Saturday, 2 October 2010

Searchers Louise Holmes and Paul Chapman (1)

The searchers who found the body of Dr David Kelly (DK) were Louise Holmes and Paul Chapman. Perhaps more precisely it was Louise's search dog Brock, a border collie / Australian shepherd cross. Both the searchers were volunteers for the SEBEV Search and Rescue Charity (their website is here). As to their regular employment Louise worked for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People and Paul worked for Prudential at Reading. (NOTE: I am using the past tense of course because I am referring to their occupations at the time they gave evidence to Hutton. They may or may not have these occupations now).

Although in the early morning of 18th July 2003 Abingdon Police Station was gearing up for a number of officers to commence searching for DK it seems that Louise and Paul were being briefed separately from everybody else. Louise states that the briefing was done by a policeman and SEBEV's Control Manager, Neil Knight. They were tasked to search Harrowdown Hill and the continuation of the track that bounds the east side of the wood on the hill the short distance further north to the River Thames. After driving the eight or so miles from Abingdon they arrived at the start of the Search area at about 8 am.

Having parked the car the two of them and Brock searched the track up to Harrowdown Hill, then the southern half of the wood that adorns the Hill before coming out of the wood. Apparently there was a barbed wire fence crossing the middle of the wood which inhibited progress into the northern sector. Having retraced their steps from the southern part of the wood they made the decision to continue with the relatively short walk north to the bank of the River Thames. Although an unfrequented part of the river the dog scented some people there and in fact the searchers came across a boat moored at that particular point. The searchers explained what they were doing and the boat people stated that they had seen a helicopter the previous night.

There is now a slight discrepancy: Louise states that other than the helicopter they had not seen anybody or anything. However Paul, in his evidence to Hutton, says that they had also "seen some police officers at some point previously". I think the variation between the accounts is not a problem. It should be remembered that Louise was working with Brock and it would be understandable if a comment by the boat people passed her by, in fact she says she had a game with him as a reward for finding the people on the boat; my feeling is just that the additional information given to Hutton by Paul had just not been noticed by her.

The searchers now retraced their steps to Harrowdown Hill, went round the northern boundary and then got into the northern part of the wood from the track on the eastern side. The dog was working ahead of them with Paul about five metres behind Louise. Louise recalls at the Inquiry that Brock ran back to her barking - he had found Dr David Kelly.

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