark contrast to the approach adopted by Mr Knox to DC Coe on the morning of the 16th of September following the never explained delay in getting Mr Coe to the stand.  One gets the impression that Mr Coe isn't the easiest of witnesses to question - it seems to me that he is perhaps too keen to get through his evidence even where that means it is very light on detail.  Being somewhat too terse may just be his nature but it was up to Mr Knox to keep hauling him back if he was running away with his answers.  Significantly Mr Knox totally failed to do this.  It is worth going back to my entry "DC Coe and a serious shortage of detail" to read one of the comments left there.  This is the one from Felix timed at 23.24 and it sums up the situation beautifully.

DC Coe is self evidently a key witness.  He says he had a call at 6 o'clock on that Friday morning.  Yet from that moment right up to the point when he bumps into Louise Holmes and Paul Chapman there is nobody corroborating his extremely thin evidence and we have no idea even approximately when he took his various actions.  So far as I can make out his contact with the searchers occurred a few minutes after 9.20 if we can take this time to be when Paul spoke to the police confirming that the body had been found.  We are talking then of a period that morning of about 3 hours 20 minutes in which none of Mr Coe's actions had a time attached to it.  That Mr Knox failed to pin him down on any of this is a quite breathtaking failure.

It isn't just time though.  Mr Coe doesn't volunteer the names of people working with him.  Apart from the single instance of Mr Knox obtaining the name of Mr Shields he, Mr Knox, makes no effort at all in finding out who Mr Coe was with.  We have no idea how many people were making house to house inquiries in Southmoor or what their names were.  Was DC Shields with Mr Coe at this time?  Did they talk to Ruth Absalom together?  He says "We spoke to a witness ..." so evidently he wasn't alone with Ms Absalom.  Perhaps they met her walking her dog, or knocked on her door to find her in - we are not told.  Going back a little in time we aren't told either the name of the person at Abingdon briefing him.  Nor are we informed about how many other officers were at the briefing and whether they were also detailed to make house to house inquiries.  It's very unsatisfactory.

When the decision was made that he and a colleague would make "a sort of search towards the river" did this new action lead to him radioing a senior officer to discuss or inform.  Mr Knox never asked Mr Coe just where he lived, for all we know he might reside in Longworth and be very familiar with the local geography.  Why didn't Mr Knox find out.  It's easy to assume that Mr Coe drove to Common Lane, close to the start of the track that heads up to Harrowdown Hill but we have no confirmation that was the case.  The other witnesses I had earlier mentioned did deliver the information of having parked there but why wasn't Mr Coe posed the same question?

We know that Mr Coe, quite correctly, had his notebook with him at the Hutton Inquiry from the fact that he referred to it late in his evidence.  This was to state that the ambulance crew had pronounced death at 10.07.  Interesting that he noted that because he must have been hovering in the background as the ambulance crew were doing what they had to do; in a sense he was off the case having handed over to PC's Franklin and Sawyer when they appeared.  Did his notebook also record other key times, such as when he spoke to witness Ms Absalom?  Why didn't Mr Knox find out?

Another aspect of interest concerns Saturday 19th July.  From PC Sawyer we gather that on that day he worked with PC Franklin on a very extensive search of the house and grounds where the Kelly's lived.  Mr Knox ascertains the start and finish times as 11.05 and 20.50, evidently a long day.  Mr Sawyer gets asked seven questions in total regarding the search, more in fact because he gets recalled to discuss one aspect in greater detail.  On the same day on the basis of one question and one answer we find out that DC Coe was also overseeing a search and, true to form, Mr Knox doesn't ask about start and finish times.

One final point: the witness immediately following Mr Coe was the forensic pathologist Dr Hunt  who was questioned at some length as one would expect.  Surprisingly Mr Knox was also his inquisitor, rather than Mr Dingemans taking over the reins.  It could be, though I don't believe it, that Mr Knox skipped over his examination of Mr Coe in anticipation of his questioning of Dr Hunt.  At the politest I would describe the fact that these two witnesses were being examined one after the other was very unfortunate.  I've not looked at the media reports of that day's proceedings but would be amazed if the very poor examination of DC Coe got any significant mention, if indeed it was discussed at all.                

Monday, 18 October 2010

DC Coe concludes his evidence

The next part of the drama of finding Dr Kelly's body in which DC Coe is joined by PCs Sawyer and Franklin and the two ambulance crew was causing me a bit of a headache from a presentational point of view.  This was because the evidence from Mr Coe himself continued to be seriously lacking in detail whereas the testimonies of the other four named people (given to Hutton two weeks previously) was fortunately much more informative.

I've been very lucky to have had two regular readers, Felix and Andrew, commenting on my posts because they have supplied me with numerous links and new lines of inquiry.  In fact, following my last post "DC Coe alone with Dr Kelly's body" Andrew has quoted some relevant extracts of the testimonies of PC Franklin, PC Sawyer, Vanessa Hunt and David Bartlett.  He also notes what the two searchers Louise Holmes and Paul Chapman had to say about meeting DC Coe and his companions.  I would suggest backtracking to read Andrew's two comments - I don't particularly want to set all that out again in this posting.

Following Mr Coe's vigil of 25 to 30 minutes (other evidence suggests this length of time is about right) Mr Coe tells Mr Knox that "...two other police officers arrived, I took them to where the body was laying ..."  It would seem that when PCs Franklin and Sawyer followed by the two medics arrived at the wood Mr Coe was out on the track.  Had he heard voices and knew their arrival was imminent and so walked the 70 metres out to the track?  Perhaps one of Mr Coe's companions let out a whistle to know reinforcements had arrived.  We just don't know.  Anyway there seems no doubt that Mr Coe led the new arrivals to Dr Kelly's body and although taking no further part in the proceedings on Harrowdown Hill did stay a few minutes because he records the fact in his notebook that the ambulance people pronounced death at 10.07.

Mr Knox moves on to the following day (Saturday).  He comments "We know the following morning there was a search made of Dr Kelly's premises" and asks "Were you at all involved in that?"  Mr Coe replied  "Yes, I was. I went to the premises and at that time I had an attachment with me who acted as an exhibits officer at the house and I oversaw what he did. I made no search whatsoever of the premises."   This astonishingly is the only question he is asked about the Saturday morning search.

Now follows the standard closing question: And is there anything else you would like to say about the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr Kelly?  To which Mr Coe replies with some emphasis "Nothing whatsoever".  

I may write a post detailing examples of questions which Mr Knox could and should have asked of DC Coe.  For the moment though I'll just make a couple of observations: Mr Coe states that he was called out at 6 in the morning.  The only other time he mentions is the 10.07 when Dr Kelly was officially pronounced dead - nothing new here because this latter time was not directly to do with him and already in the public domain.  So from the moment he was called out to go to Abingdon Police Station we have no indication at all from him about his personal timetable of activities.  This is totally utterly unacceptable in such an Inquiry.  The second point for now - when the evidence gets to the point where Mr Coe meets the searchers on Harrowdown Hill he is asked by Mr Knox  "Who were you with at this time?"  Answer: "Detective Constable Shields" .  This is the only occasion that Mr Shields is identified or mentioned in person.  Extraordinary.    

Sunday, 17 October 2010

DC Coe alone with Dr Kelly's body

Last Friday I wrote a post about the early part of DC Graham Coe's evidence to the Hutton Inquiry and now I want to consider what happened after he made the interesting decision in which he said he "made a sort of search towards the river".

Back on Monday 4th October I had penned an item relating to the testimony of searcher Paul Chapman.  It was Paul working with colleague Louise Holmes and search dog Brock who discovered Dr Kelly's body.  When Paul made contact with the police via his mobile he was instructed to return with Louise to the bottom of the rough track that leads to Harrowdown Hill from Common Lane, this being the place where Louise had parked the car before commencing the search.  The police would meet them there.  Within two or three minutes of setting off they were I think quite stunned to see three men walking towards them.  These were DC Coe and two companions and Paul relates that they confirmed their identity as members of Thames Valley Police.  Paul and Louise explained that they were searchers and had just found Dr Kelly's body.  It seems that Mr Coe and his colleagues were unaware that these early searchers were in the area and similarly Paul and Louise had no idea that there was a police presence nearby.

Whereas Louise and her dog continued back towards the car Paul took the police, or rather Mr Coe, into the woods to show the policeman the body.  Mr Coe states that they went about 75 yards into the woods to reach the body.  Interestingly the last mention Mr Coe makes so far as I can see of any accompanying policemen is just prior to his being led solo into the woods by Paul when he confirms to Mr Knox that he was with DC Shields.  Whilst Paul now goes back down the track Mr Coe states that for the next 25 to 30 minutes he is alone with the body.  Bizarrely he makes no further mention of his colleague or colleagues.  Mr Knox doesn't ask him about what Mr Shields might be doing at this time, one is left to assume that he is just waiting out on the track not having observed the body.  All along the impression is given that Mr Coe for the moment is in charge and making the decisions.

Mr Coe says that during this period he was within "7 or 8 feet" of the body.  Although a detective and alone for a considerable time with the corpse of someone then very much in the national media Mr Coe displays almost no curiosity it seems.  He did observe a watch off the body, a knife and a water bottle - he wasn't able to say whether the last named still contained any water though.  He did observe Dr Kelly was wearing a Barbour jacket and trousers and that he had a cap but surprisingly couldn't be certain in his evidence whether the cap was on Dr Kelly's head or off the body.  He wasn't sure about the type of footwear and I can almost understand that.  Time was when different sorts of shoes and boots were quite distinct as to purpose but now they can often be a cross between different types.  So there are some walking boots which might also be referred to as trainers and vice-versa.  When paramedic Vanessa Hunt  arrived she described his footwear as "a pair of boots or trainer cross type footwear".

The other thing that I must mention, and which has caused a huge amount of controversy, is the position of the body.  Asked "And how was the body positioned?" Mr Coe replies " It was laying on its back - the body was laying on its back by a large tree, the head towards the trunk of the tree."  The position of the body and whether it was moved will be something I want to give an opinion on in a later post. 

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Short rest from blogging

I have tried to keep up a good pace on this blog but you may not get another post for a day or two, I like to think that I have a life outside this blog and writing it is quite a laborious and intense although rewarding process.

The comments from Felix and Andrew are enormously helpful but to other readers if you want to add your own thoughts please feel free (even if you disagree with me!).

There is a lot more to come so please stick around!

Friday, 15 October 2010

DC Coe and a serious shortage of detail

Reading through the transcripts of the Hutton Inquiry it is evident that Lord Hutton's counsel appointees, Mr Dingemans and Mr Knox, were at pains to set the scene when people such as the two dog searchers, the ambulance crew, PCs Sawyer and Franklin were giving their evidence.  To elaborate a little: they would be asked such questions as when they were briefed, who briefed them, were there others being briefed at the same time, when did they leave for Harrowdown Hill, that sort of thing.  So it was possible to get a reasonably clear idea as to their movements and timings from the moment they were called out on the morning of 18th July.  This I believe was the correct and normal procedure to follow.

However when Detective Constable Graham Coe gave his evidence as the first witness of the morning on Tuesday 16th September 2003 things could hardly have been more different.  It was Mr Knox's turn to proceed with the questioning.  After recording the witness's name and occupation we find out that Mr Coe is based at Wantage which lies some miles south of our area of interest, this is not to say that Mr Coe actually lives in Wantage of course.  The next question tells us that Mr Coe got called out at 6 o'clock.  Then he is asked "Where did you go?"  The reply "I went over to Longworth".  "Longworth police station?" asks Mr Knox in response to Mr Coe's somewhat unexpected reply.  "Abingdon police station" Mr Coe says and then, like a perfectly flighted boomerang, "I went out to the Longworth area".   For a brief moment Mr Knox hauls Mr Coe back to Abingdon by asking "When you got to the police station, what were you asked to do?"  "Go and make some house to house inquiries in the area where Dr Kelly lived" is Mr Coe's reply.

Mr Coe, in his fifties at the time, must surely have been aware of the established procedure of establishing the early facts to set his later evidence in context.  However he seems to be a man with a mission; a desire to get through his evidence in the shortest possible time with the very minimum number of words.  Mr Knox appears to be happy to go along with what I perceive to be a charade; why didn't he establish when Mr Coe got his briefing, who gave the briefing, were other police officers present, when did Mr Coe leave Abingdon to start his inquiries, was DC Shields at the same briefing, were other officers conducting house to house inquiries, we know none of the answers to these and other related questions.

It would seem that Mr Coe struck lucky in his inquiries:  Mr Knox "Where did you go then?"  Mr Coe describes how "We spoke to a witness ... who had seen Dr Kelly on the afternoon, ... and myself and a colleague went to the area where she had last seen him and made a sort of search towards the river".  Further questioning confirms the river to be the Thames and the witness Ruth Absalom.

An interesting albeit small point here: Mr Coe uses the word "we" when describing talking to the witness and then instead of repeating "we" when they went to the area in which Dr Kelly had been seen he talks of "myself and a colleague".  Were there other officers doing house to house inquiries one wonders and Mr Coe deciding to select DC Shields to accompany him.   Ms Absalom had told the Inquiry that she met Dr Kelly at the top of Harris's Lane but  she can't be absolutely certain which way he continued after they parted company.  Her description I feel is open to some interpretation but she does mention the road to Kingston Bagpuize and this road is in the opposite direction to that toward Harrowdown Hill and the river.  Compounding the problem of geography is the fact that the northern end of Harris's Lane forms a T junction with a west to east road.

Although the main part of Longworth village lies a little way to the north west of the road junction there are some properties very close by and one might have thought that Mr Coe and his "colleague" would have knocked on a few doors there next.  They didn't do that it seems but "made a sort of search towards the river".  Mr Knox inexplicably doesn't ask the reason for this decision.  The other thing that I want to mention is Mr Coe's rather odd use of the English language - the phrase "made a sort of search towards the river", it is quite  woolly, I would really have expected something far more precise from a serving policeman.

I will continue with Mr Coe's extraordinary testimony in another post.    


Thursday, 14 October 2010

DC Graham Coe and the Third Man

Detective Constable Graham Coe was the third known person to observe the dead body of Dr David Kelly following the discovery of the corpse by searchers Louise Holmes and Paul Chapman. I have covered the evidence of the latter two at the Hutton Inquiry in previous posts, now it's the turn of Graham Coe to have his say.

Before looking at the specifics of the evidence from DC Coe I just want to say a little bit about an aspect of his evidence which has raised a few eyebrows and that concerns the number of police officers accompanying Mr Coe on the morning of 18 July 2003.  Looking at the transcripts of the Hutton Inquiry and at the point Paul Chapman informs Mr Coe that a body has been found in the woods, Mr Knox asks "Who were you with at this time?" Answer from Mr Coe "Detective Constable Shields".  Next question: "It is just the two of you?"  Answer "Yes".  I think it can be agreed that there is no possibility of misunderstanding here.  In his evidence Paul Chapman very clearly said that as he and Louise were returning to the car "we met three police officers coming the other way".  Again absolute clarity.  Other witnesses also referred to three police officers.  Because of an unexplained delay in Mr Coe presenting his evidence the other witnesses who stated they saw three police had all said their piece at the Inquiry.

With this absolutely glaring discrepancy in evidence it is little wonder that all of Mr Coe's evidence has fallen under suspicion.  Surely Mr Knox would have been aware of this mismatch but he simply didn't seek any amplification.

Out of the blue in August this year, some seven years after the event, Mr Coe, now retired, admits that there was indeed a third person in his little party.  He states that this other person was a trainee policeman who has now left the force.  Mr Coe refuses to release the name of this  individual. 

The questions that need to be asked of Mr Coe then are "Why weren't you upfront about the third man?  Surely there can't be a problem about having a trainee with you when you are making house to house inquiries?  Why so obviously lie with the result that the rest of your testimony is then under suspicion?"  If Mr Coe is being honest about the third man being a trainee then his failure to tell the truth at Hutton makes no sense whatsoever.

I've read the odd comment suggesting Mr Coe should be tried for perjury.  The writers fail to understand things.  For a person to commit perjury the lying must be done under oath.  At the Hutton Inquiry nobody was required to give testimony under oath.  This episode involving Mr Coe and the third man illustrates all too clearly the total inadequacy of the Hutton process.  If he was under oath would Mr Coe have lied about the third man when it was so obvious that he was fibbing?  I think not!  Of course giving evidence under oath doesn't stop people lying but I think that they would have to be fairly sure in their own minds that they could get away with their deceptions.  Committing perjury is an offence taken very seriously indeed, a legal eagle might be able to tell me whether a prison sentence is mandatory but I believe that is the norm.

One other point in this post - I believe that Mr Coe made his revelation about the third man at the same time that he made a point about not seeing much blood at the scene on Harrowdown Hill.  With the matter of the degree of blood loss being a major aspect of media interest at the time of his revelation I get the impression that this pushed the third man story somewhat into the background.  I shall say no more.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Farmer Paul Weaving

As has previously been stated the last person that one can say for certain spoke to David Kelly before his death was a near neighbour Ruth Absalom. A note in passing: although Detective Constable Coe had stated in his evidence to Hutton that Ms Absalom "lived more or less opposite" the Kelly's home the reality, according to Norman Baker, was that she lived about a hundred yards away.

Just after the death of Dr Kelly was announced a story started getting traction in the media that in fact there was another person who saw (but did not speak to) Dr Kelly on that afternoon. He was identified as a local farmer Paul Weaving , an old friend of the Kellys, who it was alleged saw Dr Kelly walking in the fields north of the A420 main road and that they acknowledged each other.

This is worth following up then. Well fortunately for us someone else has already done the investigation. Norman Baker in his book records that Rowena Thursby was informed in an email from Mr Weaving: "the early reports were wrong. I did not see David on the day he went missing". That seems pretty clear to me. I can't see why that statement would be anything but the truth. Ms Thursby by the way is the author of this blog and I doubt if anyone has done more to try and get to the truth as to how David Kelly died.

In "The Strange Death of David Kelly" Norman Baker gives a reference as to where the story of Mr Weaving seeing Dr Kelly on that day is to be found. It is Scotsman of 19 July 2003 (ie the day after the body was discovered) the article writers being Karen McVeigh and Paul Gallagher. I haven't read this particular piece but an evidently similar item was included in next day's Observer which can be read here. Unusually there is no indication of who wrote the Observer story.

I have to say that I often find newspaper reports wanting and it's not unusual to read things that you know are plain wrong. The problem is trying to "separate the wheat from the chaff" because there's no doubt there can be some gold nuggets amongst the dross. Looking at that Observer piece then in respect of David Kelly's last walk I would comment as follows:

They refer to "Paul Weaver" when in fact it is Paul Weaving. Not a very good start! They talk about Dr Kelly's home village (Southmoor) and the village of Longworth being two miles apart, in reality nearer one mile. Regarding that part of his walk they colourfully say "It would have taken him at least an hour to cross the fields, sodden after rain". Although there are field paths in the vicinity there is no evidence at all that he used them, in fact Ms Absalom describes meeting Dr Kelly at the top of Harris's Lane, a road not a field path. This is just so typical of newspaper reporting. I have to say that I'm a stickler for getting geographical details correct and get frustrated when lazy journalists don't get it right. Yes they have to work to tight deadlines but some seem to have a slap happy approach and it's not confined to any one paper. For instance on the day before the Guardian has the body of David Kelly being found face down. Where did that come from?

The one other thing about the media story relating to Mr Weaving's alleged sighting of Dr Kelly on that Thursday is that the information didn't come direct from him but from another person he knew. So obviously another place where whatever Mr Weaving said might have been misheard or misinterpreted.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Two men seen talking to Ruth Absalom

We have to be really grateful to LibDem MP Norman Baker for penning his book "The Strange Death of David Kelly". It isn't only the basic facts surrounding Dr Kelly's death that Norman investigates but in the almost 400 pages of the book he also relates various odd incidents that the mainstream media wouldn't be too bothered about. One of these involves Ruth Absalom who was the subject of an earlier piece by me and for convenience I'll deal with it now.

To summarise the account by Norman Baker (NB): a local reporter, Robert Wilkinson, was making enquiries around the village of Southmoor soon after the death of Dr Kelly was announced. While he was interviewing neighbours he noticed a car with two occupants who were also interested in interviewing people. The car was parked at 'The Wagon and Horses', the pub that is almost opposite the house where David and Janice Kelly lived. Amongst the locals they were talking to was Ruth Absalom who was the last person to speak to Dr Kelly so far as we are aware.

Fascinated by who the two men might be and with a journalist's nose Mr Wilkinson asked Ruth who the two men were. She told him that they had asked her many questions but as to their identity she wasn't able to say, the men having impressed upon her that she must not reveal who they were working for. Apparently she was most insistent that she couldn't say anything. The men still being there the reporter tapped on the car window and asked who they were working for. Laughing they answered "Thames Valley Police". Mr Wilkinson told NB that he somehow didn't think that was right, certainly they weren't in uniform.

Later that day, explaining he was a journalist, he phoned Thames Valley police asking if any officers had been out interviewing neighbours of the Kelly's. No they said and then Mr Wilkinson explained why he had posed the question. Two days later, and out of the blue, he gets a call from the police saying that they had made a mistake and that the occupants of the car and indeed the car itself were from their force. After relating this incident NB wonders if the call from the police was a way of shutting down the story. There will be other examples of strange behaviour by the Thames Valley Police to report on in due course.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Some images of the Harrowdown Hill area

They say "a picture is worth a thousand words". In the case of this blog I'm pleased to say that I've found a number of pictures that well illustrate the route taken by searchers Louise Holmes and Paul Chapman and search dog Brock on the 18 July 2003 when they were looking for Dr David Kelly. Although I was well aware of this website for some reason I hadn't thought about its use to illustrate my blog and it took a reference to it by Felix who has been adding regular comments to my entries for me to realise its potential here. So thank you Felix for flagging it up! The Geograph website is superb, not only are they endeavouring to provide representative photographs of every one kilometre square in the British Isles but for each picture there is a location map.

Now, as luck would have it, there are a number of photos that are useful here and, if like me, you have no reason to be familiar with the Harrowdown Hill area, they are a huge asset. What I am doing is adding a few relevant comments beneath each picture. By clicking on the title below each one you go to the Geograph site and get the full size view and an extract of the relevant ordnance survey map amongst other information. I have certainly found all this incredibly useful.

SP3800 : Track, to Harrowdown Hill by Roger Cornfoot

Track, to Harrowdown Hill

© Copyright Roger Cornfoot and
licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

This is the lower end of the track that the searchers started walking, Louise having parked her car a short distance away. Following the discovery of Dr Kelly's body police vehicles drove up this track I assume because there are media photos showing the police presence in a field adjoining the wood on Harrowdown Hill. However there is a parallel road or track from Longworth and just to the west of this one. This serves Thames-Side Farm and, depending on field access possibilities, might have been a better option for the police, rather than this track.

SP3800 : The lane over Harrowdown Hill by Tim Kirby

The lane over Harrowdown Hill

© Copyright Tim Kirby and
licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

A little further up the lane now, whereas in the first photo the right hand side was fairly open, the track here is far more enclosed. Although Louise and Paul searched the south part of the wood on Harrowdown Hill next I'll move on now to the south bank of the River Thames.

SP3801 : Gate by the sign by Bill Nicholls

Gate by the sign

© Copyright Bill Nicholls and
licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The searchers would have entered this scene from the centre right of the picture. It was about here that Brock drew their attention to the presence of people on a boat. The dense vegetation along the river bank is noticeable, but as this is a picture taken in August the flora is a little more profuse than it would have been at the time of the search.

SP3801 : Passing on the bend by Bill Nicholls

Passing on the bend

© Copyright Bill Nicholls and
licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Very close in location to the previous picture this photo clearly demonstrates two very different boats on the Thames. Unfortunately the Hutton evidence doesn't give us any real clues as to the nature of the boat that the searchers came across. Three or four people on board is as much as we know about it and that doesn't help a lot!

SP3801 : River Thames near Thames-Side Farm by Pierre Terre

River Thames near Thames-Side Farm

© Copyright Pierre Terre and
licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Now a view looking up the river. Thames-Side Farm is nearby on the south bank. Did the police ask the farmer if he had heard anything?

SP3800 : Harrowdown Hill by Andrew Smith

Harrowdown Hill

© Copyright Andrew Smith and
licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

This is the view of the Hill the searchers would have had as they trekked towards it from the river.

SP3800 : Wood, on Harrowdown Hill by Roger Cornfoot

Wood, on Harrowdown Hill

© Copyright Roger Cornfoot and
licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

This is an image of the inside of the wood on Harrowdown Hill. There is a mixture of woodland types. some open and grassy as depicted here whereas other areas are almost impenetrable.

SP3800 : Woodland path, on Harrowdown Hill by Roger Cornfoot

Woodland path, on Harrowdown Hill

© Copyright Roger Cornfoot and
licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The remarks I added to the previous photo can also be applied here.

SP3900 : The Bridleway to Longworth by Tim Kirby

The Bridleway to Longworth

© Copyright Tim Kirby and
licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

I'm just adding this as a final photo because it shows how dominant Harrowdown Hill is in the landscape. If you were to follow the bridleway signposted for about half a mile then you would arrive back at the point Louise parked her car.

Google Earth is another free source of information well worth having. The wood on top of Harrowdown Hill is in stark contrast to most of the surrounding area in which there are few trees. looking at the Google Earth image of the Hill it would seem that the wood is divided into three approximately equal parts and one can just about make out the barbed wire fences tracking west to east and separating them. It is the presence of these fences that led Louise and Paul to their decision to include the search area to the River Thames before going into the northern part of the wood.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Ruth Absalom - last person to speak to Dr Kelly

I'm now going to run through the evidence of Ruth Absalom who spoke to the Inquiry by video link; she was examined by Mr Dingemans. Ms Absalom, a near neighbour of the Kellys, stated that she had known Dr Kelly for a number of years. So far as we know she was the last person to speak to Dr Kelly. She was out walking her dog and she and Dr Kelly exchanged some pleasantries, she thought that their conversation was 5 minutes long at the most. Interestingly her testimony showed that Dr Kelly opened the conversation and he didn't appear to be desperate to end it, it seemed to be the fact that Ms Absolom's dog was pulling on its lead that gave reason for the two people to part. Ms Absalom also stated that David Kelly was just his usual self so far as his demeanour was concerned.

Consultant psychiatrist Professor Keith Hawton (KH) was the subject of an extensive examination from Mr Dingemans and one of the questions asked by the latter concerned the evidence given by Ruth earlier that day in which she had indicated that David Kelly was just his usual self. KH, who we are informed is an expert on the subject of suicide, declared that it isn't unusual in those intent on killing themselves to experience a sense of peace and calm having made the fateful decision. Well I'm not totally convinced on that one in this instance.

The wretched business of timings which I had raised in my last post also manifests itself here. Ruth says that on that particular day she left home with her dog at about 2.15, rather earlier than her usual time of 3 o'clock. Although she didn't look at her watch she reckons that she met Dr Kelly at about three o'clock. Their paths crossed at the top of Harris's Lane in Longworth (that village lies between Southmoor where the Kelly's lived and Harrowdown Hill), this point being, by her estimation, about a mile from her home. However the evidence from Mrs Kelly seems to indicate that her husband didn't actually leave their house until sometime between 3 o'clock and 3.20 and then, assuming he took the shortest route to the top of Harris's Lane, one would need to add on at least 20 minutes I would have thought.

A couple of other points to round off this particular post. Mr Dingemans asked Ruth if she saw where Dr Kelly went after they separated. Understandably she wasn't sure but surmised that he went along the road toward Kingston Bagpuize, which place is south east of Longworth whereas Harrowdown Hill is to the north. The second point was the answer Ruth gave to the question about whether she had seen anyone between leaving home and bumping into Dr Kelly. She hadn't. Based on my own experience of village life there is often a lull in the afternoon when nobody seems to be about. I must admit I haven't checked on this but guess there isn't a village school at Longworth. If there was then this would have generated some activity in mid afternoon. I'm assuming that schools wouldn't have broken up by 17th July.

With nobody around on the streets Norman Baker's contention that Dr Kelly could have been quickly overpowered and abducted into a van say is only too possible in my opinion.

Difficulties in establishing times of events

One of the difficulties I face with this blog, and I was aware of this before taking the plunge, is in establishing the times of the various events that took place that concerned David Kelly's death. It would be very nice if the reader could peruse this blog with every entry following each other in the correct time order but that's not really practical. Another thing: I am much more up to speed regarding certain aspects of the Kelly business than others. To get everything I want to say in something approaching the correct order would have meant delaying the start of the blog for weeks if not months and I really didn't want that. So apologies now if it becomes difficult to find a blog entry relating to a particular aspect of Dr Kelly's death. I'm giving a lot of thought though to the heading and labelling of the various entries to assist navigation (and to help retain my sanity!)

Just a couple of examples of my problem in establishing any sort of timeline: by and large Norman Baker has gone to a lot of trouble to achieve factual accuracy in his book "The Strange Death of David Kelly" but I'm sure at one point he states that the volunteer searchers found Dr Kelly's body at 8.30. Well we can't be certain without looking at police records whether we know the exact time Paul Chapman made the call to Abingdon Police Station to say that Dr Kelly had been found but it was much later than 8.30 that's for sure - I'll go into my reasoning in a later post.

The other discrepancy I'll mention now is the time at which Mrs Kelly reported to the police that her husband was missing. At the Inquiry she states that the call was made "at about 20 to 12 at night". But go to the very first paragraph of chapter 5 of the Hutton Report and his Lordship transforms this to "about 12.20 am on Friday 18 July".

These are just a couple of instances that demonstrate the problems any researcher into Dr Kelly's death has to surmount.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Searchers Louise Holmes and Paul Chapman (3)

In my last entry I had looked at the evidence from Louise Holmes at the Hutton Inquiry, now it's the turn of her search partner Paul Chapman. Unsurprisingly the line of questioning (from Mr Dingemans this time) was not too different from that made by Mr Knox to Louise.

To avoid repetition from my last two posts I won't cover all the detail in Paul's evidence but there are one or two matters that I think are important to highlight. When he was asked about what the search dog Brock had found he answered "The body of a gentleman sitting up against a tree". Three questions later and he repeats his answer with the words "He was sitting with his back up against a tree ..." So we can see there is excellent correlation with the evidence from Louise in which as I have previously reported her words were "a body slumped against the bottom of a tree" and "... his head and his shoulders just slumped back against the tree".

In reply to a question about how close he got to the body Paul says "I probably reached about 15 to 20 metres from it". The previous question from Mr Dingemans was to ask Paul if he could recall what Dr Kelly was wearing to which Paul answered "All I could see from the distance I got was he was wearing a dark jacket and light coloured shirt". Logically with part of his upper body propped up against a tree it is the clothing related to that part of his body rather than his trousers that would be more observable from the distance mentioned.

It was Paul with a mobile phone who made contact with the police (they had to call him back) and the police asked the two searchers to go back down the lane to their car to make a rendezvous with them. However within two or three minutes of the phone call and the searchers setting off for their car they met three police officers coming towards them: these were DC Graham Coe, DC Shields and a third man whose identity is a mystery. When Mr Dingemans queried about how Paul knew they were police officers Paul stated that they had shown him their Thames Valley Police ID. There has been much speculation about who the unnamed third person was but for the purpose of this particular post I will just note that Paul didn't appear to have any problem with the identity of the three men. It seems that they were unaware that the body had been found or even that the searchers had been tasked to look for Dr Kelly.

Quite naturally it was agreed that Paul should go back with the officers to show them the body. In the event, on reaching the access point into the wood, it was decided that DC Coe alone would accompany Paul to the body. It will be noted that there was a very short period of a few minutes in which Dr Kelly's body had no known company and it might just be conceivable that in that narrow time window some "adjustments" were made by a person or persons unknown to for instance the position of the body. This like so many aspects of this business sounds far fetched and if Paul accompanied DC Coe to a point well within sight of the body I believe he would have noticed any significant change in body position.

In a previous post I had noted that the people on the boat moored on the Thames had reported seeing some police activity earlier and I'm just reiterating that bit of information now as it raises further questions about police operations at the time. Some folk I know have wondered about why the boat was moored at that location and believe that there could be some sort of sinister connection with Dr Kelly's death. It seems that the police didn't make any effort to find the 'boat people' but consider this: if they had been involved in any plot connected with Dr Kelly wouldn't they have just upped anchor and left long before the appearance of the searchers and their dog? And it seems bizarre for them to have mentioned any previous police activity near there with the possibility that further investigation could take place as a result of that information. Although the presence of the boat is yet another frustrating loose end in this mystery I can't really believe that those on board were involved in the death of Dr David Kelly.