Sunday, 12 December 2010

Lord Hutton, the number of policemen and the body position

Although there are plenty of discrepancies and oddities thrown up by the Hutton Inquiry two in particular have become familiar to those who are trying to make sense of the mystery of Dr David Kelly's death.  In summary these deal with the testimony of several witnesses that DC Coe was accompanied by two other people at Harrowdown Hill, and that the position of Dr Kelly's body as observed by the two volunteer searchers differed from that reported by all the subsequent witnesses.

These variations were so significant that Lord Hutton felt obliged to address them in his Report.  It might be asked why neither Hutton nor his counsel at the Inquiry pressed the witnesses concerned at the time of their examination about the obvious discrepancies rather than leave it to one all embracing paragraph buried in his Report.

One needs to go to Chapter 5 of the Report 'The search for Dr Kelly and the finding of his body'.  Scroll down to paragraph 151 and you read this from Lord Hutton:

Those who try cases relating to a death or injury (whether caused by crime or accident) know that entirely honest witnesses often give evidence as to what they saw at the scene which differs as to details. In the evidence which I heard from those who saw Dr Kelly's body in the wood there were differences as to points of detail, such as the number of police officers at the scene and whether they were all in uniform, the amount of blood at the scene, and whether the body was lying on the ground or slumped against the tree. 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. These differences do not cause me to doubt that no third party was involved in Dr Kelly's death. 

I am prepared to accept that in certain circumstances honest witnesses can give differing evidence as to detail; for instance it might be an event that happens almost in the blink of an eye such as a gang making a getaway from a bank raid.  In such a scenario too a lot of the observers would be people not particularly trained to accurately take in detail of a scene.  The situation at Harrowdown Hill on the 18th July 2003 would have been vastly different I maintain and in my opinion the remarks made by Hutton in paragraph 151 are deliberately misleading.

We now know as fact that DC Coe was lying regarding the number of people accompanying him.  All witnesses making statements about the number of people in his party were saying there were three altogether.  Three is 50% more than two.  If it had been say half a dozen police then a witness might make a small mistake on number.  The searchers for instance met DC Coe and his companions face to face evidently, if people approached from the side it might just be possible to have made a mistake here but if those you are meeting are directly facing you and that meeting is more than a glance of a few seconds then I contend that it would be impossible to get the number wrong as between two and three.  In the case of the searchers they say that DC Coe and companions identified themselves to them and obviously there was then some conversation.  Moving on to PCs Franklin and Sawyer and the ambulance crew these are people whose professions direct them to be observant and again they had ample time to absorb the detail of how many people were accompanying DC Coe.

In dealing with the position of the body  Hutton says:

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. 

Although it is possible that searcher Paul Chapman had a camera facility on his mobile and took a picture I can't really believe that such a photo would have been the one seen by Lord Hutton and commented on.  We know that PC Sawyer and subsequently others took photographs of the body, these being official would have had a time stamp on them.  Lodged at the Inquiry there is no doubt that Hutton would have been able to see exactly where Dr Kelly's head was in relation to the tree.

These are the words of ambulance technician Dave Bartlett from the Daily Mail earlier this year:

‘He was lying flat out some distance from the tree. He definitely wasn’t leaning against it. I remember saying to the copper, “Are you sure he hasn’t fallen out of the tree?”
‘When I was there the body was far enough away from the tree for someone to get behind it. I know that because I stood there when we were using the electrodes to check his heart. Later I learned that the dog team said they had found him propped up against the tree. He wasn’t when we got there. If the earlier witnesses are saying that, then the body has obviously been moved.’

Read more:
This is a direct quote.  So is Dave Bartlett's memory at fault about the space between tree and body?  Perhaps Lord Hutton felt obliged to make something up to try and close down the witness discrepancy that was leading to concern that the body had been moved.
For my part I don't believe that Dave Bartlett has a problem with his memory.


  1. From Dr Kelly’s post mortem report

    Adjacent to the scene

    Lying adjacent to the left shoulder/upper arm was a Barbour cap with the lining uppermost. There was blood over the lining and the peak.

    Lying near his left hand on the grass was a black resin strapped wristwatch presumably a digital watch lying face down and showing some bloodstaining.

    Lying adjacent to this was a white metal Sandvik pruning-type knife or gardener’s knife with it’s blade extended from the handle. There was both bloodstaining over both the handles and the blade and a pool of blood beneath the knife which was approximately 8-10 by approximately 4-5 cms.

    Lying propped up against some broken branches to the deceased left and about 1 from his left elbow was an open bottle of Evian water (500 mls), The top lay close by but further away from the deceased there was some smeared blood over the bottle and bottle top.

    There was bloodstaining and a pool of blood in an area running from the left arm of the deceased for a total distance of in the order of 2’ -3’. There was also a patch of possible bloodstaining on the ground near the left hip region.

    Did Dr Kelly take off his cap after he had cut his wrist, dip it in some blood and place it with his right hand by his left shoulder. If he did he must have been laying down at the time because if he was sat up he would have to position it with his badly injured left hand behind him at a position his left shoulder would be in when he lay down.

    “Near his left hand on the grass” What grass?

    Roy James Green Forensic biologist. Well, there was a fair bit of blood.
    18 LORD HUTTON: There was -- I beg your pardon?
    19 A. A fair bit of blood, my Lord. The body was on leaf
    20 litter, the sort of detritus you might find on the floor
    21 of a wood, which is -- and that is very absorbent, so
    22 although it may not have appeared to them there was that
    23 much blood, it would obviously soak in.
    24 MR DINGEMANS: A bit like blotting paper in some respects?
    25 A. Yes.

    And what was the watch doing to the left side? If it was removed it with the right hand before the injuries were inflicted why place the watch on the left? And why were there blood satins on it?

    Same goes for the knife, if it was used by the right hand why would it be on the left of the body? And what about the pool of blood under the knife; why had this not soaked into the ground?

    Same goes for the water bottle, the left wrist had very bad injuries to the artery, tendons and muscles, surely Dr Kelly would use his right hand to drink from it. Blood stains on the cap? Had he touched the cap after cutting his wrist? How? by holding the bottle in one hand and screwing the top with the other? Could someone hold a bottle or screw the top with those injuries. What was the bottle doing on the left side and not the right and why no fingerprints?

    Daily Mail quoted the ambulance technician “Mr Bartlett has another concern. The Evian water bottle was standing upright no more than six inches from Dr Kelly’s left upper arm, and he is amazed that he would have not knocked it over while dying”

    Also Mr Bartlett said in the same interview “Mr Bartlett said: ‘As we approached the scene, it was obvious he was dead. He was lying flat out in the clearing with his bottle of water, knife and watch in line right next to his left arm.
    ‘His left sleeve was rolled up and you could see a wound with some dried blood around it.’
    But Dr Hunt the pathologist said he found “Big clots” on the inside of Dr Kelly’s Barbour Jacket.
    So many inconsistencies, the photographs taken by the police and the forensic team and the video of the scene shown to the pathologist prior to him visiting the body would assist in establishing where each of the items were placed and if Dr Kelly was able to place them there himself. The photo’s and video would also help to show how much blood was at the scene and if it did in fact soak into the ground or pool on top of it.

  2. Excellent points, Lancashire Lad. I have also read somewhere that convulsions often accompany the nasty death caused by co-proxamol poisoning (which of course never happened here...) and such a death would certainly not leave a neat museum exhibit of watch, cap and water bottle and knife on the Grass/Leaf Litter/Stinging Nettles. If I had come across such a neat arrangement of exhibits I would have concluded (arterial rain/clots/pools/puddles/spots of blood excepted) that the chap was having a nap.

  3. According to Dr Hunt the latest possible time for Dr Kelly to have died was 1.15 am. So more than 12 hours later there are one or more pools of blood that haven't drained away!

    Why didn't forensic biologist Mr Green make an assessment of the permeability of the ground. He talks of 'a fair bit of blood' and the body being on leaf litter and that the blood 'would obviously soak in'. This is pure speculation because he doesn't present any evidence at all that blood DID soak in.

    Green turns up at the Inquiry at short notice. Why? At the Inquiry he says 'I have not put my evidence down in a statement form as yet'. Rather than him appearing at short notice why wasn't he asked to appear further down the order? Green guesses that he has about 50 items sent to the laboratory yet nearly seven weeks after his visit to Harrowdown Hill we don't have any evidence from him as to any of the results. That he couldn't produce some preliminary results for the Inquiry is untenable in my opinion. Maybe some results have to be cross checked against others on which he was waiting. But all 50? I don't believe it.

    ACC Page was supposed to divulge the results on his later reappearance. He wasn't questioned about this. Dr Eileen Hickey, Green's colleague wasn't called to the Inquiry.

    So we have about 50 tests supposedly carried out at the laboratory. No results from them presented to the Inquiry. And Mr Green wildly speculates about blood loss in to the ground or leaf litter but provides absolutely no evidence of this happening.