Friday, 22 October 2010

Time of formal identification of Dr Kelly

Anyone looking at the pathologists report now on the internet isn't in for a comfortable read. To put times into perspective we see that Dr Hunt's examination of Dr Kelly on site extended well into the evening and that it wasn't until 19.35 that he was logged out of the police outer cordon at Harrowdown Hill.  Having initially arrived at about midday I imagine he was very much in need of sustenance before starting the grisly task of wielding the knife at the mortuary of the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.  We learn from his report that the post-mortem commenced at 21.20 hours.  From a logical point of view it would seem that at some time prior to 21.20 Mrs Kelly would be taken to the mortuary to confirm that the body is indeed that of her husband.

In my naivety I had imagined that any examination of internal organs would be confined to areas below the neck.  Not so in this instance as confirmed by what is written on page 8 of the report.  I am not going to discuss the anatomical detail revealed in the internal examination some of which I don't understand anyway.  Suffice to say what would be visible of Dr Kelly's head for a relative to identify would be much diminished and extremely upsetting.

I don't know if it is ever normal for the identification to be done following the post-mortem but in this instance there must have ample time for Mrs Kelly to complete this onerous task on the previous evening.  But, and this is absolutely extraordinary, on page 3 of Norman Baker's book we are told that Mrs Kelly accompanied by one of her daughters is taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital on the following day (Saturday) to formally identify her late husband and that the time of identification was 11.25.  I have to assume that the time quoted by NB is a matter of official record.

Here is another interesting fact regarding activities that Saturday:  PC Sawyer in his evidence to Hutton relates that he and a search team start a search at the Kelly premises at 11.05 which I imagine is close to the time that Mrs Kelly would have left for Oxford although I would think that her other daughter at least would have been still at the house.  It is all very peculiar.   


  1. As you say Brian, the report(s) now available do not make for easy reading. And to be frank, given the time now to read and consider them for myself, I think Ken Clarke made a fairly big mistake in releasing them to the wider world in the way he did.

    It was the two separate doctors groups who really forced the government's hand in this, the first one latterly, and IMO it should have been those professional individuals who received these documents in the first instance. One thing that I'd hoped that I'd be able to do before this was to read the doctors submissions (including one, going by memory, of 27 pages) that they had previously addressed to the Justice Ministry.

    Unfortunately, they chose not to release their combined opinion publicly, just as the ministry would not release to them these documents, and instead the doctors then sought to obtain (the first step towards) a new inquest through the High Court. According to the Telegraph, they were hoping to do this back in the second week of September this year. I haven't seen or read anything to suggest that the matter had actually got to court, so I am assuming that the Justice Minister's decision is a reaction aimed at heading off any such future litigation.

    Whether what has now happened will change anything regarding the full knowledge of Dr Kelly's untimely fate remains to be seen. But as far as the legal process is concerned, the decision to release the papers is something that I believe should have been decided by the established court system, even if it had to go all the way to the top.

    This decision now sets an enormous precedent, and raises important questions about a person's own human rights as defined in law, particularly after they become deceased, not to mention those of their loved ones whilst they remain alive.

    For the record, Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is upheld by the Human Rights Act 1998, states:

    1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

    2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

    I personally believe that this right has been overstepped on several different levels in this instance. I know it's a stupid thing to say, but I wouldn't have liked it if this had happened to me.

    It doesn't make me proud to think of myself as someone with an close interest in this case to have been a part of the wider reasoning for the release of the documents. But I cannot deny that I was, as we all are here, part of the ongoing 'public interest' surrounding this affair.

    I feel especially sorry for (and indeed towards) the Kelly family tonight. For them, this continuing controversy just isn't going away.

    For us to be here discussing these matters in a very small unobtrusive corner of t'net is one thing. When it all becomes front page news and the content of every news broadcast throughout the day it is quite another.

    Being that the worst has now already been done, would it now not be far better to release EVERYTHING that the Hutton Inquiry ever saw. Get it all over and done with. Only then can we let Dr David Kelly CMG rest truly in peace, may God bless his soul.

  2. I think, Andrew, that serious errors were made very early on in dealing with this sudden, unexpected death and every subsequent decision has magnified the disquiet and unease.
    One point which someone might be able to answer -would it have been expected that a post-mortem be carried out immediately(especially if identification had not been made)? Or is a delay (and how long?) acceptable? I really have no idea. The death must have been referred to the coroner (When?)
    So what exactly is a SPECIAL Post-mortem, as written by Mr Hunt, starting at 21.20 hours?? The only reference to SPECIAL POST MORTEM I find on the web refers to Infetious diseases and Prion disease eg CJD, involving lead-lined coffins. Clarification, please.

  3. Felix -

    A definition of a special post-mortem can be found in the evidence given by Detective
    Sergeant Philip Stoneham, of the Metropolitan Police, at the Coroner's Inquests into the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed on Tuesday, 18th December 2007. He was a crime scene coordinator attached to a department based at the forensic science laboratory at Lambeth.

    During his evidence session the following exchange took place:

    Q. Looking again towards the bottom of the first page of the notes of the meeting with you on 1st November of 2004, there is reference there to a "special post mortem". Do you see that?

    A. Yes.

    Q. What did you understand by a "special post-mortem examination"?

    A. Special post mortems, for the time that I spent doing this work, was that police personnel would be present and a forensic pathologist would conduct the post mortem, as against a routine post mortem where no police personnel were present, and they would have been conducted by the mortuary technician and a pathologist, not necessarily a forensic pathologist. Those are the two distinct differences and those are the only two that I know of.

    Q. Was a decision made at that meeting, the 4.15 one at New Scotland Yard, about the post mortems to be special ones?

    A. I have no idea.

    Q. If you look towards the bottom of that page, there is a passage that says this, in the last paragraph, at the beginning of it: "It was decided that a special post mortem was to be carried out on both bodies. I do not know who actually made the decision and I played no part in this myself, but it was decided that they would be specials because there was a police investigation into their deaths and also because of the sensitivity surrounding the examinations. A special post mortem is carried out by a forensic pathologist and usually takes place where the death is a suspicious one." Do you see that?

    A. Yes, that is right.

    As can be seen from yesterday's release, a number of police officers did attend Dr Kelly's post-mortem. Dr Hunt was indeed a forensic pathologist, and a representative of Her Majesty's Coroner's Office (HMCO) was also present, presumably acting on the authority of the Oxfordshire Coroner, who would have had to have approved this status for the examination.

    I cannot see that there is anything suspicious or suspect in this designation being assigned to this particular case, in fact I think it would be perfectly normal given the overall circumstances of Dr Kelly's death.

  4. Thanks very much Andrew for the explanation about 'special' post-mortems. It has really clarified the distinction between them and what might be called ordinary post-mortems. In this instance I would agree there is nothing concerning about a special p-m taking place.

    Something I had failed to do before writing this post was a little basic research. There is an article in Wikipedia which explains that following an internal examination of a deceased the body is sewn together again including replacing the top of the skull where it is removed to examine the brain. The article goes on to say that on completion it isn't obvious to relatives looking at or identifying the body that this dramatic surgery has taken place. I should have thought of this.

    So on that basis there would have been little additional trauma for Mrs Kelly and daughter going to the mortuary the following day. Having said that I still wonder why Mrs K wasn't taken to Oxford in that time window when no doubt Dr Hunt was enjoying a meal before he went on to the more gruesome part of his examination of DK. I'll just mention again the coincidence in timing between Mrs K going off to Oxford and the arrival of PC Sawyer and his team at the Kelly home for a thorough search. I notice that in the list of evidence submitted by Thames Valley Police to the Inquiry there was a witness statement by PC Sawyer dated 19/07/03 and perhaps this was why the start of the search that day was delayed.

    From Norman Baker's book there is confirmation that indeed it was the coroner who called out the pathologist. Why Dr Hunt was selected for this particular investigation as opposed to other forensic pathologists we may never know. It is an interesting point that choice of forensic pathologist falls to the coroner rather than the police - this perhaps is to persuade people that his investigation is totally independent of that of the police.

  5. Andrew, many thanks for highlighting reasons for a special post-mortem. My initial search was brief, but I have seen references to them where gas-masks are required, but also where the death is suspicious. For example, I see that in one of the contested suicides at Deepcut Barracks,a routine PM is carried out, with the proviso that a special PM added if suspicious signs are found.
    In the Kelly case, the scene presenting itself to searchers and police at Harrowdown Hill might have appeared to be a normal, even textbook suicide. What was different, of course, was that David Kelly was a very high profile figure.
    The one point I will highight is that Mr Hunt was not asked by Lord Hutton exactly when he got his call. I think that is highly interesting.
    "I received a telephone call on the morning of the day in question and was asked if I could attend the scene by officers of the Thames Valley Police."
    Well, the body was only discovered at 9.40 approx so it is quick work to decide that there are suspicious circumstances and that the body is indeed that of Dr Kelly, plus contact the Coroner for Oxfordshire who can appoint and find Mr Hunt, who is allowed to carry out Special Post Mortems and then travel over to Harrowdown Hill. I guess it was not a coincidence that he attended shortly after mid-day when he would carry out the SPM later that evening. I am not quite clear on who would decide whether the Coroner would be informed. I do note from Mr Hunt's evidence that it was the police who called him, with no reference to the Oxfordshire Coroner.
    I also note that the Hutton Inquiry evidence only points to a Post Mortem, not a Special one.
    Small points again, but why the looseness? To be fair, it is hinted at by Mr Hunt "there were various police officers present". But no mention of the intervention of a Coroner, which is odd given the special nature of the PM.
    The online PM report states that DCI Young,as well as two CID officers and someone from HMCO - Her Majesty's what?- were present.

  6. Felix, I rather suspect that there is a well established procedure regarding police/coroner/pathologist. In this instance I would suggest the following:
    Dr K discovered by searchers and fact phoned in at 9.20
    Medics declare life extinct at 10.07 and that fact radioed in.
    Coroner (Mr Gardiner) immediately informed. Police discuss with coroner fact that death is unusual and it's agreed that forensic pathologist to attend rather than (non) forensic one.
    Coroner looks at list, decides on Hunt (maybe another choice was away on holiday for example)
    Coroner phones Hunt to get him to do the p-m on DK.
    Coroner (feeling his position) is the one to tell police that Hunt is available with contact details.
    Police then contact Hunt direct as they know where to send him etc.
    So I think that although said he was called out by the police my reading of this is that it was taken as read that coroner spoke to Hunt in first place.

  7. Fair points, Brian. Regarding the time of 9.40 I was confusing the time of 9.20 as stated in your post given to the Hutton Inquiry by Assistant Chief Constable Page with the time that Vanessa Hunt said the call came to Abingdon Ambulance station, which as you have highlighted seemed an odd time delay of 20 minutes.
    I am still interested though in the divide between routine and special PMs and how the call is made and how soon and how it is assessed - i.e. what determines "unusual". I guess in this case, because of Dr Kelly's security connections it was deemed unusual and warranted police officers at the autopsy whereas a normal person found in the same circumstances would be treated more routinely.

  8. Brian/Felix -

    ACC Page confirmed to Lord Hutton that he spoke to Nicholas Gardiner fairly early on that day:

    MR DINGEMANS: What happened after that information had come to your attention?

    ACC PAGE: Well, from my perspective I appointed a senior investigating officer, a man who would, if you like, carry out the technical issues around the investigation. I met fairly quickly with my Chief Constable and we decided what levels of resourcing and what levels of investigation we should apply to these circumstances.

    MR DINGEMANS: The fact that a body had been discovered, what sort of inquiry did you launch at the start?

    ACC PAGE: We determined from the outset because of the attendant circumstances that we would apply the highest standards of investigation to this particular set of circumstances as was possible. I would not say I launched a murder investigation but the investigation was of that standard.

    MR DINGEMANS: We have heard how a common access path was established yesterday.

    ACC PAGE: Yes.

    MR DINGEMANS: And the fingertip searching was carried out. Did forensic pathologists become involved?

    ACC PAGE: Yes. We were very anxious, from the outset, to ensure the most thorough possible examination of the scene. I spoke to the Oxfordshire coroner, Mr Gardiner, and we agreed between us that we would use a Home Office pathologist, which is a very highly trained pathologist. It was also agreed with the senior investigating officer that we would use forensic biologists who are able to look at the scene and, in particular, blood splashes and make certain determinations from those in relation to what may have happened...

    I think that this exchange confirms the nature of the determination that this death was considered to be 'unusual'(or more likely, something of a fairly 'high profile' case) from the outset.

    (Brian - I don't quite see why you are suggesting that Dr Hunt should not have been the first choice to carry out the examination. Surely this would have only come down to the matter of immediate availability?)

    (Felix - I noted that HMCO stands for Her Majesty's Coroner's Office in my second post in this thread - you may have overlooked this part of that post. Being as the name of this individual was redacted from the report, we don't know who this was, and I am assuming that it was someone acting on the authority of the Oxfordshire coroner. I don't know if there is any reason why any given coroner does not attend special post-mortems (or any other p-m for that matter if a peculiar situation arose requiring his/her attention), so I cannot rule out the thought that this may even have been Mr Gardiner himself. If this was the case though, why would it have been deemed necessary to redact his name? Unless of course, he shouldn't have 'officially' been there?)

  9. Sorry Andrew but I'm not meaning to imply that Hunt wasn't the first choice. What I'm trying to say is that we really don't know if he was or not. It's possible that Mr Gardiner's first choice might have been someone nearer or more experienced but not available. Dr Hunt may well have been first choice - I'm just mentioning an alternative possibility as a possibility but no more than that.

  10. Oops, sorry Andrew for the oversight of HMCO. Your conjecture that Mr Gardiner may actually have been at the spm is interesting.
    I must say, ACC Page's answers to Mr Dingemans' questions strike me as rather beating around the bush, prior to stating how he appointed Mr Hunt - well dug out from the Hutton transcripts - but I find his mention of in particular blood splashes perhaps a little retrospective looking.
    I know you will comment on this later but Mr Green, whom ACC Page mentions in Andrew's extract, gives a very odd statement about getting a phone call
    "about dinner time"
    "around about?"
    "dinner time"
    Isn't that odd? As a northerner, I would use that word for lunchtime, but lo and behold, Mr Green's team is there just after two. (when lunch might just be finishing) I was thinking about dinner time the previous evening, but it WAS the 18th.
    One more oddity Andrew brings to our attention, which again you might comment on later, Brian.

    ACC Page talks about an unnamed Senior Investigating Officer" who would if you like, carry out the technical issues around the investigation" Technical Issues? EH?????
    He extraordinarily doesn't name DCI Young, the Senior Investigating Officer. That they are one and the same is confirmed by the recently released papers by Mr Hunt, who said he met with the SIO, Mr Young. The problem now is that there was no need for ACC Page to appoint Mr Young as SIO, because Mr Young, as we all know, was heading Operation Mason from 2.30 pm the day before until 9.30 am the morning under discussion. Or is Mr Page re-appointing Mr Young to carry out the investigation as a continuation of Operation Mason (whatever that was)? Long old day.
    There are other extraordinary nuances in Mr Page's brief answers quoted above which I won't touch on here.

  11. Felix, yes will comment on Op Mason later but briefly think that 2.30 start time might have been backdated. This was explanation given to Norman Baker by police I believe. Will have to check but there may not be anything too sinister here. More on this another time, no doubt!