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. 


  1. There were also two forensic biologists plus Scenes of Crime Officers working at the site, (Mr Green and Eileen Hickey,not called to give evidence); certainly the biologists were there for about 5 hours each as I read it. They were the ones who would have collected soil samples and blood staining evidence including, I would expect, elaborate charts showing patterns of blood spraying and so on. There was obviously a vast amount of scientific information and samples taken from around the tree at the top of Harrowdown Hill which has been condensed into, well, a few sentences by Mr Green. Here he is being examined by Mr Dingemans QC:

    "Did you examine the vegetation around the body?

    A. Yes.

    Q. Did you form any conclusions from that examination?

    Mr Green said the "arterial rain" was on the nettles (but not on the clothing, surprisingly)
    Again, SOCO would have taken photos indicating the leaf litter, "a bit like blotting paper" according to Mr Dingemans, and nettles although the photo of Norman Baker against the actual tree seems to contraindicate the picture painted above (although reaching that central part was through more densely greened areas).

    In fact I find much of Mr Green's rambling evidence quite surreal at what might have been a murder scene.

    9 Q. When you arrived at the body, what did you do?
    10 A. Well, basically the start of it is just to have a look
    11 and see -- just to take it all in and make notes and
    12 measurements and try to get some sense of what could
    13 have happened.
    14 Q. How long were you doing that for?
    15 A. It was sort of a gradual process (!!!)
    (My emphasis)

    Mr Green was also reporting to DCI Young what he was seeing and making arrangements for toxicology work that needed to be done . Would that be the remit of a forensic Biologist? Or is he talking about mushroom poisoning? I am perplexed.I thought he was employed by a firm called Forensic Alliance who are used to collect evidence, assess it and provide an opinion, as he said, not to organise toxicology (I assume this to be the work of Mr Allen).

    And now comes the even more surreal part...
    1 Q. Did you spend your whole time looking at the body and
    2 then coming back and making reports?
    3 A. I also examined a gate further down the path.
    4 Q. Right. What did you do that for?
    5 A. I was told that there was a gate there and in case there
    6 might have been any blood staining on there; it was just
    7 a precaution really.
    8 Q. Did you find anything on the gate?
    9 A. No, nothing.

    A shaggy dog story if I ever read one.
    The overall impression I get from Mr Green is someone somewhat unfocussed from his statements at the Hutton Inquiry.(as ACC Page has said, his decision on whether to treat it as suicide or murder depended on the information received from Messrs Green and Hunt)

    And finally, Mr Green announces, following the evidence from the paramedics that there was not much blood at the scene...

    "17 A. Well, there was a fair bit of blood.
    18 LORD HUTTON: There was -- I beg your pardon?
    19 A. A fair bit of blood, my Lord."

    Lord Hutton a seems almost to fall off his chair with shock!

    A "fair bit" then seems to be the assessment pointing to suicide.
    What I find extraordinary is that so much of Mr Green's evidence is not concerned with his core task - gathering and analysing evidence - he talks about assisting with removal of clothing, providing "a steadying hand" ,finding the mobile phone, playing hunt the co-proxamol tablets...
    " A. They were in Dr Kelly's Barbour jacket, my Lord. I have
    2 a photograph --
    3 LORD HUTTON: I think it suffices to have your evidence"
    THIS IS JUST CRACKERS. What on earth is this to do with forensic science?
    If this were evidence being presented for a murder at a Crown Court, it would be torn to shreds and the case thrown out.

  2. Brian -

    You seem to unreservedly accept the paramedics opinions here, over and above that of both Dr Hunt and the forensic biologist, Roy Green, who were plainly working side by side at the scene. Felix has pointed to the fact that Mr Green did state that there was evidence of fairly extensive 'arterial rain' at the scene.

    I would have to ask whether the previous similar experiences of the ambulance crew had occurred in primarily domestic environments. I'm fairly sure that blood staining would be a good deal more obvious in such circumstances, and that this factor may have influenced their opinions to some degree.

    Regarding the possibility of blood soaking into the ground etc, you write that (Oxford) clay is "virtually impermeable to liquids that might otherwise soak into the ground." This statement does not in fact take into account the true nature of this material. Clay consists of fine mineral particles which are generally bound together by the surface tension of the water it contains. What must be remembered is that atmospheric conditions dictate the quantity of water in any clay sample. Given a prolonged dry spell, clay dries out and its overall volume shrinks quite considerably. This gives rise to extensive cracking, splitting and fracturing within its volume, and the formation of large empty voids.

    Both June and the majority of July that year (prior to Dr Kelly's death) were notably hot and dry. Add to this the facts that Harrowdown Hill is the prominent high area locally, no doubt well above the seasonal water table, and is also heavily vegetated, whereby local plant and tree life will be drawing heavily on groundwater to support their prime growing period at this time of the year. Then you do have a situation where there was indeed the possibility for blood to disappear (at least from the immediate view of someone at the scene) into the ground.

    For the opinion of the erudite commentator to be full correct, they would have to visit the hill at not only the same time of the year as Dr Kelly was found there, but also following a similar period of notably dry and hot weather conditions.

  3. Andrew, I take your point about the ambulance crew perhaps being more familiar with arterial bleeding in a domestic environment and had actually wondered about this! I made an assumption, possibly not justified, that the ambulance crew had fully considered the possibility of blood loss that wasn't readily visible in the sort of unenclosed environment that Harrowdown Hill presented. Following their visit to HH they would have had a lot of time to mull over the question of blood loss before appearing in front of Hutton.

    So far as I am aware Dr Hunt made no assessment of blood lost from or retained in Dr Kelly's body. As I have indicated before to do that accurately may not be easy but seeing what he considered to be a lot of blood around just isn't adequate back up to his assertion that severing the ulnar artery was the primary cause of death. I can't buy into that.

    Personally I still have greater faith in the judgement of the ambulance crew than Dr Hunt!

  4. Gentlemen,

    Have a wee look at Nicholas Hunt's postmortem report.

    Top of page 5. Hunt seems to assert a "pool of blood" about 2-3 FEET long!!

    Compare with Mr. Green's evidence. He seems to be struggling to avoid saying, "Well there wasn't a lot of blood really."

    Also Vanessa Hunt spotted some blood spotting on the nettles. So she spotted blood on the nettles but still says there wasn't much blood. Good observation, I suggest.