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. 


  1. I can't imagine being alone with a body for 25 minutes and not having the scene etched into my memory. I couldn't but stare at it. The appearance of the Barbour jacket is quite a mystery, not the appareil for a walk on a warm but cloudy afternoon (and not alluded to by Ruth Absalom or in early reports of farmer Paul Weaving). More the sort of coat one might use for going out in the evening/night in summer.

  2. (As elsewhere in blogland I’m faced with a choice as to where to post this comment. It might be more apposite in the earlier ‘DC Graham Coe and the Third Man’ thread, but on the other hand I think it’s probably best to use the current top-of-the-page posting for the sake of commenting continuity.)

    (I have to make this a two-part comment as the Blogger system only allows for 4,096 characters. I'm only just over that, but that's life on t'net!)

    From the evidence of both PC Dean Franklin and PC Jonathan Sawyer we are told that DC Coe was accompanied by two uniformed officers:

    POLICE CONSTABLE DEAN FRANKLIN: PC Sawyer and I attended Harrowdown Hill and went to the scene. We were unsure initially whereabouts we were going, but we passed Paul from the South East Berks Volunteers and he directed us to two uniformed police officers and DC Coe.


    POLICE CONSTABLE SAWYER: We met Paul from SEBEV walking down the hill.

    POLICE CONSTABLE SAWYER: He told us basically the body was further up in the woods. We continued walking up the hill, where I saw DC Coe and two uniformed officers. I said, you know: whereabouts is the body? He pointed the path he had taken…

    This evidence does not quite square with what paramedic Vanessa Hunt, who had arrived at the general scene at almost the exact same time as PCs Franklin and Sawyer and then accompanied them into the woods, told the Inquiry:

    MS HUNT: Initially there were three people on the track, what I now know to be detective constable, one was the search and rescue and there was another gentleman there. The police officers that we had followed stopped and spoke to them and then we followed the two chaps up into the wooded area.

    Given that there might be a slight transcription error here accounting for the line “what I now know to be detective constable,” (which seems to me to be slightly incomplete with no surname supplied), there seems to be another potentially substantive anomaly here. Where I can understand that possibly one of the two additional officers accompanying DC Coe may have been tasked to seal the area north of the hill (along the pathway to the Thames) and therefore was not seen by Vanessa, I cannot understand why she refers to the other party as ‘another gentleman’. If he was in fact in uniform why did she not describe him as ‘another officer’?

    The evidence of her companion, fellow paramedic Dave Bartlett, does not exactly resolve this question:

    MR BARTLETT: We got to the end of the lane, there were some more police officers there. I think it was two or three, I cannot remember, I think it was two, took us up into the woods which was like right angles to the track…

  3. (Part 2)

    Going back to the evidence of searchers Louise Holmes and Paul Chapman during the following exchanges:

    MR KNOX: And what did you then do?

    MS HOLMES: We walked back towards the car. On the way to the car we met three police officers and Paul took them back to show them where the body was, and I went back to the car.

    MR KNOX: Did you meet the police officers in the woods or after you got out of the woods?

    MS HOLMES: No, on the track, just between the woods and the car.

    MR KNOX: What did you tell the police officers?

    MS HOLMES: They identified to us who they were. We said who we were and we were involved in the search and we had found the body, and they went with Paul to see.


    MR DINGEMANS: Did the police attend?

    MR CHAPMAN: Yes, they did.

    MR DINGEMANS.: And did you help them when they had arrived?

    MR CHAPMAN: Yes. As we were going down the path we met three police officers coming the other way that were from CID. We identified ourselves to them. They were not actually aware that (a) the body had been found or we were out searching this area. They I think had just come out on their own initiative to look at the area. I informed them we had found the body and they asked me to take them back to indicate where it was.

    In order to help resolve the above disparities I’d have to ask the following question here. When DC Coe and his companions made their identity known to Paul and Louise did one officer vouch for all three (as being members of CID) (and noting not necessarily of TVP as stated above) or did they each individually identify themselves?

  4. Might PCs Sawyer/Franklin have most likely have recognised the other uniformed officers with DC Coe from work as colleagues within TVP? Is that realistic? How did Vanessa"now" know that one was DC Coe? Had she attended during the morning session when the other PCs gave evidence? Mysteriously DC Coe strangely did not give his evidence until more than a fortnight later (just before pathologist Hunt), surrounded in the batting order by MoD, Intelligence and BBC top brass!