Sunday, 30 January 2011

Rebutting Dr Hunt's rebuttals

The doubts and how the Dr Kelly pathologist responds to them

By Neil Sears
Seven years ago, Home Office pathologist Nicholas Hunt was summoned to examine the body of Dr David Kelly. Only now, amid mounting claims that the death was suspicious, has he broken his silence. Here, we detail how the pathologist attempts to rebut the doubts which have been raised.

'There was little blood at scene' A group of doctors has claimed the official finding that Dr Kelly died of blood loss was 'unsafe' – largely because it has been suggested that surprisingly little blood was found at the scene compared with the minimum of four pints they would expect.
In addition, Detective Constable Graham Coe, the first policeman to arrive, has said: 'I certainly didn't see a lot of blood anywhere. There was some on his left wrist but it wasn't on his clothes. On the ground, there wasn't much blood about, if any.'
There was plenty of blood – it was either hidden or had soaked into the ground, says Dr Hunt. As well as bloodstains inside the left sleeve of the scientist's Barbour jacket, there were more on the right knee of his jeans and the lining of his flat cap.
'Nobody would have seen the amount of blood at the scene. In actual fact there were big, thick clots of blood inside the sleeve, which came down over the wrist, and a lot of blood soaked into the ground.
They [DC Coe and the paramedics] might not have seen it, but it was there and I noted it in my report.' 

I dealt with the question of bloodstains in the left sleeve here
The contact stain on the right knee of his jeans would have accounted for very little blood loss (it was only the size of a 50p piece - about 25mm across).  This was seen by both the ambulance crew and it was their evidence at Hutton and subsequent mention by them in the press that showed that the size of this stain wasn't very dramatic.  Similarly the lining of the flat cap would have accounted for very little.  These references by Dr Hunt smack of desperation.  Regarding Dr Hunt's assertion of 'a lot of blood soaked into the ground' there was no evidence voiced at the Inquiry to back up that claim - absolutely nothing.  Are we to believe it just because he says it?  I could be an astronomer with a string of qualifications after my name,  I could then say that 'the moon is made of cheese'.  It doesn't mean that I would be right does it.  If there were 'big, thick clots of blood inside the sleeve'  why didn't he say so in his report and state this at the Inquiry?  The term 'bloodstaining' is nebulous and wasn't adequately describing the situation (even with the word 'heavy' appended) if we really can believe there were 'big, thick clots of blood'.

'The body had been moved' Volunteer searchers who found Dr Kelly's body are said to have described him as being propped up against a tree – but when the police turned up he was lying on the ground. Former KGB agent Boris Karpichkov last month claimed an MI5 agent had suggested to him that Dr Kelly had been murdered elsewhere by an MI6 hit squad before his body was moved to the woodland spot.
Dr Hunt says: 'There was nothing to suggest the body had been moved. It didn't look like a dump site.' 

Unfortunately the doubt raised here is referring to two very different possible movements.  From Dr Hunt's rather odd reply I think he is addressing the second suggested body movement rather than the first: that Dr Kelly might have been murdered elsewhere.  What does he mean by the phrase 'a dump site'?  The fingertip search revealed no evidence of other human activity, cigarette butts, sweet wrappers and the like.  But this detailed search was performed after many people dressed non forensically had been at the site that morning eg the volunteer searchers, the ambulance crew, a number of police officers.  If they hadn't left evidence of their presence and activity in the area why should professional assassins have done so?  It is clear from the evidence that there was no great difficulty in navigating the "common approach path" or that those people just mentioned had to beat down the vegetation to reach Dr Kelly's body.  Similarly, even with all the human activity at the site, no evidence was produced of footprints at the location. 
'The ulnar artery slashed in Dr Kelly's left wrist was too small to have caused him to bleed to death'. Critics add that the wound would have clotted, meaning any bleeding would have stopped long before death could occur.
Dr Hunt says he found up to a dozen cuts on Dr Kelly's wrist, each around 2in to 3in long, one of which opened the ulnar artery. 'Some cuts were very shallow, some were deeper and deeper, which is typical of someone feeling their way. You have a knife, apply light pressure and realise that it actually takes a bit more effort and you get more bold as your resolve increases. It's one of the classic features of self-inflicted injury.' He adds that there was clear evidence Dr Kelly repeatedly dislodged clots or scabs to ensure he continued bleeding. 'His wrist was red so he must have been doing this for some time.'

The number and variation of the cuts seem to be one of the primary aspects that has led Dr Hunt to the belief that this death was a suicide.  But with professionals wanting to make a murder look like suicide might they not have made a multitude of cuts?  The reddening of the wrist I would have thought might have been his assassins trying to get more blood to flow to persuade the investigators that there was enough bleeding to cause death.  Didn't Dr Hunt think it strange that Dr Kelly decided to sever one of the arteries in the body which would have the least chance of success?  Why the hard to get at ulnar artery and not the easier radial artery.  The radial artery is the one in which you can feel your pulse, so much easier to locate.  Why restrict himself to one artery anyway? 

'Even without blood clotting, the ulnar artery is so thin that it would have contracted and closed up before he could have bled to death.' According to the doctors, the ulnar artery is only the width of a matchstick, meaning it would have quickly retracted.
Dr Hunt says that unknown to Dr Kelly, he was suffering from a severe form of heart disease – atherosclerosis – which had left his arteries as little as a fifth as wide as normal. This left him at constant risk of heart attack and more likely to die from a slashed wrist, as his heart had reduced ability to survive sudden blood loss. If he had dropped dead in the canteen and you had seen his coronary arteries, you would have had a very good reason to believe that was the only reason he died. If you have narrow arteries, your ability to withstand blood loss falls dramatically.'

Talk about sexing things up!!  Dr Hunt's conclusion 11 in his report gives a very different impression.  'It is noted that he has a significant degree of coronary artery disease and this may have played some small part in the rapidity of death but not the major part in the cause of death'.  Dr Kelly was evidently blissfully unaware of this heart problem (not commented on by his GP or noted in Dr Kelly's medical that he had in preparation for returning to Iraq).  I get the impression that according to Dr Hunt if it hadn't been for the coronary heart disease perhaps Dr Kelly would have survived, or is he really trying to say that. 

'Lord Hutton's claim that Dr Kelly's death was hastened by an overdose of 29 co-proxamol painkillers, normally used for arthritis, is not credible, as he did not take enough to kill, and the amount of the drug found in his body was way below fatal levels.'
Co-proxamol contains a synthetic opiate which can cause an irregular heartbeat – and lead to a heart attack. It has been blamed for up to 400 deaths a year, through accident or suicide. Its dangers are so well accepted that four years after Dr Kelly's death co-proxamol was withdrawn from the market.

Dr Hunt typically tries to divert himself from the question.  Yes we know of the dangers of co-proxamol and its removal from the market.  This is not answering the question posed.  There was no verifiable evidence at all in fact that Dr Kelly took an overdose of pills.  I had previously demonstrated that there was nowhere near enough water to swallow the 29 tablets and also water is not the medium to use.  If Dr Kelly wanted to make the pill swallowing successful he would have bought himself a bottle of spirits.  Again the lack of certainty is demonstrated here - Dr Hunt uses the words 'can cause an irregular heartbeat'.  With his intellect Dr Kelly would choose a method of suicide where he wouldn't rely on the word 'can' for success.

'Dr Kelly was not physically capable of cutting his own wrist' According to Dr Kelly's colleague and friend Mai Pedersen, from the U.S. Air Force, injuries to the scientist's right arm had left him so weak that he even 'had difficulty cutting his own steak'.

Dr Hunt found no indications that Dr Kelly's right hand was too weak for cutting either a steak, or his own left wrist – and the numerous parallel cuts made were entirely consistent with countless undisputed suicides. 'It's one of the classic features of self-inflicted injury.' 

Ridiculous!  In his Report Dr Hunt noted 'An old, curving scar around the outer aspect of the right elbow'  Did he not look into this.  Dr Kelly's records presented to the Inquiry indicate some hospital treatment some years previously.  Did he look at these records, talk to his GP?  I somehow doubt it. 

'Dr Kelly's work seeking weapons of mass destruction in Iraq had made him unpopular there – and he had influential enemies in Britain thanks to his revelations about the Government's 'dodgy dossier'.
Dr Hunt says: 'As a forensic pathologist whenever you arrive at a scene you treat it as a homicide until you can be satisfied you've excluded that.' Accordingly, in eight hours of examination he sought any signs of injury to Dr Kelly indicating that he might have been manhandled or drugged by someone else.
'We look at every millimetre of skin. We're looking for any needle puncture marks and so forth, any sign of skulduggery – between the fingers, the toes, under the nose, behind the ears, here, there and everywhere.
'There wasn't anything. You look through every muscle layer, particularly the neck to see if there's any evidence that it has been compressed, any signs of trauma on the ribs and any broken bone. There were none at all.'
Further samples sent for analysis found no evidence Dr Kelly had been drugged with, for example, Rohypnol. Dr Hunt adds: 'The only thing I could never exclude is that someone held a gun to his head and told him to slit his own wrists and eat a load of co-proxamol.' 

Dr Hunt talks of looking at every millimetre of skin - quite right too in my opinion.  I'm assuming that this happened when he examined Dr Kelly.  In his report Dr Hunt intimates that at about 17.30 he starts to make the more thorough examination of the body and it looks as if most of the next one and three quarter hours he is engrossed in this.  If he is looking at every millimetre of skin in this phase then I wonder why he selects the scene tent in which to do it with the body on the ground and not get it back to the mortuary with a degree of comfort and surely much better lighting conditions.  The fact that he spends approximately 5 hours of his time at the scene and only 3 later at Oxford strikes me as extremely odd.  Does Dr Hunt consider the possibility that the cuts to the wrist are partly there to cover up injection marks?

There is much more that could be written to rebut Dr Hunt's rebuttals but in my opinion none of what he is saying is standing up to even modest scrutiny. 

The article with the original sequence of doubts and rebuttals is from the Mail on Line August 2010.  The original article can be read here 

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Blood and the Barbour cap

Last Wednesday I wrote a post entitled 'Dr Hunt's Exhibit List'.  This brought forward a variety of interesting comments and it was one from "Lancashire Lad" that made me realise that here was another detail that needed to be aired as a new post.

I had dealt with what I believed to be very understandable reasons for the cap in the game pocket of the Barbour jacket to be in the Exhibit List and the cap near the body not.  In summary it became clear to me that any items recovered from the pockets of Dr Kelly's clothing rightly were the province of Dr Hunt but that articles physically detached from the body weren't, at least from the point of view of recording in an exhibits list.

An aspect of the scene at Harrowdown Hill on the 18th July that hasn't received the attention it merits is the fact that there was blood on the Barbour cap and it was LL's comment that got me seriously thinking about this.  Going first to what Dr Hunt says in his published report this is the first paragraph under the section 'Adjacent scene':

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

At the Inquiry Dr Hunt just adds the small detail that it was a flat cap:

Q  Did you investigate the scene next to the body?
A. Yes. 
Q. And what did that show? 
A. There was a Barbour flat-type cap with some blood on the  lining and the peak near his left shoulder and upper arm. In the region of his left hand lying on the grass  there was a black resin strapped wristwatch, a digital watch, which was also bloodstained.

The Barbour cap, water bottle and bottle top would seem to have been in close proximity to each other - a crowded area of the scene.

Just before Mr Knox obtains the testimony of Dr Hunt he takes evidence from DC Coe.  DC Coe intriguingly appears to be in two minds as to whether the cap is on Dr Kelly's head or off the body:

Q. Could you be more particular as to what the clothes you saw were? 
A. He was wearing a Barbour jacket. There was a cap, a pair of trousers and think walking boots, but I cannot  be certain on that. 
Q. Was the cap on the head or was the cap apart from the  body? 
A. That I cannot remember -- I have a feeling the cap was off, but I cannot be sure.

We know that while DC Coe was supposedly standing guard over the body, but in reality I'm sure some distance from it, the body was moved away from the tree.  I suspect that there was more activity at this time than just moving the body to a flat position.   Lancashire Lad has put forward the possibility that the Barbour cap was covering a small pool of blood that would have been in the "correct" position when Dr Kelly had his head and shoulders against the tree but once the body was moved forward a puddle near his head would have appeared very odd!  So someone had the brainwave of removing Dr Kelly's cap from his head to cover the pool of blood.  I think that this explanation has a lot going for it.

The fact that blood was seen on the knife, wrist watch, bottle and bottle top are all explainable to a degree.  But the cap?  How or why would blood find its way there?

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

"Who will rid me of this water bottle"

"Who will rid me of this water bottle".  These are words that Forensic Pathologist Dr Hunt might have been inclined to say I think.  Certainly neither in his report nor in his evidence to Hutton can we see very much enthusiasm to talk about the innocuous Evian water bottle.  I know I have dealt with the subject in some depth before and for convenience I'll list the previous posts here:
There are just one or two other things to record and then hopefully this blog will have finished with that particular subject for a while.

Just looking at the most recent of the links above about the odd position of the water bottle: I had quoted what the various witnesses had said about the positioning and I need to add some comment to that.  Vanessa Hunt and PC Sawyer in particular had mentioned the bottle position in relation to Dr Kelly's head.  In some contrast Dr Hunt tells us it is about a foot away from his left elbow and also propped against some broken branches.  Reading the accounts mentioned you might ask yourself is Dr Hunt's bottle the same one!  Well, yes it is because I believe both descriptions are correct.

Before I put my "forensic head" on I admit I was caught out by Dr Hunt's description.  If you don't peruse all the evidence you might naturally think of Dr Kelly's left arm placed loosely by his left side in a "normal" sort of position.  Dr Hunt's description of the water bottle location might easily lead you to thinking that it is say a third of the way down his body - not ideal evidence but you think to yourself "a bit odd but yes quite possible to reach over with his right hand so I'll buy into that".  Look further into the body position as described by Dr Hunt and you realise that Dr Kelly's  upper left arm is oddly positioned and in line with the shoulder blades.  Take that into account and then it is possible to see how it can be both about a foot from David Kelly's left elbow and also not far from his left ear.  Readers might care to ponder why Dr Hunt didn't mention that the water bottle was oddly placed close to Dr Kelly's head .....

In his published report Dr Hunt includes detail about seeing the scene video and records seeing the knife and wristwatch by the body.  No mention at this point of the water bottle which, propped up, ought to have been a more significant item than the wrist watch!  At the Inquiry Mr Knox has found out the bottle position ('about a foot away from his left elbow') and then this is the ensuing bit of conversation: 

Q. And did you notice anything in particular about the bottle?
A. Yes, there was some smeared blood over both the bottle itself and the bottle top.
Q. Did that indicate anything to you? 

A. It indicated that he had been bleeding whilst at least placing the bottle in its final position. He may already have been bleeding whilst he was drinking from it, but that is less certain.

Now, as I had previously explained, unless you are some sort of contortionist (and I don't believe Dr Kelly was) it's just not possible for him to place the bottle in the position described more particularly by Vanessa Hunt and PC Sawyer.  Moreover the bottle was found propped up and with its top close by.  Toward the end of his testimony Dr Hunt is reeling off the conclusions that he has itemised in his reportSupporting the suicide hypothesis we have this extract:

Other features at the scene which would tend to support this impression include the relatively passive distribution of the blood, the neat way in which the water bottle and its top were placed, the lack of obvious signs of trampling of the undergrowth or damage to the clothing. To my mind, the location of the death is also of interest in this respect because it was clearly a very pleasant and relatively private spot of the type that is sometimes chosen by people intent upon self harm.  (My emphasis)

You might possibly arrange something in a neat way at the start of your suicide bid I suppose if you were not going to have further recourse to it.  But here we have someone dying, needing water to swallow his 29 tablets and replenish his fluids as he is losing blood.  Then we are told that he has neatly positioned the bottle and its top as he has decided to commit suicide.  It is totally, utterly ridiculous.

Examples of Scene Tents

A week ago I had written a post part of which speculated about the size of the blue scene tent that was erected over Dr Kelly's body between Dr Hunt confirming death at 12.35 on Friday 18th July and his reappearance on the scene at about 14.10 with Mr Green.  It stayed there until the arrival of the hearse for removal of the body late afternoon.  By the time PC Sawyer and his new team resumed their fingertip search at 19.24 it would have gone.

This website is for one firm that makes such tents in its range.  I'm not saying that they were suppliers to Thames Valley Police at the time we are interested in but at least we get an idea of what these scene tents are all about.  This firm are boasting that their tents can be erected in 10 to 15 seconds!  Also of interest is the fact that they say that their tents can be joined together so instead of 3m by 3m say one could have a covered area of 6m by 3m.  What did they have at Harrowdown Hill?  Mr Green's evidence suggests that he was working alongside Dr Hunt for much of the time, for instance he was present when Dr Hunt discovered the blister packs.  With a photographer as well there wouldn't have been a huge amount of surplus space in a 3m by 3m tent in my opinion.

Regarding the familiar white tent seen in the media pictures and erected in the field immediately to the east of Harrowdown Hill there is a good helicopter shot in this video:  It's visible just after 20 seconds in and is square and looking at the nearby vehicles not particularly big.  Dr Hunt explained to Lord Hutton at the Inquiry it was there as a place where one could write up notes etc out of any inclement weather.  Whether it was used as such I don't know.  It is amazing how many people in the past have mistaken the location of the white tent as the place where the body was found.

If any Thames Valley police are reading this blog and would like to comment on the size of your scene tents please feel free to do so.  Anonymity is assured!

Dr Hunt's Exhibit List

A little while back Lancashire Lad had spotted what appeared to be an anomaly, something causing concern, and he made a comment about it on one of my blogposts.  In a nutshell LL flagged up that Dr Hunt's evidence included mention of a Barbour cap with blood on it and lying near Dr Kelly's body.  This was not included in the list of exhibits that formed part of Dr Hunt's report of the 25th July.  However what was included in the list was "NCH/17/5 Flat cap from game pocket", although this second cap didn't feature in Dr Hunt's testimony.  Some speculation has arisen about all this, particularly the apparent failure to include the "blooded cap" in the Exhibits List.  It would seem from what I have been able to deduce that the reason for the anomaly is very mundane!

I have been trawling through Dr Hunt's Exhibit List in his report and then the penny dropped as they say.  It wasn't just the Barbour cap that was missing from the list but the knife, wristwatch and Evian water bottle!  However the articles in the Barbour jacket pockets had been included.  Whether this would be standard practice I don't know but here there appears to be a demarcation line: any exhibits relating to Dr Kelly's body and anything that he was wearing at the time of the examination (including any pocket contents) would rightly come under Dr Hunt's exhibits.  Other objects close to the body even if only inches away would be the province of the SOCOs so far as their numbering was concerned.

This is not to say of course that Dr Hunt didn't look at the knife, wristwatch, water bottle and Barbour cap although he seems to have paid remarkably little attention to them.  And again he is at fault in not recording the presence of the cap in the game pocket in his main body of evidence; he did of course describe the contents in the bellows pocket - the mobile phone, spectacles, key fob and blister packs.  He was perhaps so excited by the presence of the blister packs that he forgot to record the game cap information at that time!  Did he overlook any other pockets in the Barbour jacket?

Sunday, 23 January 2011

The Memorial

Something I don't think I've done as yet is to provide a link to The Memorial - the mighty document presented to the Attorney General Dominic Grieve by the group of concerned doctors detailing an unanswerable case for an inquest into Dr Kelly's death.  As I'm not a legal eagle the term "Memorial" was a new one to me but please do read it - it is powerful stuff!  It was presented to Mr Grieve last September and put into the public domain towards the end of December.  I had seen it originally as a series of scanned images of the individual pages which required a certain amount of navigation but now here it is as a PDF file with good size print - very user friendly:

Since writing the first paragraph I have had something of a memory recall and in fact find that I did provide a link in another post, this displayed the Memorial as separate pages as I described above.  The post with that particular link is here:  Maybe it was because the earlier format was not user friendly (for me) that made me forget it for a moment.  Anyway you now have a choice!

Some background can be found here:

The Coroner, the Pathologist's Report and the Death Certificate

This post has evolved following comments made by Felix on my last piece in which I wrote about the number of reports submitted by Dr Hunt to the Inquiry.  More specifically the concern relating to the delay between Dr Hunt writing his second report dated 25th July 2003 (now published on the internet) and when it was logged in at the Hutton Inquiry on 20th August, almost four weeks later.

Just recounting a bit of history for a moment: Dr Hunt completed his internal examination of Dr Kelly in the early hours of Saturday morning, the 19th July.  Later that day he writes up the report from which Lord Hutton quotes in his Opening Statement of 1st August.  That Dr Hunt types his report as soon as possible after the post-mortem seems perfectly sensible, at least as a draft.  Now my understanding is that the forensic pathologist is responsible to the coroner - do we assume that Dr Hunt faxed or personally delivered his report to Mr Gardiner on that day?  How, and at what time are the police informed about Dr Hunt's findings?  How the procedure works is a fascinating one, if there are any retired pathologists reading this blog I would love to be enlightened.

Logically, to me at least, I would think that the police need to know what the pathologist thinks as soon as possible but I would have thought that might be done verbally of for him to send a faxed copy of his draft with the emphasis that it is an interim report.  Felix makes the strong point about waiting for the toxicology report from Dr Allan, necessitating a delay of only a day or two in reality, so that in effect Dr Hunt can produce the one single report.  What has to be emphasised here I believe is that although Hutton had Dr Allan's report by 1st August, that is what it was - a report of Dr Allan's findings.  The conclusions about the co-proxamol so far as it was a factor in Dr Kelly's death was a matter for the pathologist to decide.

There would be no doubt in my mind, thinking about the laboratory tests that Dr Allan and his colleagues were going to carry out, that Dr Hunt would be confident about getting the results in a very short time.  The second report does make clear that he was informed verbally by Dr Allan of the results of his testing, as of course one would expect.  So should Dr Hunt have waited for just a day or two before sending his report to the coroner?

Now we come to the second (final) report to the coroner and dated 25th July 2003.  When Mr Gardiner received it he would surely have realised that it was a document that had to go to the Inquiry.  At that stage he didn't know that he would get the authority to briefly reconvene the Inquest so that he could take enough evidence from Dr Hunt to put the cause of death on the death certificate.  Why couldn't he have just photocopied the 25th July report for his own reference and sent the original of to Hutton?  I do wonder if Mr Gardiner was just being bloody minded at this juncture.  He would be quite angry in my opinion and was aware about how inferior the Hutton process would be compared with an inquest.  He had only just sent off the first report to the Inquiry after all.  I think that the day Mr Gardiner took the further evidence from Dr Hunt was the 14th of August and after then there was no reason for him to hang on to the second report.  perhaps he received a nudge from the Secretary to the Inquiry saying 'We would like that second report please'.  However one views it I think that the second report should have been available to Hutton for his Opening Statement.

Regarding the death certificate I have been severely critical of Mr Gardiner in the past.  My understanding is that it had the inadequate 'found at Harrowdown Hill' as place of death and wasn't signed by a doctor or coroner as it should be.  At this point its worth looking at the first two clauses of the Coroners Act 1988 Section 17A Clauses 1 and 2:

17A Adjournment of inquest in event of judicial inquiry.

(1)If on an inquest into a death the coroner is informed by the Lord Chancellor before the conclusion of the inquest that—

(a)a public inquiry conducted or chaired by a judge is being, or is to be, held into the events surrounding the death; and

(b)the Lord Chancellor considers that the cause of death is likely to be adequately investigated by the inquiry,

the coroner shall, in the absence of any exceptional reason to the contrary, adjourn the inquest and, if a jury has been summoned, may, if he thinks fit, discharge them.

(2)Where a coroner adjourns an inquest in compliance with subsection (1) above, he shall send to the registrar of deaths a certificate under his hand stating, so far as they have been ascertained at the date of the certificate, the particulars which under the 1953 Act are required to be registered concerning the death.   

Note in Clause (1)(b) the words "cause" and "adequately".  As we know the Inquiry was mainly focused on the politics surrounding Dr Kelly's death, the clause quoted is just about the cause of death.  Did Lord Falconer really consider the Inquiry procedure adequate - it turned out that it was a friendly chat across the table sort of affair with no rigour at all, if for instance a witness decided to lie well, that wouldn't be a problem. If witnesses produced conflicting testimonies so what?  It's clear that the Inquiry failed in respect of (1)(b).

On to Clause (2) and I concede that the coroner had a bit of a problem here.  He could argue that he was bound by the provisions of the Act to ascertain cause of death from the Forensic Pathologist and at least insert this information and then send the certificate, even if incomplete, to the Registrar.  We have to be clear that the cause of death is purely recording the physical cause of death as considered by the pathologist and not stating whether suicide or murder.  The trouble with Clause (2) I believe is that the drafter wouldn't have envisaged the way the Act would have been misapplied by the government.  Certainly you can see the logic when you think about one example where Section 17(A) had been used justifiably: the murder of over 300 people by Dr Shipman.  There it makes sense but as I say in the case of Dr David Kelly it doesn't in my opinion.     

Thursday, 20 January 2011

The number of reports submitted by Dr Hunt

I had made a Freedom of Information Request regarding the number of reports made by the Forensic Pathologist Dr Hunt to the Hutton Inquiry.  There was clear evidence to me that at least two had been submitted because in addition to the one published on the internet last October Lord Hutton had referred to an earlier post-mortem report (dated 19th July 2003) in his Opening Statement.  My FOI request then was to try and ascertain how many reports had been submitted to the Inquiry.  There is nothing so far as I can see particularly earth shattering in the reply but for the sake of "completing the picture" this is what I received earlier this month:

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request, which was received at The National Archives on 13 December 2010:

For the dates of all of the reports made by Forensic Pathologist Dr Hunt into the death of Dr David Kelly in 2003 and lodged with the Hutton Inquiry.  

Your request was transferred to The National Archives because the information you enquired about is no longer held by the Ministry of Justice. Following its conclusion, the Hutton Inquiry's records were transferred to the National Archives, and the intention to do so was recorded by the Inquiry on its website:

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 gives you two rights of access when you write to us asking for information.  You have the right to know whether we hold the information that you are looking for, and you have the right to have the information given to you.  These rights may only be overridden if the information you are looking for is covered by an exemption in the Act.  

Following a search of the paper and electronic records transferred to The National Archives at the conclusion of Lord Hutton's Inquiry, I have established that the information you asked for is held by The National Archives. Some of the information is exempt under Section 21 of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) because the information is accessible to you as it is already in the public domain.

The post mortem report in to the death of Dr David Kelly was written on 25 July 2003. The report was published on 22 October 2010, by the Secretary of State Kenneth Clarke QC, in the interests of maintaining public confidence in the Hutton Inquiry.  Personal data such as names have been removed from the report where required in order to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998. This report was logged with the Hutton inquiry on 20 August 2003. The report is still available on the Ministry of Justice website:

A preliminary post mortem report was also written by Dr Hunt on 19 July 2003 and was submitted to Inquiry on 24 July 2003. 

I did not locate any other reports by Dr Hunt in the Hutton Inquiry papers. 

Dr Hunt produced his original report for the Oxfordshire coroner on Saturday 19th July and five days later it was submitted to the Hutton Inquiry.  In his 25th July (published) report Dr Hunt refers to the formal toxicology report written by Dr Allan dated 21st July.  Rumours abound of Dr Hunt altering his conclusions between reports, the difference might just be the amendment due to the insertion of some toxicology information not available in the original report.  If an inquest takes place I would hope that the coroner would make a line by line comparison between the reports of the 19th and 25th.

If the coroner, Nicholas Gardiner, was doing his job correctly then he would have made a copy of the 19th July report before its deposition with Hutton.  As can be seen in the chronology it was released to the inquiry the day before Dr Hunt wrote his second report.  Mr Gardiner it seems was responsible for Dr Kelly's death certificate in mid August and it would be incumbent on him to ensure unanimity of the two reports.  It will be recalled that Dr Kelly's full death certificate wasn't signed by a doctor or coroner as it should be so Mr Gardiner is guilty of gross negligence; the certificate shouldn't have been submitted to the Registrar of Deaths nor should the latter have accepted it.   

The fact that the 25th July report didn't go to Hutton until the 20th August would be due to its retention presumably for the death certificate to be issued.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Dr Hunt, 'broken branches' and the blue scene tent

You read relevant parts of the Hutton website, you read Dr Hunt's report, you are familiar with at least some of the press reporting and a few related websites and think you have it all firmly in mind.  And then (in my case anyway) you are slightly surprised to find that Dr Hunt's published report makes no reference to the tree which the volunteer searchers describe as the tree that Dr David Kelly was slumped against or sitting against.  Mind you Dr Hunt in mentioning 'some broken branches' could be said to have made an arboreal reference of a sort; however the possibility of Dr Kelly leaning against the tree to take his pills or to start his wrist cutting prior to laying down to die doesn't seem to be considered in Dr Hunt's suicide scenario.

What about these broken branches then?  In Dr Hunt's report, and under 'adjacent scene', we have this sentence: Lying propped against some broken branches, and about 1' from his left elbow was an open bottle of Evian water (500mls). Because, as described by Dr Hunt the left  upper arm was in line with the shoulders, the bottle and hence the 'broken branches' were very close to Dr Kelly's head, and other witness statements confirm this bottle location.  The thing that strikes me as odd is that I think that Dr Hunt is the only witness to mention the 'broken branches'.  There is a lot of evidence of Dr Hunt's casual use of the English Language and I feel that this is one example.  We are talking here of broken branches (plural I notice) which can't be more than a very few feet from the trunk of a large tree.  I would have expected branches, if they came from this tree, to be further away from the trunk.  My suspicion is that the 'broken branches' referred to is fairly inconsequential twiggy stuff  but I get the impression that Dr Hunt would use the word 'branch' to describe anything from the largest bough to an odd bit of brushwood.

Away from the wording of the report lets go to the Inquiry where Mr Knox questions Dr Hunt about the body position:

MR KNOX: Could you describe the position of the body at the scene?
A. 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.
Q. I take it from what you just said he was laying on his back?
A. He was, yes.
Q. Was any part of his body actually touching the tree; can you recall? 

A. I recall that his head was quite close to branches and so forth, but not actually over the tree.

Well, at least the tree gets a mention here!  But look at his last answer.  When Dr Hunt says 'branches and so forth' what exactly is the 'so forth'.  In this particular context we don't know whether the branches are anything to do with this tree, some other tree, recently fallen branches, old decayed branches, how big they are.  'Not actually over the tree' is not clear enough either, why didn't he give an indication of how far from the tree the head was?  It's not satisfactory.

Just a thought or two about the blue scene tent which Dr Hunt stated had been erected by the time he and Mr Green crossed the inner cordon at approximately 14.10.  I would be fascinated to know how large this tent was - I suspect that it might have been the size of a small marquee.  It would have to have been roomy enough for Dr Hunt and A N Other to move around in it, to undress the body, do the swabbing and examine the body in detail.  The knife, watch, cap and water bottle with its cap were all close to the body and would be within the tent.  What about the stinging nettles with the blood on them?  One thing seems certain and that is that Mr Green didn't see the "bigger picture" before tent erection, that might not necessarily have inhibited him but I think it's possible that the edge of the tent might have obscured possible evidence.  it's a pity that Mr Green couldn't have been on site prior to the tent going up.

The positioning of the body away from the tree would have permitted the tent to totally enclose the body I reckon.  Perhaps that is why the body was thoughtfully moved earlier that day, to permit a scene tent to be erected.  I jest.  The fingertip search that took place after the corpse was removed took I think a little over 20 minutes with a fresh team of searchers; this suggests to me that the taped of area where Dr Kelly had lain was reasonably large.

I might have missed some other reference to the 'broken branches'.  If I did I hope someone will correct me!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Dr Hunt had plenty of time to think

When a forensic pathologist arrives at the scene of a suspicious death my guess is that it isn't long before they get stuck right in to the examination.  Of course it is very much in the interest of the police that the pathologists work is completed as soon as possible: the police will surely want some indication of time of death and if there is evidence of foul play for example.

On Friday 18th July 2003 at Harrowdown Hill things seem to have gone in a different direction.  Just after midday Dr Hunt meets DI Ashleigh Smith and a couple of SOCOs.  Acting principal SOCO Mark Schollar gives Dr Hunt some background information and Dr Hunt is shown a scene video which takes the viewer along the common approach path, the body of the deceased is seen, also the knife and wristwatch.  It's at about this time that the officer in charge of the investigation, DCI Alan Young arrives on site and he and Dr Hunt have a discussion.  I'm guessing now but it might have been during the course of their chat that the decision was made to call out a forensic biologist (Roy Green).  It will be recalled that Mr Green received a request to attend at about "dinner time".

Here is part of the testimony from Dr Hunt at the Inquiry:

MR KNOX: When you went up to the body did you begin to examine it straight away?
A. Yes, from the point of view of looking at the body rather than touching anything at that stage.
Q. And were you able to confirm that the body was dead?
A. Yes.
Q. Can you recall at what time you did that?
A. 12.35 hours is the time I noted as having confirmed the fact of death. 

Q. And after that, did anything happen at the scene immediately after that?
A. Yes, after that there was a fingertip search conducted by police of the common approach path, and the view taken was that we would await the arrival of the scientist, the biologist and his assistant from the laboratory.

The delay in starting the body examination can be interpreted in different ways - perhaps they thought it better for the fingertip search of the common approach path to be done first or maybe, and more logically in my opinion, if Dr Hunt and Mr Green were looking to work alongside each other then starting at the same time might make sense.   We are told that the area around the body was taped off and, in his report, Dr Hunt confirms that during the whole time he was at the immediate scene he was dressed in his forensic gearThis then would include that initial approach to the body to confirm death.   I suppose it is routine for a pathologist to himself confirm death even though the police in our case had the print outs from the ambulance crew that most certainly had confirmed death had occurred.  It wasn't until 12.50 (PC Franklin's evidence) that DCI Young made the request for the fingertip search, so 15 minutes after Dr Hunt had confirmed death.

It was at about 14.10 that Dr Hunt and Mr Green crossed the inner cordon to get down to their serious work.  So it seems that Dr Hunt had about one and a half valuable hours of thinking time before Mr Green turned up.  Of course he might have disappeared to the pub for a pie and a pint but doesn't record going in or out of the outer cordon at this time.  More likely perhaps to have gone back to his car for a couple of sandwiches and cup of coffee.  Anyway he appears to have had ample time to look at the whole scene, to make a few measurements perhaps and to try and puzzle out what happened.

But did he use the time well?  After the forensic photos were taken he could have taken Dr Kelly's rectal temperature - he wouldn't have needed Mr Green's expertise for that.  Did he look at any of the nearby vegetation for blood deposits?  He doesn't mention the stinging nettles in his report whereas Vanessa Hunt, on site for a much shorter time, notes the blood on the nettles.  What about the small Evian bottle of water close to Dr Kelly's head and barely reachable?  Why does he appear disinterested in the water bottle?  He doesn't say anything about the water left in it in his report and at the Inquiry can't remember how much this was (for his information the easily recalled figure of 111 ml).

The fact that the body was flat on its back doesn't seem to occasion any surprise to him.  The choice by the mature and well educated Dr Kelly of one hard to reach ulnar artery to cut doesn't cause Dr Hunt to pause and wonder about that selection.  Did he ever consider that this might be a murder made to look like suicide?

What was Dr Hunt thinking in that one and a half hour time window before Mr Green arrived? 

Friday, 14 January 2011

The odd position of the Evian water bottle

I had previously written about the Evian water bottle found close to Dr Kelly's body.  From a Freedom of Information request I had ascertained that the amount of water still in the bottle was 111 ml which is approximately 22% of its maximum capacity (this assumes it was full at the start of Dr Kelly's walk and also assumes that he actually took it with him i.e. it wasn't a prop added to the scene).  The Evian bottle was one subject I raised in an open letter to the Attorney General Dominic Grieve: the text of this letter is here

Now I want to turn my attention to the very odd location of the bottle in relation to the body.  First though we need a description of the position of Dr Kelly's left arm.  Some witnesses seem to have had trouble putting their recollection of the position into words and for an attempt at accuracy it is best I think to go to the published report of the forensic pathologist.  Dr Hunt says
'He was lying on his back with his head towards his left shoulder.  His left, upper arm was in a line with the shoulder, with his elbow flexed, and his left hand pointing down towards his feet'.  From this it can be seen that the left arm was certainly not in a normal or naturally comfortable position.

Neither of the two volunteer searchers were asked if they had observed the bottle.  From then on this is how the different witnesses responded when asked about the bottle position:

DC Coe
Q. Did you see a bottle? 
A. I did, a water -- a small water bottle. I think that was the left-hand side of the body as well, towards the top left-hand shoulder.

PC Franklin
and also there was an open bottle of water at the scene. (no more detailed location given)

PC Sawyer
Q. Did you see a bottle of water?
A. I did, by Dr Kelly's head. There was an open bottle of Evian, 500 ml or 300 ml bottle, with the cap by the side of it, by his head.
Q. Was it upright?
A. It was leaning slightly. It had been propped but it was upright. There was still some water in it.

Paramedic Vanessa Hunt
Q. Right. And did you see anything on the ground? 
A. There was a silver bladed knife, a wristwatch, which was off of the wrist.
Q. Yes.
A. And, oh, a water bottle, a small water bottle stood up to the left side of Dr Kelly's head.

Ambulance Technician Dave Bartlett
Q. Did you see any items next to the body?
A. Yes, to the left side above just where the arm was, there was a wristwatch, a silver knife with a curved blade and a bottle of water.
Q. And the bottle of water, was that empty or full or --
A. I think it was empty.
Q. Was it upright or can you remember? 

A. Yes, it was upright.

Forensic Biologist Mr Green
Q. What else did you see around the body?
A. There was a bloodstained watch and a knife to --
Q. Was the knife bloodstained?
A. Yes, it was, yes. There was a Barbour hat/cap near Dr Kelly's left shoulder and then out from that there was an Evian water bottle, the cap of which was just a bit further along. These were -- the bottle was about 25 centimetres from the shoulder.

Forensic Pathologist Dr Hunt
Q. Did you notice a bottle of water? 
A. Yes, there was a bottle of Evian water, half a litre.
Q. Was there any water in that bottle?
A. Yes, there was some remaining water. I do not recall what volume exactly. 
Q. Can you remember precisely where the bottle was in relation to the body?
A. Yes, it was lying propped against some broken branches to the left and about a foot away from his left elbow.
Q. And did you notice anything in particular about the bottle?
A. Yes, there was some smeared blood over both the bottle itself and the bottle top.
Q. Did that indicate anything to you? 

A. It indicated that he had been bleeding whilst at least placing the bottle in its final position. He may already have been bleeding whilst he was drinking from it, but that is less certain. 

This from the Daily Mail:

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.
He said: ‘I said to the copper at the time, “Who stood the bottle of water up or has it been moved?” They said it hadn’t been moved. ‘For someone lying like that on leaf mould with a bottle of water there, he would have knocked it over while dying, I would have thought. It seemed very odd to me.’

Read more:

I have tried lying down flat on my back with my left arm crooked in the position described by Dr Hunt and have attempted to make the body movement necessary to have placed the bottle and its top into the position described by the witnesses.  I need to give a health warning to anyone wanting to try this at home, it's almost impossible unless perhaps you are a contortionist

There is something obviously wrong with the position of the water bottle.  It almost defies belief to think that nobody who would have seen the bottle position on that Friday would have wondered how and why it got there.  And the fact that its top was close by and the bottle was propped up as well.  Once again it is someone from the ambulance crew who sees the nonsense of it all.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

The blood in the Barbour jacket sleeve

In his closing statement at the Inquiry Mr Dingemans tries to downgrade the observations of the ambulance crew regarding the lack of blood at the scene:

There was a wound on his left wrist and an artery had been severed. Dr Kelly was declared dead at the scene. Notwithstanding the cut to the wrist, the ambulance personnel when they came to give evidence reported not seeing much blood, though they accepted they were not looking in detail.  The forensic biologist has assisted in this respect.  He identified the blood, the stains on the clothing and the blood on the leaves, which had acted in part as blotting paper.

Of course, although not part of the evidence, the ambulance crew almost certainly had greater experience of the scene of a wrist slashing than either Dr Hunt or Mr Green for the simple reason that wrist slashing almost always ends in failure and so forensic pathologists and forensic biologists just can't be expected to have the experience of this type of injury and its effects.  Now obviously the fact that Mr Green was on site for almost 5 hours and Dr Hunt for even longer must mean that they would see blood that the paramedics didn't, for example when the body was undressed.  What is interesting though is just how much information Vanessa Hunt and Dave Bartlett took in and reported whilst only with the body for 5 to 10 minutes.  In contrast Dr Hunt's reporting of what he saw was very sub standard - however good he may be at the practical stuff he has also to prepare a report for the coroner that is absolutely crystal clear and well detailed throughout.  Dr Hunt I'm afraid fails the test on clarity.

This post concentrates on the left sleeve of the Barbour jacket that Dr Kelly was wearing when his body was discovered.   This is part of the interchange between Mr Dingemans and Vanessa Hunt:

Q. One of the police officers or someone this morning said there appeared to be some blood on the ground. Did you see that?
A. I could see some on -- there were some stinging nettles to the left of the body. As to on the ground, I do not remember seeing a sort of huge puddle or anything like that. There was dried blood on the left wrist. His jacket was pulled to sort of mid forearm area and from that area down towards the hand there was dried blood, but no obvious sign of a wound or anything, it was just dried blood.
Q. You did not see the wound?
A. I did not see the wound, no.

From the interview given by the ambulance crew in the Observer of 12 December 2004 we read:

Both saw that the left sleeves of his jacket and shirt had been pulled up to just below the elbow and there was dried blood around his left wrist.

So we are clear that when the ambulance crew attended at about 10 o'clock that morning the jacket and shirt had been pulled up almost to the elbow.  Now we need to look at Dr Hunt's published report of the 25th July.  In it Dr Hunt, quite correctly in my view, describes how each leg of Dr Kelly's jeans was pulled up, the left one to about mid calf level and the right one to just above the ankle.  However I can't find a similar reference to the left sleeve of the coat and shirt.  There seem to be two possibilities here: either he has been negligent in not reporting the sleeves pulled up or the sleeves have somehow rolled themselves down in the hours following the ambulance crew's visit.  If Dr Hunt is right about the dead body not having been brought to Harrowdown Hill by another party and the latest possible time of death was 01.15 in the early morning then it seems difficult to believe that the sleeve could have rolled down unless the onset of rigor mortis had an effect.

This sleeve positioning becomes really important when, for want of a better term, Dr Hunt tries to "sex up" his report in August 2010:

In actual fact there were big, thick clots of blood inside the sleeve, which came down over the wrist, and a lot of blood soaked into the ground,' he said.

Is Dr Hunt saying here that the sleeve came down over the wrist or the clots of blood did or what?  There shouldn't be confusion like this.  In his report he has a section headed 'Bloodstaining and contamination on clothing'. Under it are a number of bullet points including 'There was heavy bloodstaining over the left arm, including that part that was within the jacket at the scene'.  The implication seems to be that not all the arm was within the sleeve but he doesn't indicate how much whereas with the ambulance crew we can visualise the appearance from their description.
It's possible I suppose that when Dr Kelly started cutting the jacket sleeve was almost down to his wrist, blood got into the sleeve and then he pushed the shirt and jacket sleeve almost up to his elbow out of the way and to facilitate further cutting.  I'm not convinced though.  I do find it difficult to believe that there were 'big, thick clots of blood' inside the Barbour jacket when we know the sleeve was pushed well back toward the elbow when the ambulance crew arrived.  

It's annoying too in his report that Dr Hunt overuses the word 'bloodstaining' (insert your own definition).  Why didn't he use the words 'big, thick clots of blood' at the Inquiry? 

Did Mrs Kelly lie at the Hutton Inquiry?

Did Mrs Kelly lie at the Hutton Inquiry?  I imagine that among the Tom Mangolds and John Rentouls of this world I would be condemned for even mooting such a possibility.  However the question does need to be asked I'm afraid.

This post isn't an all out attack on Janice Kelly - sure there are a lot of anomalies in her evidence but this piece is about one particular item in her 1 hour and 5 minutes of evidence on Monday 1st September.   On Wednesday 9th July David Kelly's name was confirmed as the alleged informant in Andrew Gilligan's now infamous broadcast on the Today programme of 29th May.  Mrs Kelly's testimony includes the decision of the couple to flee their home temporarily to avoid the Press who it appears were heading toward Southmoor.  Fortunately Mrs Kelly knows somewhere they can go to in Cornwall to get out of the spotlight.  They quickly pack that evening and drive west and break their journey by staying the night at a hotel in Weston-Super Mare.  The next day she says they continue their journey on to Mevagissey, a traditional Cornish village on the south coast approximately midway between the east and west extremities of the county.

There are concerns about the integrity of the whole story of the visit to Cornwall but I won't dwell on them here, rather it is just a single piece of evidence from Mrs Kelly that can't be reconciled with another person's testimony.  This is part of Mrs Kelly's questioning by Mr Dingemans relating to events following breakfast at the Weston-Super-Mare hotel:

Q. Did you set off anywhere?
A. Yes, we did. He made a few calls on his mobile in the garden of the hotel.
Q. Do you know who he was calling?
A. He was calling MoD, but I do not know who he spoke to.
Q. Do you know what was said? Did he report back?
A. No, he did not. He just said I was okay to continue down towards Cornwall.
Q. You did the packing?
A. I did my packing. He had already more or less done his own.
Q. There obviously was not that much to pack anyway?
A. No, there was not. He had a briefcase and we each had a small suitcase each.
Q. You set off down to Cornwall I think?
A. We did, yes.
Q. What time did you leave the hotel?
A. We left the hotel about 8.30, 8.45, that sort of time.
Q. What time did you get down to the place you were driving to in Cornwall?
A. That was about noon or just after.

Note the sentence  He just said I was okay to continue down towards Cornwall.  She says 'I was' not 'we were' which might be significant, almost suggesting that she was going on to Cornwall by train with perhaps her husband coming later.

Two days later at the Inquiry we have evidence from Mr "A" who we now know to have been Rod Godfrey, a UK chemical weapons expert.  This is some of the testimony (Mr Dingemans asking the questions again):

Q. We have heard that he spent the night of the 9th July at a hotel in Weston-Super-Mare then, I think, travelled down on 10th July to Cornwall. Did he tell you that he was travelling anywhere?
A. It was slightly odd. He rang me on the morning of the10th to tell me he had the medication for me.
Q. What medication was this?
A. It was paladin, it is an anti-malarial medication.

Q. Who had given him that?
A. The doctor at RAF Honnington had given him the medication for the three of us who were about to deploy to Iraq on Friday. She had made a slight error in the prescription and was giving us some more.
Q. Right. And he rang you to say that he had the medication -- sorry, I interrupted.
A. Yes. He rang to say he had the medication and was quite happy to drop it off. This was quite odd. I was quite happy to travel the short distance to his home to pick it up. But he almost insisted he dropped it off.  Within about half an hour to an hour he arrived at my house.
Q. Sorry to press you, whereabouts in Wiltshire? Can you give a town that you are near?
A. I am near Swindon.
LORD HUTTON: Was Mrs Kelly with Dr Kelly at this time, Mr A?
A. It is possible that she could have been in the car. I myself did not understand how the whole
Weston-Super-Mare/Cornwall trip works in the chronology.  David had parked some distance from my house and walked 100 yards up the road to my house.

Q. Do you have a drive?
A. I am afraid not.
Q. Was 100 yards the closest he could park?
A. Yes, that is the problem.
Q. And how did he seem to you when you saw him on 10th July?
A. He was distracted. Our conversation would normally include a significant part relating to work, but he seemed to want nothing more than to have a cup of coffee and walk through my garden talking about the garden, so that is what we did.
Q. Was that usual behaviour for him?
A. It was not. I would characterise his behaviour as being somewhat distracted at this point; and he clearly did not want to talk much about work.
Q. Was that usual?
A. It was not. Our friendship was based partly on work but -- mostly on work, and really a large part of our meetings would consist of talking of matters of professional mutual concern.

Mr "A" clearly indicates that he doesn't understand how the chronology worked for that morning but, this being the Hutton Inquiry, the impossibility of the timeline isn't pursued further.  And it is literally impossible to do the trip back to near Swindon from Weston-Super-Mare, stop for coffee and look around the garden, and then drive to the final destination in Cornwall, arriving 'about noon or just after'.

We are told that Mr "A" was off to Iraq the following day and have to assume that he was very clear about the fact that Dr Kelly saw him with the medication on the 10th.  I cannot believe that he could have got this piece of evidence wrong or have any motivation for lying.

What of Mrs Kelly's evidence then.  She had appeared at the Inquiry two days before and it would be reasonable to assume that she wouldn't know about the upcoming evidence from Mr "A" about Dr Kelly dropping off medication.  It's possible in my view that she might have been angry and frustrated with the thought of backtracking in the direction they had come and this might have been a reason for her to "skip" the incident of going back to Swindon in her testimony.  With her evidence taking over an hour to conclude the temptation to omit something that seemed fairly unimportant and with a bad memory might have been substantial.  If she and her husband had exchanged words she might have felt somewhat embarrassed or ashamed about it and from her perspective the omission would have seen unimportant.

The problem now for her is that, seemingly being caught out not telling the truth about the arrival time in Cornwall, all of the rest of her evidence is under suspicion.

One final point: in his excellent book Norman Baker covers the visit to Mr "A" by Dr Kelly.  Norman tries to make sense of the time taken by Dr Kelly to get to Mr "A"s home from W-S-M and finds it impossible to believe.  Unfortunately he makes a couple of mistakes in his logic.  Firstly he quotes Mr A as saying  'Within about an half an hour he arrived at my house' (from the phone call evidently) - the reality was Mr "A" saying 'Within about half an hour to an hour he arrived at my house' which is not the same!  Secondly Norman Baker states Swindon is 62 miles from W-S-M and that the AA route planner estimates a journey time by road of 1 hour and 8 minutes.  The AA route planner would surely take you from town centre to town centre,  Mr "A" lives near Swindon, he could be within a couple of minutes of the M4 (which runs just south of Swindon) for all we know.  I'm mentioning this just to show how easy it is for the investigator to make slight errors aided and abetted by his or her own prejudices.  From my own experience I know the difficulty in being 100% factual and the discipline needed!

Monday, 10 January 2011

A very long body examination at Harrowdown Hill

This article concerning forensic pathologist Dr Nicholas Hunt is from the MailonLine 23 August 2010:  The final section on doubts and rebuttals is particularly interesting and Dr Hunt's rebuttals seem extraordinarily weak.

Looking at the second paragraph of his final rebuttal we read:

'We look at every millimetre of skin. We're looking for any needle puncture marks and so forth, any sign of skulduggery – between the fingers, the toes, under the nose, behind the ears, here, there and everywhere.

Well at this point Dr Hunt is at least talking facts rather than engaging in the speculation that is his forte.  I wonder if Dr Hunt considered the possibility of needle puncture marks being obscured by the cuts to his left wrist; there is absolutely no indication that he did.  From his published report we read that at approximately 17.30 hours following the tapings and swabs he was able to examine the body more fully.  It was at 14.10 that he and Mr Green were logged into the inner cordon, Dr Hunt having already confirmed death at 12.35.  By the 17.30 time mentioned above the two men had been carrying out their roles for 3 hours 20 minutes.  It would seem that by 17.30 the initial work of on site examination of Dr Kelly's clothing and the tapings and swabs were complete.  When he writes about examining the body more fully this I suppose includes the business of looking at 'every millimetre of skin' referred to in the press article.  
I can fully understand that certain aspects of the examination have to be done where the body is found but Dr Hunt seems to have taken this to ridiculous extremes.  It seems absolutely right and proper to, as he says, look at every millimetre of skin but surely to goodness the correct place to do this is at the mortuary.  If, as it seems to me, Dr Hunt was doing this part of the examination in the scene tent at Harrowdown Hill then I find such an action quite extraordinary.  You are inside a scene tent in woodland, you are having to kneel down or squat down for an hour and a half or more while someone else one assumes is holding a torch as you are peering hard looking for puncture marks.  Wouldn't that aspect of the examination be just that bit easier when the body arrives at the mortuary with facilities and with the pathologist being able to stand upright rather than contorting himself.  It must have been uncomfortably hot in his forensic suit in the tent as well.  I just find it unbelievable that so much time was spent "on site" when surely the closer examination could have been done indoors.
So couldn't the body have been identified by Mrs Kelly that evening at Oxford and the close physical inspection completed  with the actual post-mortem taking place on the Saturday.  Or would that have been too simple?   

Sunday, 9 January 2011

DC Coe - what he failed to notice

In my last post I had put forward the possibility that DC Coe didn't stay with Dr Kelly's body for anything like the 25 to 30 minutes that his evidence to Hutton suggests.  I don't have proof of how long he remained with the corpse but what I find intriguing is how little he evidently noticed about the body he was supposedly guarding and its immediate environs.

From his testimony at the inquiry we learn that DC Coe didn't know whether there was any water left in the Evian bottle and whether Dr Kelly's cap was on or off his head - although he thinks "off" which is correct.  He is somewhat vague about the clothing although he does notice the Barbour jacket in particular.

It was in early August last year that Graham Coe had an interview with the Daily Mail, this was the moment that he admitted that there was "The Third Man" accompanying him and DC Shields at Harrowdown Hill  (I tried to obtain the name and rank of this person via a FOI request but Thames Valley Police weren't prepared to release it - although they did admit that they knew who it was!).  Some of the interview is reported on the Mailonline  However the previous day evidently the story was presented in greater depth in the newspaper itself as can be seen by going to this particular website  In this forum you need to scroll to 8th August 2010 where someone calling themselves "leavemealone" has made a couple of entries.  The first of these is a newspaper report about the occasion when Dr Hunt allegedly mixed up the details of two dead servicemen (this needs its own blogpost at some time).  The second entry is the Daily Mail piece involving DC Coe (now retired).  Here is an extract:

‘I think he was wearing a green Barbour jacket and a bluish checked shirt, both of which I think were rolled up, and dark cords. I think he was wearing his glasses and I think his eyes were closed. I could see his left wrist had been cut.

That he thought that Dr Kelly was wearing his spectacles is extraordinary, particularly as he thinks his eyes were closed. The reference to dark cords is strange too because the jeans he was wearing would presumably be denim in the normal accepted definition of jeans.

Regarding the body position we have Mr Coe saying to the Mail in 2010:

‘As I got closer, I could see Dr Kelly’s body sideways on, with his head and shoulders against a large tree. He wasn’t dead flat along the ground. If you wanted to die, you’d never lie flat out. But neither was he sat upright.’

Go back seven years to 2003 and this is what DC Coe is saying to the Hutton Inquiry:

Q. And how was the body positioned?
A. 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.

I do have a problem reconciling these two statements.

DC Coe guarded the body for 25 to 30 minutes - or did he?

It appears to be accepted as a fact that once searcher Paul Chapman had shown DC Coe the body then the detective stood guard at the scene for 25 to 30 minutes.  Certainly the chronology fits pretty well if Mr Chapman leads DC Coe to the body at say 9.30 and PCs Franklin and Sawyer get to the top of the track at about 10 o'clock.   This is an exchange between Mr Knox and DC Coe at the Inquiry:

Q. How far away from the body did you actually go? 
A. 7 or 8 feet.
Q. How long did you spend at the scene?
A. Until other officers came to tape off the area. I would think somewhere in the region of about 25 or 30 minutes.
Q. Did anyone then arrive after that time?
A. Yes, two other police officers arrived, I took them to where the body was laying and then they made a taped off area, what we call a common approach path for everybody to attend along this one path.

Here we have another classic example of the muddled evidence presented at the InquiryI guess it is just loose language but it might be assumed that one lot of officers taped off the area and then after that a new pair of officers (evidently Franklin and Sawyer) arrive on the scene.  I'm assuming in reality we are just talking about PCs Franklin and Sawyer.  Whether Mr Dingemans and Mr Knox set out to avoid crystal clear clarity is an interesting question!

From the wording in the last answer we see that DC Coe took his police colleagues to the body.  In other words at that moment in time when he meets the two police constables he is not with the body!  When one looks at the testimonies of PCs Franklin and Sawyer together with that of the ambulance crew it becomes apparent that he is down on the track and then leads them to the body. 

Dr Kelly's body is well into the wood, by DC Coe's estimation about 75 yards, PC Franklin reckoned 50 to 75 metres, somewhere approaching three quarters of the length of a football pitch then.  If DC Coe is down on the track when the PCs and the ambulance crew come into view my thought is 'how long had he been down on the track, after Mr Chapman showed him the body did he decide it was better to join his companions down on the track sooner rather than later'.  My logic suggests that DC Shields should have accompanied DC Coe and Paul Chapman to note the body location, then whilst DC Coe remains with the corpse DC Shields returns to the track so that when the cavalry turn up he can take them to the correct spot.

Now I'm not suggesting that as soon as DC Coe left the body to head for the track that men from the security services materialised from the undergrowth and for instance moved Dr Kelly's body but nevertheless the possibility that the body was left unguarded does cause concern.  In my next post I will examine the fact that DC Coe noted very little about Dr Kelly, strange for someone who was with the body for up to half an hour apparently.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Mr Green - the little evidence he gave at the Inquiry

In my last post I had lamented the fact that no evidence from the 50 or so lab tests referred to by the forensic biologist had entered the public domain.  I wouldn't have necessarily expected Mr Green to have supplied the detail of every individual test but at the minimum some sort of overview of the test results should have come out.

Anyway there are a few bits and pieces worth noting from what was generally sketchy evidence from Mr Green at the Inquiry.  Mr Dingemans asking the questions, this extract gives some context regarding Mr Green's presence at Harrowdown Hill:

Q. When you arrived at the body, what did you do?
A. Well, basically the start of it is just to have a look and see -- just to take it all in and make notes and measurements and try to get some sense of what could have happened.
Q. How long were you doing that for?
A. It was sort of a gradual process. As I say, I arrived at just gone 2 and left at about 7, so it was quite a while. But during that time I will have gone back to the original tent, the changing tent, to report what I was seeing to DCI Young.
Q. Yes.
A. And to make arrangements for toxicology work that needed to be done.
Q. How long were you on the scene for that day?
A. In total, from just gone 2 until 7, so just short of five hours.

A couple of points here before moving on: a mention of the shadowy DCI Young who didn't give evidence at the Inquiry, we would have expected his presence at HH of course and we know he attended the post-mortem at Oxford late in the evening and extending into the early hours of Saturday morning (a long days work for him then).  The other thing I have to say is that Mr Green's presence for nearly as long as that of Dr Hunt slightly mitigates the criticism that I've read of there not being two pathologists examining Dr Kelly.  Having said that his discipline is different from that of a forensic pathologist even if there is overlap in places.

There is a section of evidence from Mr Green about his observation of "arterial rain" on nettles which were close to the left hand side of Dr Kelly's body.  We are not told how close unfortunately.  I'm not going to quote the relevant part of the evidence because it has been reproduced and superbly analysed on the blogs of both Rowena Thursby and Dr Andrew Watt.  The links to the posts made by Rowena and by Andrew are here:

Why didn't Dr Hunt make any remark about the arterial rain in his report?  He was working closely with Mr Green that afternoon and if he didn't spot the blood on the nettles surely Mr Green would have remarked on it.   Just possibly the lack of arterial rain elsewhere might have been seen as a dent in his suicide theory so best not to mention it.  Of course it does just that and the arterial rain distribution is more suggestive in my opinion of someone else holding Dr Kelly's arm to make the incisions.

We now move on to the question of how much blood was at the scene and witness this exchange:

Q. We have heard from some ambulance personnel, and they said they were not specifically looking, for obvious reasons, at the distribution of blood but they noted,  just on their brief glance, not very much blood. What  were your detailed findings?
A. Well, there was a fair bit of blood.

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

Here I want to clarify the distinction between leaf litter and leaf mould.  The latter according to my dictionary is "soil composed chiefly of decaying leaves", the sort of stuff you might shovel up to put on your garden.  I'm very familiar with leaf mould where I live in the damp south west and if there was a lot of this at Harrowdown Hill then it is conceivable that blood could have soaked into it as suggested.  However the evidence is that leaf mould at our location was absolutely minimal - we are talking about high summer not late autumn, if there was substantial leaf mould then footprints would have been evident and I have a pretty good idea of the nature of the woodland floor from photos I've seen.

Mr Green, correctly I believe, refers to leaf litter, in other words loose undecayed leaves strewn across the ground.  Geologically Harrowdown Hill consists of hard, well nigh impermeable, Oxford clay.  I do not necessarily believe that the leaf litter was absorbent in the way claimed.  Later claims made about blood soaking into the ground have no factual basis and neither Mr Green nor Dr Hunt have provided a shred of evidence to support any contention about blood loss into leaf litter or into the ground.

Notice it was Mr Dingemans who helpfully provided Mr Green with the blotting paper comparison to give the evidence a little more weight.  Mr Dingemans was particularly proud of the blotting paper reference I'm sure because in his Closing Statement on the 25th September he says this about Mr Green:

 He identified the blood, the stains on the clothing and the blood on the leaves, which had acted in part as blotting paper.

Mr Dingemans revisits the vegetation close to Dr Kelly's body:

Q. Did you examine the vegetation around the body?
A. Yes.
Q. Did you form any conclusions from that examination?
A. Well, the blood staining that was highest from the ground was approximately 50 centimetres above the ground. This was above the position where Dr Kelly's left wrist was, but most of the stainings were 33 centimetres, which is approximately a foot above the ground. It was all fairly low level stuff.
Q. What does that mean?
A. It meant that because the injury -- most of the injuries would have taken place while Dr Kelly was sitting down or lying down.

As with so much of the testimony gathered at the Hutton Inquiry this is unsatisfactory.  Earlier evidence had discussed the arterial rain on the nettles on Dr Kelly's left.  So what was the vegetation displaying stainings which were about 12 to 20 inches above the ground?  Is in fact the stainings in this evidence the same as the arterial rain in the earlier evidence.  Why was the earlier "arterial rain" and later "staining" evidence separated?

We now move on to the contact blood stain on the right knee of Dr Kelly's jeans.  I'm not going to dwell on this but Mr Green assumes that Dr Kelly must have knelt in a pool of blood.  Vanessa Hunt had described it as a small patch on his right knee, her colleague Dave Bartlett said it 'was a bloodstain about 25 mm across'.  Mr Green, without giving a measurement, describes it as a large contact bloodstain.  If I hadn't had access to the evidence of the ambulance crew and relied on what Mr Green said about kneeling etc I would have been under the impression that the whole of the right knee was soaking in blood.  PC Sawyer had also noticed the blood on the right knee so it was significant enough to note but from what I have previously written perhaps not so dramatic as made out by Mr Green.  At the moment I can't offer a fresh explanation of why the contact stain was there but certainly it's something to think about.

The one other thing in Mr Green's evidence I want to put into this post is Mr Green's explanation about the smeared blood on the Evian water bottle and its cap.  Mr Green contends that Dr Kelly drank some water while the blood was flowing because he needed to replenish the liquid in his body from the loss of blood.  From a medical standpoint alone I wouldn't argue about that but I suggest reading my open letter to the Attorney General which refers to Mr Green's explanation of this point    

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Mr Green - the evidence that failed to become public

Mr Green, the forensic biologist, has a number of interesting comments to make in his evidence on the 3rd September and I'll try and cover these in my next post.  For the moment though read this exchange between him and Mr Dingemans (Mr Green had just been testifying about his activity at Harrowdown Hill on the afternoon of the 18th):

Q. That concluded your investigations on the day, did it?
A. On that day, yes.
Q. And what further investigations did you make?
A. Well, since then I have had upwards of -- I could count them but at a guess 50 items sent to the laboratory.
Q. To analyse?
A. To analyse, to carry out DNA profiling, to look at some of the staining in a little more detail.
Q. Right. And you have carried all that out and reported back to Assistant Chief Constable Page or through his senior investigating officer?
A. Well, my examinations are still ongoing.
Q. Right.
A. I have provided a spreadsheet with a kind of -- a snapshot of where we are today about what items have been examined, what has been found on them, which items were profiled, the results of those profile tests, although I have not put my evidence down in a statement form as yet.
Q. Because you are just finishing off the testing of that material?
A. Exactly.
Q. I think when all that is concluded Assistant Chief Constable Page is going to come back and tell us the results.

These are my thoughts on all this:
1.  It's a pity that Mr Green couldn't have supplied some interim information at this stage about his results.
2.  Why couldn't Mr Green come back at stage 2 of the Inquiry to divulge the results?  Surely he is far better qualified to do so than ACC Page.
3.  ACC Page needed two specialist search advisers to point the way to where Dr Kelly might be found yet now he is deemed to be a suitable witness on forensic biology!  Once again at Hutton we have an inappropriate person expected to give testimony.
4.  There was no explanation as to why Mr Green couldn't return but let us assume that there was a good reason for this.  A colleague of Mr Green's Ms Eileen Hickey attended at Harrowdown Hill on that afternoon.  Surely she would be the logical person to give evidence on the test results.  Why wasn't she called anyway?  Dr Andrew Watt has raised the issue of Dr Hickey's non appearance at the Inquiry
5.  ACC Page makes his second appearance at the Inquiry on 23rd September.  It seems that he, Lord Hutton and Mr Dingemans are suffering from collective amnesia on the afternoon of that day because the results of Mr Green's 50 or so lab tests AREN'T discussed at that time.
6.  ACC Page, Lord Hutton and Mr Dingemans were all great advocates for the suicide explanation for Dr Kelly's death.  If the forensic results from the lab were bolstering the suicide hypothesis would they have suffered the same apparent loss of memory referred to above?