Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The moving of Dr David Kelly's body

It will be noticed in the title heading to this post I am implying as a fact that the dead body of Dr David Kelly was moved after it was first discovered on the morning of 18th July 2003.  I am stating this not as a possibility, nor a probability, but as a fact, to me as much of a fact as seeing the sun rise in the east and set in the west.

That the fact that Dr Kelly's body had been moved by a person or persons unknown after its discovery by search dog Brock shortly before 9.20 am does not in itself prove that Dr Kelly's death was something other than suicide.  It does obviously beg the question though: why was it moved?

Let's look at the evidence submitted by the individual witnesses at the Hutton Inquiry, to which I will add my own bits of commentary where relevant.

Louise Holmes
Following the evidence of the search dog's discovery of the body of Dr Kelly these were the exchanges:
MR KNOX: What did you see?
MS HOLMES: I could see a body slumped against the bottom of a tree, so I turned around and shouted to Paul to ring Control and tell them that we had found something and then went closer to just see whether there was any first aid that I needed to administer.
MR KNOX: And how close up to the body did you go?
MS HOLMES: Within sort of a few feet of the body.
MR KNOX: And did you notice anything about the position of the body?
MS HOLMES: He was at the base of the tree with almost his head and his shoulders just slumped back against the tree.
A little further on is this exchange:

MR KNOX: I take it you did not actually go up to the body itself and feel the pulse?
MS HOLMES: I did not touch it, no. 

Ms Holmes can be seen on this video (scroll to about 6.32) confirming what she saw and what she said at the Inquiry.  Note that she had got to within a few feet of the body and that it wasn't just Dr Kelly's head against the tree but his shoulders as well.

Paul Chapman
These are the relevant exchanges:
MR DINGEMANS.: Did you see what Brock the dog had found?
MR DINGEMANS.: And what was that?
MR CHAPMAN: The body of a gentleman sitting up against a tree.
MR DINGEMANS.: And can you recall what he was wearing?
MR CHAPMAN: All I could see from the distance I got was he was wearing a dark jacket and light coloured shirt.
MR DINGEMANS.: And how close did you get to the body?
MR CHAPMAN: I probably reached about 15 to 20 metres from it.
MR DINGEMANS.: Could you see anything at all?
MR CHAPMAN: He was sitting with his back up against a tree and there was an obvious injury to his left arm.
MR DINGEMANS.: An obvious injury to his left arm. What was that injury?
MR CHAPMAN: In as far as it was all covered in blood.
So we have Mr Chapman using the words "sitting up against a tree" and then "sitting with his back up against a tree".  This again is absolutely clear that it is more than Dr Kelly's head against the tree.  We must remember too that Paul also would have seen the body a little later because in his evidence he says  "I took DC Coe in to show him where the body was."  Another point that perhaps others haven't noticed was his answer about what Dr Kelly was wearing: "a dark jacket and light coloured shirt". From the distance of 15 to 20 metres what was in his near vertical line of sight would have registered rather better than the part of the body in contact with the ground.

DC Coe  
Here is the exchange with Mr Knox:
MR KNOX: And how was the body positioned?
COE: 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. 
It can be seen there is absolutely no mention here of the head or any part of the body up against the tree - "the head is towards the trunk of the tree".  We have the situation then of DC Coe and Mr Chapman looking at the same scene simultaneously when the former was shown the body by the latter.  It is quite clear from the testimony that DC Coe was physically shown the body, it wasn't a case of them getting to the edge of the wood and Mr Chapman pointing DC Coe in the right direction.  To my mind it is absolutely impossible to reconcile the descriptions of the body position by these two witnesses.

PC Franklin
MR DINGEMANS: And what did you see there?
POLICE CONSTABLE DEAN FRANKLIN: We walked between 50 and 70 metres into the wood up a slight gradient, and in a clearing at the base of a tree was the body of a white male.
MR DINGEMANS: Do you recall what was being worn?
POLICE CONSTABLE DEAN FRANKLIN: I believe he had a blue jacket on, a white coloured shirt and blue denim jeans.
MR DINGEMANS: And what was his position?
POLICE CONSTABLE DEAN FRANKLIN: He was lying on his back with his right hand to his side and his left hand was sort of inverted with the palm facing down (Indicates), facing up on his back.

PC Sawyer 
MR KNOX: Before the paramedics approached Dr Kelly's body, can you remember what position it was in?
POLICE CONSTABLE SAWYER: Lying on its back with its head at the base of a tree, a large tree. The head was tilted to the left. The right arm was by the side. The left arm was palm down. There was a large amount of blood on the back of the left arm. There was a watch and a curved knife by that wrist. 

Both these two policemen refer to the tree but don't indicate that the head or any other part of the anatomy were up against the tree.

Vanessa Hunt (Paramedic)
MR DINGEMANS : And when you got into the wooded area, what did you see?
MS HUNT: There was a male on his back, feet towards us. 

David Bartlett (Ambulance Technician)
MR KNOX : What did you then come across?
MR BARTLETT: They led us up to where the body was laid, feet facing us, laid on its back, left arm out to one side (indicates) and the right arm across the chest. 

The ambulance crew were as close to the body as anyone could be but there is no mention at all of any part of Dr Kelly's body up against a tree.  Later, in talking to the media, Mr Bartlett was to say that Dr Kelly's body was well clear of the tree as you can read here  I also think that Rowena Thursby had ascertained the same information from Mr Bartlett at some earlier time.

Dr Nicholas Hunt (Forensic pathologist)
Could you describe the position of the body at the scene?
MR HUNT: Yes, certainly. He was laying on his back near a tree. The left arm was extended out from the body slightly, closer to shoulder level, his right arm was laying across his chest area and his legs were extended out straight in front of him.
MR KNOX: I take it from what you just said he was laying on his back?
MR HUNT: He was, yes.
MR KNOX: Was any part of his body actually touching the tree; can you recall?
MR HUNT: I recall that his head was quite close to branches and so forth, but not actually over the tree.

Lord Hutton was obviously aware of the concern regarding apparent difference in body position as testified by different witnesses.  This is what he says in his report: 

"I have seen a photograph of Dr Kelly's body in the wood which shows that most of his body was lying on the ground but that his head was slumped against the base of the tree - therefore a witness could say either that the body was lying on the ground or slumped against the tree."

So that's all right then!  Except of course it isn't.  His Lordship's statement is quite vague as to its content.  Is the photograph one of the many taken by PC Sawyer at the scene?  In which case it being an official photo would have had a time and date stamp on it for sure with the camera set to do this automatically.  Perhaps Paul Chapman, who we know had a mobile phone with him, had a camera facility on the phone and sneaked a picture when he showed DC Coe the body.  I would suspect not but who knows.  Certainly Lord Hutton's statement doesn't resolve the issue.  At heart here (to me) are the statements by Paul Chapman and DC Coe and I consider them irreconcilable. 


  1. Did Louise Holmes check for signs of life? (Yes - No)

    Did Paul Chapman check for signs of life? (Yes - No)

    Is it possible that the first officers at the scene become aware that no-one had checked for signs of life? (Yes - No - Don't know)

    Might they then have decided to check for signs of life? (Yes - No - Maybe)

    To do this might they have had to move the body? (Yes - No - Maybe - Don't know)

    Did Lord Hutton read all the evidence? (Yes - No)

    Did he decide to protect the Kelly family from unnecessary detail as far as he could? (Yes - No - Maybe)

    Did he skim over unnecessary detail? (Yes - No)

    Were witnesses aware of Lord Hutton's protocol? (Yes - No - Maybe)

    Was anyone under oath before Lord Hutton? (Yes - No)

    Did they know they were not under oath (Yes - No)

    Were they then not free to offer an expedited version of the truth? (Yes - No - Maybe - Don't know)

    If this happened, is this important to, and does it affect, the overall conclusion? (Yes - No - Maybe - Don't know)

  2. Andrew, I appreciate you playing 'devil's advocate' - it helps stop me running away with my deductions when alternative explanations are available even when they are extremely far fetched. But I must take you up on your first two questions in particular.

    In these two questions you ask if either of the two volunteer searchers had checked for signs of life. Of course we can only make our judgements from their testimonies at the inquiry. Not being under oath would allow them more space to lie if they had that in mind. But the glaringly obvious question to me is "What would be in it for them to lie?" Let us assume for a moment that one or other of them did check for signs of life - this wouldn't be a hanging offence, in fact if Louise Holmes said she had checked Dr Kelly's right wrist for a pulse or tried for an eyelid reaction nobody would have condemned her for that so absolutely no motive for being untruthful. We have to remember too that these are searchers from a highly respected and highly trained volunteer organisation not a couple of ramblers stumbling on the body. The combination of their training and having no axe to grind convinces me that their evidence is as reliable as any if not more so.

    We surely have to accept what they say is in good faith. Unlike as in the instance of DC Coe there is a good deal of explicit questioning of the two searchers. Assuming their total honesty then it is clear that neither touched the body and that when DC Coe reached the body it was in the position originally observed by the volunteers. The only alternative scenario I can think of is that when the two volunteers made their way out of the wood to walk back down to their car someone nipped out from behind the bushes, adjusted the position of the body and that Paul failed to notice this when he returned to the wood to point out the body to DC Coe. I don't know if you think that this is either likely or possible.

    I'm intrigued by your questions about being under oath. I had thought and I assumed everyone else likewise that nobody was under oath. Surely the ground rules, including the fact that they weren't under oath, would have been explained to witnesses before appearing before his Lordship and counsel.

    We don't know whether or not the two searchers had ever been in this evidence giving position and it's just possible that they thought they were under oath although as previously mentioned I'm sure that they would know and understand this. If they thought they were under oath then that would only reinforce the accuracy of their statements. As to all the others giving evidence regarding the body position, the nature of their professions indicates to me that they would be very aware they weren't giving evidence under oath.

    In considering the questions you have raised my judgement about the movement of Dr Kelly's body is in no way diminished.

    I know that following an earlier post you had gently pointed out that the times attached to posts and comments weren't our local times. Agreed, and in fact I was aware of this! I must admit in setting up the blog in the first place I had forgotten to adjust for British time. When the clocks change this weekend I'll alter the time setting for new blog entries and comments accordingly.

  3. "I have no power to swear witnesses
    and the witnesses will not be sworn." (Hutton opening statement)
    But read here...
    7 MR DINGEMANS: Professor Hawton, please.
    What does this mean?

    I was a little surprised that Mr Dingemans did not ask Ms Holmes what Dr Kelly was wearing, because she (corroborated by Paul) got a much closer view

    I myself discovered a body on a footpath last winter about 6am, showing no signs of life. My first reaction was to say something to the man to try to get his attention. I did not get a response, so I kicked his shoe,not wanting to interfere with anything. . Still no response (I thought at this point he had been murdered or badly injured, or could have committed suicide even) I did this again, and he stirred, as he was very drunk, so there was no need to contact the police. But there again, I was not looking for anyone and if I had had a police briefing, I would not have approached the body, only reported what I had found. But I think it reasonable that the searchers would have called out to Dr Kelly,but not touched the body, because he was known to be missing and they had police backup.

    That someone with such a sharp mind as Lord Hutton could state what he said in the penultimate italicised paragraph above is quite extraordinary.

  4. Brian -

    I think you've already answered your own question about my first two questions. As far as someone nipping out of a bush to move the body is concerned, I think this is unlikely in the extreme. You simply have to ask the question - Why would they do this? There really isn't an reason for this that I can easily see.

    When it comes to oaths, or the lack of them, I was thinking more of DC Coe than the searchers. As you've noted before, his evidence seemed to be perfunctory and less than full. My own view is that he tried to keep everything as simple as possible, I believe for the protectionist reasoning as outlined by Lord Hutton himself.

    I can also see that this may have been the reasoning for not calling DCI Young, the SOCO's and the other two officers to attend the inquiry in person. I think Hutton simply didn't want to extend the hearings for an extra couple of days publicly covering gory details beyond that which he considered to be minimally necessary to establish his overall findings.

    In examining the facts above as you have, you've perhaps overlooked another detail relating to possible movement of Dr Kelly's body which is perhaps more telling. This relates to the position of his right (undamaged) arm.

    Louise Holmes - "His right arm was to the side of him."

    Paul Chapman - (no particular comment)

    DC Coe - (no particular comment)

    PC Franklin - "He was lying on his back with his right hand to his side..."

    PC Sawyer - "The right arm was by the side."

    Vanessa Hunt - "The only part of the body we moved was Dr Kelly's right arm, which was over the chest, to facilitate us to place the fourth lead on to the chest. It was just lifted slightly from the body."

    Dave Barlett - (In answer to Mr Knox's question - What about the right arm?) "That was across the chest, palm down."

    Dr Hunt - "His left arm was towards his side and his right arm was over his chest area."

    How do we square away the potential difference between PC's Franklin and Sawyer's evidence and that of Ms Hunt and Mr Bartlett? Witness on either side of the timescale confirm one or other account, bur being as all four mentioned here arrived at the scene practically simultaneously there appears to be a notable contradiction.

    Perhaps the officers giving evidence to Hutton, as they did directly after the searchers had given theirs, did not want to contradict what had just been said. Perhaps their evidence was reviewed before their appearance, and was then erroneously aligned with that of Louise Holmes. I don't know either way, but would suggest that the only reason for this anomaly would be the fact that someone had checked for a pulse, and had then lain the arm down again as gently and respectfully as they could, although it didn't then re-arrive at its precise original position.

  5. Felix -

    Perhaps Professor Hawton himself wanted to give sworn evidence, made this known, and then was offered a bible to do so.

    About Ms Holmes not being asked about Dr Kelly's clothing, the facts about these are well established by other evidence and do not appear to be seriously contested (noting that I don't consider early news reports as affirmative proof of anything in particular). Was it really necessary to question each and every witness about this relatively minor aspect?

    Regarding Lord Hutton's statement - did he not simply seek to mitigate the effect of what was most likely (as he saw it) an insignificant contradiction?

  6. Felix -

    (BTW it was Mr Knox who questioned Ms Holmes, not Mr Dingemans.)

  7. Thanks, Andrew, for the correction.
    I only asked about the clothing because Louise approached very close to the body, and Paul was 15-20m away, and was interviewed after Louise. In any case, PC Franklin was asked the same question - I guess he approached quite close. Certainly photographs were taken.
    However, I can't agree that Lord Hutton would have seen the contradition in position as insignificant although he may have wanted to gloss over it.

  8. Felix -

    You're welcome to corrections, we all make errors and mistakes, there are a few in my own last post (notably Witness instead of Witnesses at one point plus a couple of other typos), so please feel free to correct me likewise if I inadvertently misrepresent the record.

    I was starting to think you were starting to get a little fixated about the clothing, being as in another thread you commented about Ruth Absalom and still maintained that "it doesn't seem like mid-afternoon weather for walking in a waxed barbour jacket and cap", when Ms Absalom actually stated he was wearing a jacket when she saw him. To me, some of these issues are slightly tangential, and don't really have any overall significance as far as I can see. For example, whether his cap was in his pocket or on his head at the time of their meeting is a complete irrelevance as far as I'm concerned.

    Where you say - "However, I can't agree that Lord Hutton would have seen the contradition in position as insignificant although he may have wanted to gloss over it.", I guess this comes down a judgement call by him. It might not be as you or I see things, but nevertheless I do think of it as something I can only have a lesser view of, being as I didn't get to see all of the evidence presented.

    If, as Brian notes, I am playing devil's advocate here, I would have to ask those who see these anomalies as being something requiring further investigation as to what exactly these differences and variations in the evidence could possibly suggest?

  9. Thank you Andrew and Felix for your continued input, in fact you are raising so many issues of interest to consider that I don't think I will have time for a new post today!

    Felix, I had forgotten about Professor Hawton being "sworn". I have always assumed, as Andrew is suggesting, that the Professor made a request to give evidence under oath. The thing that fascinates me about this is that he would be one of the last people in my opinion to need to give evidence under oath in as much as most of his evidence is that of his professional opinion rather than enumerating factual events.

    Your speculation Andrew as to why certain what I would consider key witnesses weren't called
    is interesting. Of course this is the trouble with the Inquiry: we are left to speculate on a number of things. I think Lord Hutton had explained how he wanted to get the inquiry up running and finished as soon as possible. That's all very well, but my own opinion is that it is more important to do a thorough job and not skip things.

    I must admit that I was perhaps at fault not bracketing the matter of the right arm position with movement of the body overall. I was certainly aware that there were discrepancies in evidence about the right arm although I couldn't remember just what they were without checking the Hutton transcripts. Anyway you have saved me a post on that subject! One major headache with this blog is how long to make individual posts a problem made worse by so many individual strands of the affair overlapping with each other.

  10. Andrew - you use the word fixated about me. Yes I am in general! I think you might have guessed that I find all the unresolved issues here compulsory : all the human behaviour patterns, the political and intelligence background to the case and the extraordinary ongoing saga of the strangest suicide (in my opinion, of course) in the public domain in my lifetime. I would not expect you to agree on that, but I think you may agree that Brian is doing an excellent job of analysing what ought to have been done and asked by much brighter minds than mine in September 2003.

  11. One question, yet to be asked never asked is - what was the personal relationship between Louise Holmes and the police officers - and what bearing, if any, did that have on their testomony?

  12. Anonymous

    According to Norman Baker's book Louise Holmes was the girlfriend of PC Sawyer. One of the big problems with the Inquiry of course is that we don't know how well the written statements of witnesses match what they then said at the Inquiry. Take DC Coe for instance: at the Inquiry he is just with DC Shields, but would he have said that in his police witness statement - I wouldn't have thought so!

    Back to Ms Holmes. It seems that on the same day as the discovery of Dr Kelly she returned to Abingdon to make a statement. PCs Sawyer and Franklin were at Harrowdown Hill from about 10 am onwards and I would imagine that the witness statement from Ms Holmes wouldn't have suffered any cross contamination. That she and PC Sawyer had more than one conversation about Dr Kelly before the inquiry I don't doubt.

    I went through the evidence of the volunteers at the Inquiry in some detail earlier in this blog. There seemed to be good correlation between their accounts I thought. Ms Holmes didn't appear to notice the remark from the boat people regarding an earlier police presence, something that Paul Chapman spoke about. I put that down to her attending to her dog Brock whereas Paul would have been paying greater attention to what people were saying in my opinion.