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.


  1. The Scotsman article to which NB makes reference is here:

    The key sections are as follows:

    Paul Weaver, a farmer, was possibly the last person to see the scientist alive, as he made his way alone along a country footpath at the edge of his farm. It was shortly after 3pm when the sighting was made.


    Susan Melling, a neighbour, said the farmer, Mr Weaver, knocked on their door and her husband joined him in the search party.

    "Mr Weaver called around and told us what had happened," she said. "He said that he had seen Dr Kelly on his walk on Thursday afternoon because he was near his farmland at the time.

    "He was seen on the other side of the A420 road which runs just north of the village. My husband told me they would be searching all the way to the village of Longworth, which was the nearest village to where he was heading."

    The search went on into the early hours, before it was resumed after daylight yesterday, with a team of 70 joining the operation organised by Thames Valley Police.

    It must be noted that the Guardian also published a similar account on that same day, i.e. the day before the Observer piece saw the light of day.

    The key sections here are:

    Paul Weaver, a farmer, may have been the last person to see him, as the scientist walked through farmland to the north of the A420, a few minutes from his home. Dr Kelly seemed happy enough and smiled at the farmer.


    During the late afternoon and early evening Mrs Kelly began asking around the village. Mr Weaver heard that Dr Kelly had vanished and phoned a councillor, John Melling, to tell him where he had seen Dr Kelly. The pair began searching the fields, footpaths and lanes between Southmoor and the village of Longworth. They found no trace of their friend.

    It would seem at first sight that both newspapers had reporters visiting Southmoor to collect background information for their respective stories, although this coverage possibly could have been done by phone. For example both accounts feature statements by Steve Ward, landlord of the Hind's Head pub in Abingdon, although these vary in detail, one relating to the last time Dr Kelly was seen in person and one relating to a phone call he made.

    I suppose it is always possible that one of the stories was (partly?) cribbed from the other, but there is now no exact way of determining whether this happened or not or even which way around this may have occurred. It is to be noted that the both accounts contain significant inaccuracies, in so far as they claim that Dr Kelly had left his home (S) "without a coat" and (G) "in just a cotton shirt and jeans", where in reality (according to Mr Green and Mr Hunt before Hutton) it seems he was actually wearing a green Barbour type wax jacket. Also, as you mention, the Guardian has the body of Dr Kelly being found face down, where the Scotsman has his body being found "curled up in a ball".

    All in all it is very hard to now reconcile these differing accounts. Whether or not they materially affect the overall picture remains to be seen. All I can really add is that in my own various life experiences a definitive version of specific events does not always seem to be perfectly achievable.

  2. Thanks very much indeed Andrew for the links and for quoting some relevant parts of the articles. It's interesting that Scotsman, Guardian and Observer all get Mr Weaving's name wrong, all calling him Mr Weaver (Weaver I would think is the more common name - in my local phone book there are 18 Weavers as opposed to 4 Weavings)

    You have reinforced my argument about inaccuracies in the press reports. So far as what Dr Kelly was wearing is concerned how did they come by this information. If the police had supplied them with any details surely the jacket would have been mentioned.

    Another curious thing is that the press have reports of friends of Dr Kelly searching for him whereas Mrs Kelly at the Inquiry just mentions two of her daughters trying to find him prior to the police being contacted. Even though it must have been draining for Mrs Kelly to give so much evidence I would have thought that Mr Dingemans might have asked if others were looking for her husband. And why didn't he ask her if she had tried to contact DK on his mobile.

  3. I can easily see that the planning for the Hutton questioning only focused on what were seen to be the crucial points in establishing the key narrative. Other more minor details may have been overlooked or not seen as being important enough to warrant being brought up at the hearings. Certainly Rachel Kelly states in her evidence that she had tried to phone him on the evening that he went missing. She said she couldn't reach him, presumably this was because he had turned his phone off. Beyond this knowledge, would they really have wanted to question Mrs Kelly on the same delicate point when they already almost certainly knew what her reply would be?

  4. If the press thought that Mr Weaving had seen Dr Kelly, then one might assume that the police knew that too and that he would have been interviewed (he would know that, unless he was told not to say so!), so the reported email to Ms Thursby appears at variance. So Mr Weaving might have been expected to be called as a witness by Lord Hutton.
    The kernel of the investigation ought to have been finding the last movements of Dr Kelly;thus the alleged sighting by Mr Weaving seems to me to be important. Regarding Andrew's point about not asking the same question to witnesses, one might say what is the point of Lord Hutton asking people to identify themselves when it was obvious who they were.
    For example...
    Could you tell his Lordship your full name.
    8 A. Yes, my Lord. I am Andrew Mackinlay (Hutton Inquiry, 26 August 2003)
    I don't think it is a "delicate" point to have asked Mrs Kelly about a possible phone caee - rather a routine and somewhat obvious one.
    Indeed from my limited experience of courts,
    during cross examination (as I have been under myself once) remarkably obvious and predictable answers are dragged out of witnesses for the record- though of course they would be under oath, unlike in this case.

    Brian , I have one further point to make, regarding what Dr Kelly was wearing. I don't know the weather conditions (there is an uncorroborated mention of rain dampened fields) but that part of July was in a heatwave , as noted in this peer reviewed paper, coincidentally about suicides,(see Episode Analysis and Figure 3b)
    which shows a high mean Met Office temperatures for central england of about 19 degress around the time of Dr Kelly's death. I guess this is averaged over 24 hours. That Dr Kelly was wearing a barbour coat might have been seen as extremely odd on a mid-summer afternoon and the first thing which would have been noticed by Ms Absalom or Mr Weaving. I guess the Met Office would have accurate records of maximum and minimu temperature and rainfall for the area.

    One further comment on Andrew's well made points : the Guardian and Observer had come together in 1993 so some collusion between them is not improbable.(based then in Farringdon Road - no relation to the one with single R in Dr Kelly's home village!)

    Having tried to read as much as possible on this,to me, compulsive case, it does seem as if the narrow remit of the enquiry precluded a proper investigation of whether or not there was a more complex background to the simple suicide walk which seemed to be a "given" before the Inquiry into events "leading upto" the death of Dr Kelly commenced.

  5. Just quickly on Felix's point about Lord Hutton asking people to identify themselves - I myself gave evidence to a similar inquiry a few years ago - not only was I asked to identify myself but I was formally asked for my home address too - which has now become part of the public record. I don't think that there is anything particularly unusual in this.

    I do think that the way that the Hutton process took place with several witnesses being scheduled for the same session led to a curtailment of wider questioning. Unlike an ordinary court case, where a witness would not be dismissed until both the prosecution and the defence sides had completed their duties, this inquiry seemed to have a much stricter timetable. I can see that in some instances witnesses gave evidence in 'chunks', with other witnesses giving theirs in between times. I very much agree that the whole investigation (as far as Lord Hutton was concerned) seemed to be working towards a pretty much pre-determined outcome.

  6. Brian

    I notice a two-page (?) witness statement to TVP, document no. TVP/3/0098 - 0099 which was submitted to the Hutton Inquiry NOT FOR RELEASE by TVP, minute to Paul Wearing (sic) This is obviously Paul Weaving.
    Perhaps other witness statements which were also not released concerned further sightings of Dr Kelly on 17/7/03?

  7. Felix

    Yes I had noticed the minute to Paul Wearing but I had dismissed it as not relevant to our man. If the "r" and "v" adjoined on the Qwerty keyboard one might assume a typo, the other thing is that this is a 'minute to', the police wouldn't be writing a 'minute to' a witness.

    Who Paul Wearing is I have no idea but nothing to do with Paul Weaving!

  8. Brian - there are other typos in the witness statements.
    An AP - Associated Press - writer , Beth Gardiner filed a story at 16.00hr ET (21.00 hrs Saturday 19 July 2003 which mentioned but did not name Weaving:
    "He told his wife he was taking a walk. A local farmer said Kelly smiled as he passed."