Monday, 4 October 2010

Searchers Louise Holmes and Paul Chapman (3)

In my last entry I had looked at the evidence from Louise Holmes at the Hutton Inquiry, now it's the turn of her search partner Paul Chapman. Unsurprisingly the line of questioning (from Mr Dingemans this time) was not too different from that made by Mr Knox to Louise.

To avoid repetition from my last two posts I won't cover all the detail in Paul's evidence but there are one or two matters that I think are important to highlight. When he was asked about what the search dog Brock had found he answered "The body of a gentleman sitting up against a tree". Three questions later and he repeats his answer with the words "He was sitting with his back up against a tree ..." So we can see there is excellent correlation with the evidence from Louise in which as I have previously reported her words were "a body slumped against the bottom of a tree" and "... his head and his shoulders just slumped back against the tree".

In reply to a question about how close he got to the body Paul says "I probably reached about 15 to 20 metres from it". The previous question from Mr Dingemans was to ask Paul if he could recall what Dr Kelly was wearing to which Paul answered "All I could see from the distance I got was he was wearing a dark jacket and light coloured shirt". Logically with part of his upper body propped up against a tree it is the clothing related to that part of his body rather than his trousers that would be more observable from the distance mentioned.

It was Paul with a mobile phone who made contact with the police (they had to call him back) and the police asked the two searchers to go back down the lane to their car to make a rendezvous with them. However within two or three minutes of the phone call and the searchers setting off for their car they met three police officers coming towards them: these were DC Graham Coe, DC Shields and a third man whose identity is a mystery. When Mr Dingemans queried about how Paul knew they were police officers Paul stated that they had shown him their Thames Valley Police ID. There has been much speculation about who the unnamed third person was but for the purpose of this particular post I will just note that Paul didn't appear to have any problem with the identity of the three men. It seems that they were unaware that the body had been found or even that the searchers had been tasked to look for Dr Kelly.

Quite naturally it was agreed that Paul should go back with the officers to show them the body. In the event, on reaching the access point into the wood, it was decided that DC Coe alone would accompany Paul to the body. It will be noted that there was a very short period of a few minutes in which Dr Kelly's body had no known company and it might just be conceivable that in that narrow time window some "adjustments" were made by a person or persons unknown to for instance the position of the body. This like so many aspects of this business sounds far fetched and if Paul accompanied DC Coe to a point well within sight of the body I believe he would have noticed any significant change in body position.

In a previous post I had noted that the people on the boat moored on the Thames had reported seeing some police activity earlier and I'm just reiterating that bit of information now as it raises further questions about police operations at the time. Some folk I know have wondered about why the boat was moored at that location and believe that there could be some sort of sinister connection with Dr Kelly's death. It seems that the police didn't make any effort to find the 'boat people' but consider this: if they had been involved in any plot connected with Dr Kelly wouldn't they have just upped anchor and left long before the appearance of the searchers and their dog? And it seems bizarre for them to have mentioned any previous police activity near there with the possibility that further investigation could take place as a result of that information. Although the presence of the boat is yet another frustrating loose end in this mystery I can't really believe that those on board were involved in the death of Dr David Kelly.


  1. Unless of course the boat people knew that they wouldn't be quizzed by police or tracked down...(are the boat people the only ones who attest to a helicopter overhead?? I can't remember, though I do remember that , possibly through a FoI request, no warm body had been detected on Harrowdown Hill by Infra Red imaging.
    One more point, Operation Mason was still in full swing when this was happenening and one would have thought that anyone in the area would have come under scrutiny or even warning off by those involved in the operation, whatever it was.
    Even if the boat was part of the operation, I don't think the inhabitants would have had any worries from searchers - just wave a cheery hello and say you have seen police, since sunrise would have been quite early. They have never come forward either. There is also no indication that those involved in operation Mason were involved in his death.

  2. Felix, I thought that I had the "boat people" business sorted out in my own mind but now I'm wondering again! This is partly what this blog is about though - to question one's theories. I would make the point however that we shouldn't make too much of the fact that the boat people haven't come forward, frustrating from our viewpoint but let's face it some people just wouldn't want to become involved no matter how innocent they may be of any wrongdoing.

    Hutton, in chapter 5 of his report, makes no mention of the conversation between the searchers and the boat people, in fact the boat people aren't deemed worthy of mention it seems!

    At some future time I must write a piece about the helicopter search. I'm not sure about this but think there was a discrepancy between the police evidence on the chopper and what was revealed by the FoI request. Yet one more aspect to look at thoroughly!

  3. Again, Paul makes no mention of the half-empty bottle of Evian water, which may or may not have been there at the time. The watch and pruning knife may have been less visible from the distance Dr Kelly was observed by the searchers.
    I do find odd Mrs Kelly's observation (Hutton) that her husband routinely took a pruning knife on walks into the woods for cutting back undergrowth etc., though I would rather use a walking stick for beating back brambles, overhanging fronds an so on. One must believe it,however.

  4. Felix, to be precise I think that you will find that there was an unspecified amount of water left in the Evian bottle. It seems that nobody measured the amount of water left which is surprising considering that DK was alleged to have swallowed 29 co-proxamol tablets. I shall definitely be covering this matter in a later post. Paul, never getting closer to DK's body than 15 to 20 metres, would I agree have good reason not to notice the watch etc but Louise got within a few feet of him.

    As to the knife I have also been puzzled by DK habitually taking it with him particularly bearing in mind its supposed bluntness and his alleged problem with his right arm. Personally my own inclination is to take secateurs (if only I could remember to do so!) but, silly I know, although a walking stick is practical such a stick would make me feel even older than I am! In DK's case I believe that he had the knife from when he was a boy and I can't help thinking that its presence was more for sentimental than practical reasons. DK was a regular walker and had lived in the area for years - he may even have felt it almost a "civic duty" to pare back vegetation where it was getting out of control.

  5. Just a few more thoughts about the knife - if Dr Kelly habitually took it with him on walks, it would of course ,in isolation (aside from all other contradictory or even bizarre evidence), point to suicide. Of course, we don't know he took it with him that day , and in any case Mrs Kelly was turfed out of her house in the middle of the night while her house was searched. Alternatively, if a knife were required to fit the scene, those who may have planted it might not have known it was blunt? Conversely again, if Dr Kelly met his death by other means, would it have been fortuitous that he was carrying a (blunt) Sandvik pruning knife?

  6. I think the GATE which Paul Chapman refers to in his evidence, close to the river and the boat, also appearing on the Geograph photo, is the one which Mr Green examined, inexplicably , for BLOOD!

  7. BRIAN,
    I won't repeat the Hutton Inquiry exchanges here, but I found it a bit strange that the un-named Sergeant at Abingdon Police Station (also, incidentally the Control Centre for Oxfordshire) should encourage the searchers to leave the body and make their way down to their car. They had mobile phone contact to give directions and I would have thought one searcher ought to have stayed close to the body and the other perhaps at the edge of the wood on the track as a guide for the approaching police?

  8. Felix

    The gate you refer to could be the one examined by Mr Green 'I also examined a gate further down the path' Do we interpret 'further down' as being beyond HH? Or 'further down' as being lower down as HH is the high point in the locality in which case it could be a gate passed on the way up.

    It's conceivable that one of the SOCOs noticed what he assumed to be blood staining on a nearby field gate for instance And Mr Green confirmed it wasn't. We just can't be certain from the evidence what gate they are talking about.

  9. Felix

    Good point about why the two searchers were asked to go back to their car. If they were deemed responsible enough to search for a high profile missing person then I'm sure that they were responsible enough to stay with the body. Although it was very unlikely that at that time of day another person would have stumbled on the body the possibility existed and I would have thought Paul say could have stayed with the body and as you point out the other searcher could be out on the path. It makes perfect sense.