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 


  1. To be scrupulously fair to Dr Hunt I have to say that I can't be certain that every word ascribed to him in the "rebuttals" was said by him in reply to the specific doubts raised in the form they have been printed. As with anything stated in the media one should perhaps not assume that everything written is exactly a copy of what was said at the time.

  2. Brian
    I was thinking that when I read '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.'

    But he could exclude Dr Kelly being lifted off a country lane in Longworth and an injection being put into his left wrist.

    David Kelly's training included how to evade capture and how to behave if he was taken hostage. Part of this training sometimes involves mock kidnappings. Dr Kelly would have been aware that he may at some time be subjected to this test and so if he was ambushed on his walk he would have played along with what he thought was an exercise.

    There are lots of things that I can't exclude from this mystery far more than Dr Hunt, if he has been accurately quoted.

  3. Attorney General Dominic Grieve has said it would be extremely unusual to reopen the files - as if everything else were normal about the Kelly case.....
    We have all been taken for a ride by the UK elite and thanks to the internet age it hasn't washed and isn't going to wash. Grieve is caught between a rock and a hard place,but I am afraid he has to open the box.
    Anyway, Dr Hunt,I might accept the gun,but not the load of co-proxamol.

  4. Dr Hunt’s opinion took the place of a legally required inquiry. We no longer need Coroners, pathologists can do the job for them.

    Dr David Kelly’s death is not recorded with a legally valid death certificate.

    It was not signed by a proper person, it does not record the place of death and crucially it was completed before any inquest or inquiry had investigated the cause of death

    Dr Kelly’s death was both unnatural and suspicious and a proper inquiry into his death was legally required but the death certificate was completed before Lord Hutton heard any medical evidence.

    And it didn’t matter that if Lord Hutton had come to a different cause of death as shown on the death certificate because he did not have the authority to change the death certificate.

    Lord Hutton did not have the expertise of experience of a coroner; his sham of an inquiry simply took the cause of death from the bogus death certificate and manipulated evidence to fit the fait accompli.