Thursday, 3 February 2011

A few thoughts about the evidence of PCs Franklin and Sawyer

When it comes to the police investigation at Harrowdown Hill on Friday 18th July 2003 we seem to be totally dependent on the testimonies of PC Franklin, PC Sawyer and DC Coe at the Hutton Inquiry to determine the events of that day involving Thames Valley Police.  I suppose I should include ACC Page who was controlling things from Abingdon Police Station, in the early stages at least.

I'm now going to list some "facts" of interest that particularly deal with the time between 9 am and 10 am that morning.  I have to use inverted commas around the word facts because as with so much in the Dr Kelly business the so called facts are liable to later revision!  However I'm confident that most of the events numbered below are correct.  What I'm writing here largely revolves around the actions and statements of PCs Franklin and Sawyer.

These two policemen have evidently had specialist training in conducting searches as explained in their opening replies to questions at the Inquiry.  PC Sawyer has written an interesting article about the police search business which can be read here  The paragraph just below the second picture is particularly interesting: he writes warm words about Louise Holmes who, Norman Baker states in his book without comment, was the girl friend of PC Sawyer - whether that was the case I don't know.  Sawyer also talks of Dr Kelly being 'missing for over nine hours before being reported to us', an interesting statement when one remembers the family phoning the police at 11.40 on the 17th.

Something else in that paragraph caught my eye because I was always puzzled about who called out the volunteer searchers.  According to PC Sawyer it was PS Paul Woods.  In his evidence at the Inquiry we have this evidence from searcher Paul Chapman:

Q. Were you called to assist in the search for Dr Kelly?
A. I was.
Q. When did you get that call?
A. I got an initial page soon after 5 o'clock on the 18th.
Q. In the morning or evening?
A. In the morning. And then a further text message to indicate we had a call out.

The messages Mr Chapman was getting presumably came from his controller Neil Knight.  Intriguingly it wasn't till about 5.15 that morning that ACC Page started his meeting of interested parties into how and where to search for Dr Kelly .....

Back to the main thrust  of the article and some of the events happening in the hour between 9 and 10 o'clock.

1. PC Sawyer is asked about what time the information came in about the body being found (the two PCs and other officers were at Abingdon Police Station at the time):

Q. Can you remember what time it was that that information came in?
A. It would have been about 9 o'clock, I believe.

Would PC Sawyer have been so adrift with this time (20 minutes early)?

2. An FOI request confirms that the 999 call from Paul Chapman at Harrowdown Hill is logged at 9.20.  Paul Chapman's evidence now after the body had been found and Louise Holmes asked him to phone control:

Q. Did you get through to Control?
A. We did not on the mobiles, no, because the mobiles were all to answerphone.
Q. So how did you contact anyone?
A. I then rang 999 and asked to be put through to Abingdon police station. They could not transfer me so I asked them to get someone at Abingdon police station to call me urgently.
Q. On your mobile?
A. On my mobile, yes.
Q. Did they call back?
A. They called back within a couple of minutes, yes.

Q. Do you remember who you spoke to?
A. I do not. He just said it was a sergeant at Abingdon police station.
Q. What did you report to him?
A. I reported who I was, a member of the search team, and we had found the missing person, could they please then speak to the search manager and the search police officers there and get them to give me a ring.
Q. Did they?
A. Yes, they did. They called me back straight after that.
Q. What arrangements did you make?
A. At that point we were walking back down the path towards the car and they said: keep going there and we will send some police officers out to meet you there, back at your car, Louise's car.

So Paul Chapman gets two call backs, one after the other, from the police and with the conversations taking place he must have finished with them at a time not far short of 9.25 I would have thought.

3. The volunteer searchers are walking down the track to return to the car when they meet DC Coe and his companions coming the other way.   According to Paul Chapman this happened only 2 or 3 minutes after I had made the phone call.  This would make the timing of this meeting somewhere between 9.25 and 9.30 I believe.

4.  From an FOI request I have ascertained that the outer cordon at Harrowdown Hill was established at 9.28.  Who says that the police aren't quick and efficient!

5. The searchers explain to DC Coe who they are and that they have found the body.  Mr Chapman returns up the track with DC Coe and his companions, however it is only DC Coe who accompanies Paul into the wood itself to be shown the body.  Meanwhile Ms Holmes returns to her car with her dog Brock.  This is her evidence at this juncture:

Q. So in other words, Paul Chapman goes back with the police to show them where the body is?
A. Yes.
Q. What did you do?
A. I went back to the car to sort the dog out and then when I got to the car further police officers and personnel came up to the car to take over, take over the scene.

I would think that Louise arrived at her car by 9.40.  The further police and personnel reference is a little bit cryptic so far as the word 'personnel' is concerned.  Certainly it would seem that it wasn't just the outer cordon that was present at that time.

6. The evidence from the ambulance crew is that they had the call at 9.40 (Vanessa Hunt) and arrived at the track at 9.55 (Dave Bartlett).  Their concerns subsequent to the event led to an interview in The Observer of 12 December 2004.  This is an extract:

When they arrived at the woods 15 minutes later it was immediately clear that this was not a run-of-the-mill incident. 'There were a lot of police around,' said Hunt. 'Some were in civilian clothes and others in black jackets and army fatigues. I thought it might have been a firearms incident as there were the guys from the special armed response units.'
The paramedics parked their ambulance. Carrying their resuscitation equipment, they followed two armed-response police for about a mile until they reached a wooded area. In a clearing, they first saw Kelly's body.

The full article is at 
Note: the distance quoted is hopelessly wrong - using the "Google Earth" ruler I make the distance from the parking area to the start of the path into the wood almost exactly half a mile.  The significant thing here is the number and variety of police reported.  There is possible confusion about following two armed response police, if that was who they followed up the track then this would suggest they are not PCs Franklin and Sawyer.  The PCs were in their summer search gear of polo shirts and dark trousers - would Vanessa Hunt have mistaken them for armed response police, they wouldn't have been armed of course.  Was this aspect misreported? 

7.  In his evidence PC Sawyer says this about going out to Harrowdown Hill after the body had been found:

A. We had three other officers in the back who we took from the search team to act as the cordons, because obviously we do not want members of the public or members of the press approaching the scene until it has been obviously searched and declared sterile.

It will be recalled that in actual fact the outer cordon was established at 9.28.  The wording above suggests to me that the three other officers were intended to be the original cordon rather than any additional one.

8. Following the answer given by PC Sawyer in "7" above we have this exchange:

Q. And where did you then go?
A. We then went to the track that leads up to Harrowdown Hill, I do not know the name of the track, but when we arrived we saw a vehicle parked which belonged to Louise. We started walking up the track.  We also had with us two paramedics who had arrived, which we took up with us to make sure that the person we were going to see did not require any medical assistance.
Q. Those two paramedics had obviously arrived separately from you?
A. They had arrived more or less at the same time we did.  So the five of us went up because we were with Sergeant Alan Dadd as well.

PC Franklin, in his evidence, expresses surprise about seeing DC Coe and his companions but neither he nor PC Sawyer even bothers to mention all the other police and personnel noted by Louise Holmes, Vanessa Hunt and Dave Bartlett.  In fact in reference to DC Coe our policemen state that they thought that they were the first search team out there.  Were they not puzzled by all the other police that were present?

9. This is the testimony from Paul Chapman after describing the body:

Q. Right. After you had seen that, where did you go next?
A. We retraced our steps back down to the main path and then walked back south along the path to where the car was parked.
Q. Did the police attend?
A. Yes, they did.
Q. And did you help them when they had arrived?

A. Yes. As we were going down the path we met three police officers coming the other way that were from CID. We identified ourselves to them. They were not actually aware that (a) the body had been found or we were out searching this area. They I think had just come out on their own initiative to look at the area. I informed them we had found the body and they asked me to take
them back to indicate where it was.
Q. So these were not the people you had arranged to meet, as it were?
A. No, because this was only 2 or 3 minutes after I had made the phone call.
Q. How did you know they were police officers?
A. Because they showed me their Thames Valley Police identification.
Q. Do you recall their names?
A. Only one of them was DC Coe.

Paul Chapman was quite certain they were from CID, in fact DC Coe names one as DC Shields.  We are clear surely that we have three officers in plain clothes.

10. Now read this from PC Franklin:

Q. After you get that information, where did you go?
A. PC Sawyer and I attended Harrowdown Hill and went to the scene. We were unsure initially whereabouts we were going, but we passed Paul from the South East Berks Volunteers and he directed us to two uniformed police officers and DC Coe.

and this from PC Sawyer:

Q. You go along the track, where do you then go to?
A. We met Paul from SEBEV walking down the hill.
Q. Paul Chapman?
A. He told us basically the body was further up in the woods. We continued walking up the hill, where I saw DC Coe and two uniformed officers. I said, you know: whereabouts is the body? He pointed the path he had taken. I asked him if he had approached the body. He said he had. I asked him to point out where he had entered the woods and PC Franklin and myself entered the woods at the same point, taking with us a dozen or 15 aluminium poles we use when we are moving towards a scene to establish a common approach path.
Q. Were the paramedics with you at the time?
A. Yes.
Q. The other three officers?

A. They remained down on the path.
Q. So it is you, PC Franklin and two paramedics, then the other three officers you have met; is that right?

So by the time the two PCs arrive and meet DC Coe, the latter's two plain clothes companions have disappeared only to be replaced by two uniform officers.  Interesting!  Also Paul Chapman is walking down the track from the Hill at sometime after 9.55 it seems.  The question of how long it took him to show DC Coe the body might now be asked.

11. We have this from the Daily Mail in August 2010 in the interview of DC Coe when he admitted the presence of "The Third Man":

Eventually, two officers, PC Andrew Franklin and PC Martyn Sawyer, arrived and stood with DC Coe.

‘We sealed off a pathway to the scene,’ said DC Coe, ‘and I stayed for a bit after that and had a chat with them about old times. I told them there he is, dead, and then you chat about other things.

‘Then the ambulance team came and opened his shirt to put white pads on his chest [four electrodes connected to a heart monitor, the reading from which was a flatline].’

Dr Kelly was pronounced dead at 10.07am and DC Coe left the scene shortly afterwards.

I can't vouch for the accuracy of the reporting or whether DC Coe is telling the truth here, although my own gut feeling is that he is.  If I'm correct it might suggest that the paramedics came up the track with a couple of police and then a quick swap of personnel was made when they reached DC Coe's location.

12.  Unfortunately the descriptions from the ambulance crew at the Inquiry as to who they accompanied is a little unclear, to me at least.  This is no criticism of them, the important thing is that they recalled the detail of the body and its immediate surroundings very well.  But for completion this is how they describe going up the track and into the wood.

Vanessa Hunt:

Q. Who had met you? 
A. There was an officer in regulation clothing who directed us to two or three other officers in combat trousers and black polo shirts and we followed them along the track. 
Q. You followed them along the track?
A. Yes.
Q. And where did that lead to?
A. To a wooded area that was on the left of the track.
 Q. And once you got to the wooded area did you stay on the outside of the wood?
 A. Initially there were three people on the track, what I now know to be detective constable, one was the search and rescue and there was another gentleman there. The police officers that we had followed stopped and spoke to them and then we followed the two chaps up into the wooded area.

Dave Bartlett:

Q. What happened when you arrived? 
A. We parked at the end of the lane where there were some cars already parked, a lot of police officers there. We asked one police officer who directed us to the police that were in the combat uniforms and they asked us to bring some equipment and follow them down into the woods. 
Q. And you did that?
A. Yes. We took a defib monitor with us and our own personal kit.
Q. You walked down into the woods, is that right?
A. Yes.
Q. What did you eventually come across? 

A. We got to the end of the lane, there were some more police officers there. I think it was two or three, I cannot remember, I think it was two, took us up into the woods which was like right angles to the track. As we walked up they were in front of us putting the marker posts in and told us to stay between the two posts. 

Does all the foregoing mean that PCs Franklin and Sawyer arrived at Harrowdown Hill by 9.28 say?  I'm not saying that but I find the "facts" I have enumerated interesting at the very minimum.


  1. It is complicated but well done Brian.

    Clearly Franklin/Sawyer and Hunt/Bartlett arrive at significantly different times. Perhaps this is the reason the ambulance record forms have gone missing, they would paint a very different picture than was given to the Inquiry.

    It appears Coe/Shields/+ a-n-other met Franklin/Sawyer/Dadd shortly after 9.30 (not sure where the 3 cordons are at this stage possibly at the lower carpark)

    But Hunt and Bartlett arrive at the car park 9.55 yet, at the inquiry, Franklin /Sawyer have the ambulance crew arriving at the same time as them.

    I believe the body position had become a real problem as had the various blood pools associated with the different body/wrist positions.

    I also believe a decision was made to let the ambulance crew have access to the body when they first arrived; then a tent was organised to go over the body for the scene to be arranged yet again. The left wrist position when the ambulance crew saw it was pointing upwards. Franklin and Sawyer had the left palm pointing down. Dr Hunt had the left arm in one position at his first visit, another position at his second and his memory in his Aug10 interview was the wound had clearly been repeatedly picked of scabs to ensure continued bleeding (not the evidence of the ambulance crew)

  2. ps I think the only evidence that can be regarded as reliable from the scene is that of the search team and the ambulance crew, certainly the body was in a different position but they gave honest accounts.

    The police versions ammount to a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Dominic Grieve has the photographic evidence - when will he do something about it?

  3. I wonder where the civilians were searching. Apparently Mrs Kelly gave an interview to the New York Times (19 July I guess) (repeated in the Scotsman here on 20 July 2003.
    A significant paragraph is
    "Shortly after police were alerted on Thursday night, a search began. With no success overnight, police appealed for help from neighbours at 8.20am on Friday morning. Weaver [Paul Weaving I guess,referred to previously as Paul Weaver the last person to see Dr Kelly alive] was among those who turned out to search, as were friends from the village pub where Kelly, despite being teetotal, was part of the cribbage team.
    I wonder where those searches went and how they were organised.

  4. Thanks for the link Felix. I had an idea that there was an early press report of concerned neighbours searching on the Friday morning and this appears to be it.

  5. LL - regarding the tent I'm not sure that it had any significance in relation to the reported positions of the corpse. From Dr Hunt's evidence it seems that the tent was erected over Dr Kelly's body sometime between 12.35 when Dr Hunt confirms life is extinct and 14.10 when he is joined by Mr Green. Before the tent is erected I assume a SOCO is taking any number of photographs.

    When Dr Hunt and Mr Green are in the tent then inevitably the body is being moved as it is undressed and being physically examined. In his report Dr Hunt surprisingly pays no attention to the position of the body relative to the large nearby tree, nor is any appraisal made of the nearby vegetation or of the nature of the ground beneath the body. With Dr Hunt stating that much of the blood had disappeared into the ground the failure to describe the ground conditions is an extremely serious omission in my view.

  6. Felix - I guess it's quite a problem working out how the searches went and were organised. My thought is that the police might want to have the public search contingent well controlled rather than everyone doing their own thing. Of course public involvement in searching for a missing person is nothing new but as yet I've not had reason to be involved in such a search so don't really know the form they take!

    If the police made an appeal at 8.20 my thought is that they might be asking volunteers to muster at the village hall say at 9.15 or something like that. It could be then that information about Dr Kelly's body being found filters through before much progress has taken place with the search.