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.      


  1. What we don't know is whether the ambulance crew travelled all the way to the scene with lights and siren going. This would have almost certainly reduced their transit time. The evidence shows that initially they only knew they were attending a male patient, and that at some point on their journey they were updated to inform them further:

    MS HUNT: On the way we were given some more information on our data screens.

    MR DINGEMANS: What did that say?

    MS HUNT: It just said that we were attending the address -- Harrowdown Hill in Longworth for a male believed to be a kilo 1 which is actually deceased, and the Thames Valley Police were on the scene.

    So being as they hadn't reached the scene and may well have been rapidly closing on PC Sawyer and his companions in the Land Rover, who only got there a couple of minutes or so ahead of them, it's not too much of a stretch of the imagination to suggest that the mentioned officers on the scene were actually DC Coe and those with him.

    As they were from CID, they would have reported to their next-concerned senior officer, who may well have been DI Smith. Quite likely they have had a separate reporting method (rather than using the control room) and may in fact have used mobiles rather than radio to speak to CID directly.

    The update must have come about from some new information being received, so I would suggest that DC Coe or one of his colleagues did promptly report their finding, and this then confirmed the searcher's initial report. Beyond this I would have thought that they would have had to ask for further instructions and advice in any case.

    As for the timescales themselves, they all seem to be within the scale of +/- 5 minutes or so. I don't really know if this can be considered to be a reasonable margin of error these days, given that a lot of people rely of phones rather than watches and don't very often readjust them.

    Assuming the time of discovery was say 9:15 (redirected calls etc) rather than 9:20 (ACC Page) and that we don't know how far down the path the searchers met the first three officers, then 9:25 - 9:35 seems to be about the window for the CID officers to report to Abingdon. It may have been that the ambulance service was notified as a result of their report, and being as only minimal details were given, initially they departed as a full emergency, when in fact the intention had been to send the ambulance crew for the role of formal confirming of death only, not in the expectation of finding a live patient, in which case their wouldn't have been quite such a rush.

    Is there something in these timings that anyone sees as suspicious in any way? Or are we just demonstrating here that Lord Hutton held a less-than-completely-informative inquiry?

  2. Andrew, going to your last sentence first I would suggest that there is no doubt that Lord Hutton held a less than completely informative inquiry!! There is a lot of information I'm adding for completeness though which may turn out to be not really suspicious at all.

    My own feeling is that, as you suggest, the TVP on scene were DC Coe and his companions rather than any other police. I had thought too that reporting method of detectives might not have been through the control room and here I get the impression that maybe CID were operating somewhat independently of the uniform police. I suspect that situation isn't too uncommon!

    The searchers had been directed to return to their car to await arrival of the police. Paul Chapman states it was 2 or 3 minutes after making his phone call that he and Louise bumped into DC Coe and his companions. They walked back up to the wood and, as you know it was just DC Coe that went with Paul into the wood to be shown the body. I don't have any problem with the fact that DC Coe or one of the others would have phoned or radioed Abingdon at the earliest possible moment, I would have expected that in fact.

    What I don't quite understand is the scenario that you painted that the ambulance was ordered as a result of DC Coe's report. Before Coe had made contact with base I would have thought that all hell would have broken loose and the ambulance ordered and a fast response police car sent.

    Abingdon is only 7 or 8 miles I think from Harrowdown Hill and control and people like ACC Page would be very familiar with its location particularly as HH was very much a target area for police to search. What is surprising is that when the ambulance took off at 9.40 only the rather basic information that they were asked to "mobilise towards Southmoor" was available at that time, the police didn't need to await a report from DC Coe to pinpoint where the ambulance had to go.

  3. Re the scenario - well, this comes about if one of the three first at the scene said to his CID reporting officer something along the lines of "please send an ambulance". The reporting officer would then have had to ask whether one had already been sent, and there could only have been two possible answers.

    Given that some small time took for information to pass through the system, and that Paul Chapman communicated by a roundabout route, it is possible that calling one immediately was overlooked for a few minutes with no-one realising that one hadn't been sent.

  4. Andrew, I'm afraid I have to disagree with your reasoning in this instance. Paul Chapman and Louise Holmes had started their trek back towards their car before meeting DC Coe, I think that is agreed. The searchers were going back to where they were parked as already instructed by the police. By the time they had started their walk back ACC Page would be in the loop and I would have expected him to have barked out something like "Ambulance. To Harrowdown Hill. NOW!" It would have been several minutes from him knowing about DK's body being found to the info coming into Abingdon from DC Coe or one of his colleagues.

    Once again Hutton has failed by not ascertaining if DC Coe or one of his team had contacted Abingdon and also the time of the message which ought to have been on a log somewhere, although I agree with you that it is quite possible that any call from DC Coe etc may have arrived by a different route.

  5. I can't add anything to the above, except note perhaps that additional route directions might have been given en route regarding reaching the access lane to Longworth. I note that the Patient Reporting Form , the PRF, for the ambulance call out would have contained all the relevance information to clarify the above unambiguously and that it (and the alleged copies of it which are made routinely at the time according to a comment on the article) has gone MISSING as reported here in the Daily Mail.

  6. Perhaps the PRF has gone missing precisely because it would expose the fact that there was a regretable delay in calling the ambulance out.

    From the record we know that Paul couldn't get in touch with his own control because the phones were still switched to answer machine. There's nothing to suggest that SEBEVs control base was actually located in Abingdon police station - so it seems that an important step may have been left out of the process. I would think that SOP would dictate that it was the duty of SEBEV's control to call an ambulance upon receipt of a report of a find by the searchers whilst they were engaged in a search.

    If this was the scenario then perhaps Lord Hutton just smoothed over the fact - so as to prevent embarrasment etc to TVP as well as to forstall any sort of further controversy arising.

    From the record we know that ACC Page was in a briefing room at Abingdon at about this time, so he was not necessarily in the control room:

    MR DINGEMANS: We have also heard from them, Ms Holmes and Mr Chapman, how they came across the body. When did you hear about that?

    ACC PAGE: I think within seconds of the information coming in to us but the time I have is that it was 9.20.

    MR DINGEMANS: Where were you at the time?

    ACC PAGE: I was in the briefing room at Abingdon police station.

    He seems to have been very busy at this point in time, and may have not realised the fact that the ambulance hadn't been called, so I still maintain that there could have been a minor procedural breakdown which prevented its prompt call-out.