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?   


  1. I should have added that if the body had been removed at a substantially earlier time we would also have had the rectal temperature taken at an earlier time as well with then hopefully a shorter time window for the death. I don't know how long a forensic pathologist would normally spend "on site" (each case would be different of course) but 5 hours or more just seems a lot when it appears that some of the work could be done in the more comfortable environment at the mortuary.

  2. Of course Brian, the correct textbook time to perform the rectal temperature measurement is as soon as possible after arriving. Neiter Hunt,nor any other commentator, has given any satisfactory reason why the measurement wasn't done at the most helpful time for the investigation. One can only assume Hunt either took two readings, at start and finish, and used the mosot unhelpful one or was asked not to take one at the start at his tent briefing and video show. One does wonder why on earth he arrived at mid-day since he did precious little (if we are to believe him) before 2pm. What on earth was going on around the body in those 1.5- 2 hours?

  3. I do wonder about Dr Hunt's competence. DCI Young arrives at HH shortly after Dr Hunt and they would have had an early conversation I'm sure. If there is an inquest then Hunt needs questioning about the choice of time for the rectal temperature - it's something that the doctors flagged up in the Memorial.

    The only things we know for sure that he did in that first session was look at the video, take in the scene and confirm death. Hunt talks about the view taken (by him?, by Young?, jointly?) that they would wait for Mr Green and Ms Hickey to arrive. Green gets called out at 'dinner time' if I remember correctly. Did Hunt influence Young on this? I assume that the call to Green resulted from the Hunt/Young discussion.

    The other thing we don't know is just when the blue scene tent was erected other than it was up by 14.10 I assume that it was a SOCO who did the video and they would have taken plenty of photos at the same time.

  4. The fact that Hunt and Coe were wheeled out recently to add to their Hutton contributions shows that someone is rattled.

    And so they should be! Coe remembered Dr Kelly's head and shoulders against a tree,(just like Hutton had seen in a photo) something he didn't recall several years earlier and in stark contrast to the ambulance technician who said he stood in a gap between a tree and the head of Dr Kelly's body.

    And what about Hunt's "there were big thick clots of blood" that I've just remembered.

    If this isn't prima facie evidence that the body was moved and there has been a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice to disguise the fact, I don't know what is.

    If the video and photos of the scene still exist why is Dominic Grieve still in roadblock to justice mode?

  5. Regarding Dr Hunt I must repeat what I have said before (in comments on Andrew's blog I believe): wrist slashing is spectacularly unsuccessful in causing suicide and so we need to know from Dr Hunt just how many examples of deaths by wrist cutting he has attended as a pathologist (let alone a single ulnar artery). On the other hand the experienced ambulance crew had attended dozens of attempted but failed attempts by wrist slashing and know what the scene looks like as a result.

    As Dave Bartlett said - I've seen more blood from a nose bleed! As to blood soaking away no evidence at all was produced to back this up. The fact that Dr Hunt makes no mention of arterial rain makes me wonder if he is familiar with it, or does he just ignore it because it's not supporting the suicide hypothesis.

  6. I know that this does not shine any light onto matters but I am curious to know if it is normal to have so many people present at a post mortem examination (11 incl Dr Hunt)? And why are the names of some of them redacted on the report.

    Also the names of 2 people are removed from the report re "Scene Examination" (page 3)the people who accompany Dr Hunt back to the scene after the fingertip search.

    Who are these people? Why were they there? And why have there names been kept secret?

  7. Also in Dr Hunts description of "Adjacent Scene" he has a Barbour Cap at the shoulder / upper arm of the body but in the "Exibits List - Scene" he refers to "Flat cap from game pocket" but no mention of the Barbour cap.

    It's all very curious, perhaps the coroner can work out whether the two caps were the same from photographs.

    And if they were how did it get from the shoulder to the pocket? And how did it get blood stained if it were in the pocket?

  8. LL - a fascinating question about the number of spectators at the p-m! I knew there were several but am surprised there were that many. My guess is that it isn't at all normal to have a crowd like that. A photographer definitely, DCI Young I can understand, perhaps a technical assistant and a clerical assistant. It's like having a class of students, of would be pathologists.

    The matter of redacting names is something that has come up elsewhere. There is (supposedly) some sort of human rights legislation I believe that permits protection of identities. That some names but not all are in the open suggests to me that perhaps those concerned are asked to give consent - some do, some don't. As they are public servants whose salaries are paid by us then I think we have a right to know who they are!

  9. LL - more about the matter of redacted names can be found in the Andrew Watt's blog:

  10. LL- very well spotted regarding the two caps! Although aware of the two caps I hadn't realised that the "Adjacent Scene" and "Exhibits List" were detailing the separate caps, one in each.

    More thoughts on that subject are at

  11. I think the significant point, Brian, regarding "two caps" (are they better than one?) is the impact that it has on the legal veracity of the PM report.

    The PM report has to be a fact based document. If two facts are offered that conflict it makes the whole document worthless.

    Where else, in the report, have false facts been conjectured?

    If it was a single cap, was it at the shoulder or in a pocket!

    I believe this single if obscure point is enough to force a further inquest.

    Not because there is doubt over whether there were 2 caps or one, or the position but because photographic evidence exists to dispel doubt. That in turn will prove one way or another if a third party was involved in tampering with the scene of death; and if that is established then a criminal investigation is essential to establish why.

  12. Although the two caps business is very curious I don't know that there is real proof that the game cap is one and the same as the "blooded" cap. My belief is that there might well have been a game cap still in its pocket that should have been reported on and that it was a bad failure if the cap found near the body hadn't been retained as an exhibit - in fact I'm sure that a SOCO would have ensured that was sorted out.

    The exhibit would much more likely to have been the cap by the body and I suspect was. Dr Hunt seems to be not very good on his reporting, more total cock-up I would say. I'm not sure that the discrepancy would hold up legally but at the very least it demonstrates Dr Hunt's failure to get things right.