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.