Monday, 25 April 2011

Will this be the moment Dominic Grieve makes his announcement?

We know that the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, will have to make an announcement in the not too distant future about whether he will go to the High Court to seek a judicial review into a possible inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly.

Parliament resumes business tomorrow (Tuesday) after the Easter recess.  It may well be that Mr Grieve will wish to make his statement with as little fanfare as possible.  This Friday of course will see the Royal Wedding taking place and if anyone wanted to release a statement to draw the absolute minimum of media interest the next few days could provide a tempting time.

This is not to say that Mr Grieve will use the cover provided by the "William and Kate" business to get his decision out.  One thing is for sure: I and others will be watching parliamentary events with as much interest as ever while the wedding is taking up the bulk of the media's attention. 

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Why was the scene tent erected over Dr Kelly's body?

I have previously written about the scene tent that was erected at an unspecified time over Dr Kelly's body.  See here: and here

This post specifically addresses the question of why this tent was erected in the first place.  A reminder for those less familiar with events at Harrowdown Hill on Friday 18th July 2003:  Dr Kelly's body was discovered in the wood that covers the top of the Hill, the white tent visible in the media reports was supposedly there to give personnel protection from the weather if it decided to rain when they wanted to write up notes, etc.  So, no, this tent didn't cover the body!

In Dr Hunt's testimony, Mr Knox asking the questions, we have this exchange:

Q. Did you then carry out a more thorough investigation of the body?
A. Yes, I did.
Q. At what time did that more thorough investigation begin?
A. I was logged back into the scene at about 10 minutes past 2 that afternoon, to begin the definitive scene examination.
Q. Was anything over the body by that stage? 
A. Yes, a scene tent had been erected over the body.  Although it was in very dense woodland there were obvious concerns to preserve the dignity of the deceased. 

It's at this point that Lord Hutton seeks clarification about the white tent as I explained above.

In his report Dr Hunt records, without explanation, the presence of the scene tent over the body.  Mr Knox, having the pathologist's report in front of him of course, decided to get that information into the public domain.  The "obvious concerns to preserve the dignity of the deceased" really doesn't wash with me - if the body was in a location overlooked by houses say one might have reason to accept Dr Hunt's statement but at Harrowdown Hill with only police and forensic specialists seeing the body Dr Hunt's words don't resonate with me at all.

It seems to me that either Dr Hunt or DCI Young would have made the decision to have the scene tent erected, it certainly wouldn't have been down to anyone else thinking it was just a good idea surely.  We have the ludicrous situation of the forensic biologist Mr Green not seeing the body in relation to its environment at any stage of the approximately five hours he is at Harrowdown Hill.

How big was the tent?  Was it two made effectively into one with the adjoining flaps removed?  Were the nettles with the spots of blood on them inside or outside the tent?  Was the two to three foot long pool of blood and bloodstaining only seen by Dr Hunt inside or outside the tent or a bit of each?

This was a potential crime scene.  Surely you would do everything possible to avoid disrupting the area.  Surely you would want your forensic experts to be able to view the scene in its entirety and with the least possible contamination by other human activity like erecting a tent.

Of course we have to consider the possibility that Thames Valley Police were already aware of how Dr Kelly met his demise and that covering the scene with a tent assisted anybody who might have reason to alter the situation there with some degree of privacy. 

Saturday, 9 April 2011

The bloodstain on Dr Kelly's jeans

A particularly fascinating piece of evidence aired at the Hutton Inquiry but not receiving a lot of attention subsequently concerns the bloodstain on the right hand knee of Dr Kelly's jeans.  This is what various witnesses said about it:

PC Sawyer examined by Mr Knox
Q. What about on his face, were there any marks or stains on his clothes?
A. His jeans -- he was wearing jeans, they were pulled up slightly, exposing the lower half of his leg or his ankle. It looked as if he had slid down and his trousers had ridden up. I believe on the right-hand knee there was a patch of what I took to be blood, but I do not know what it was, but it had the appearance of blood.
Q. Did he still have his jacket on?
A. Yes.
Q. Were there any marks on the jacket, as far as you could see?
A. No, only the blood from his wrist.

Any other blood on the clothing must have been inconsequential I would think from that description.  It must be remembered too that PC Sawyer took a number of photographs with his digital camera and that might have given him extra cause to notice any further bloodstaining.

Paramedic Vanessa Hunt examined by Mr Dingemans
Q. And is there anything else that you know of about the circumstances of Dr Kelly's death that you can assist his Lordship with?
A. Only that the amount of blood that was around the scene seemed relatively minimal and there was a small patch on his right knee, but no obvious arterial bleeding. There was no spraying of blood or huge blood loss or any obvious loss on the clothing.

This is close to what PC Sawyer is saying, Ms Hunt though qualifies the patch of blood by calling it 'small'.

Ambulance Technician Dave Bartlett examined by Mr Knox 
Q. And were there any stains on the clothes? 
A. Not that I could see apart from on the deceased's right knee, there was a bloodstain about 25 mm across.
Q. When you say on the right knee, you mean on the trousers?
A. Yes, on the right knee of the trousers.

Roy Green, forensic biologist, examined by Mr Dingemans
Q. Did you make any other relevant discoveries while you were looking around the area?
A. There was an obvious large contact bloodstain on the knee of the jeans.
Q. What do you mean by a "contact bloodstain"?
A. A contact stain is what you will observe if an item has come into contact with a bloodstained surface, as opposed to blood spots and splashes when blood splashes on to an item.
Q. Which means at some stage his left wrist must have been in contact with his trousers?
A. No, what I am saying, at some stage he has knelt -- I believe he has knelt in a pool of blood at some stage and this obviously is after he has been injured.

I'm critical of Mr Green here.  I've covered this part of his evidence before:  I will just reiterate a point from that earlier post, by saying that the contact stain was large my impression would be of blood covering the right knee cap of the trousers.  Why didn't he give some sort of measurement?  Thank goodness for the ambulance crew on this.

As the "expert" on blood splashing etc Mr Green might be expected to proffer an explanation as to how this contact bloodstain originated.  In reality what he is saying is speculative and he is relying in my opinion on the "official" explanation as to how Dr Kelly came by his demise.  Mr Green should have qualified his evidence at this point - it is not for him to assume that Dr Kelly committed suicide at Harrowdown Hill!  I don't regard him as a competent witness. 

Dr Hunt, forensic pathologist, examined by Mr Knox
Q. What about the bloodstains on the clothes, did you notice any of them? 
A. Yes, there were a number of areas of bloodstaining on the clothes, including over the front of the shirt, over the Barbour jacket itself, including in the sleeve of the Barbour jacket on the left.
Q. And what about around the trousers or the legs?
A. Yes, there was some bloodstaining over the trousers; and, in particular, there was a patch of bloodstaining over the right knee.

It will be noticed that Dr Hunt also fails to give any sort of measurement of the bloodstain on the knee of the jeans.  He also fails to indicate that it is a contact bloodstain.  In his now published report, which ought to be more definitive, again no measurement just  'a heavier patch of bloodstaining over the right knee area' where he describes "Bloodstaining and contamination on clothing".  He also mentions 'Also in this area was greenish material'  Was the greenish material sampled and tested by Mr Green or Dr Hickey?  If not, why not.  Also in the "clothing" part of his report we learn that 'there was a patch of light bloodstaining over the inner aspect of the right knee'.

When the ambulance crew were interviewed in "The Observer" of 12 December 2004 this is one of Vanessa Hunt's comments:

'There was no gaping wound... there wasn't a puddle of blood around. There was a little bit of blood on the nettles to the left of his left arm. But there was no real blood on the body of the shirt. The only other bit of blood I saw was on his clothing. It was the size of a 50p piece above the right knee on his trousers.' 

It can be seen that this bears out what Dave Bartlett said at the Inquiry regarding the size of the bloodstain.  I've said it before but it's worth repeating; the ambulance crew proved themselves to be very competent and professional witnesses.  It seems to me that Mr Green and Dr Hunt left a lot to be desired regarding their testimonies.

One other point from that quote by Vanessa Hunt.  She is even more specific - she says it was above the right knee of the trousers.  Although the pathologist's report was deficient we must give Dr Hunt his due in recording that the right leg of the jeans was pulled up to just above the ankle.  Therefore it is possible that with the trousers hanging normally the bloodstain would have been over the kneecap area.  If Dr Kelly had been kneeling in a pool of blood I would have expected that the bloodstain would show up just below the knee.  Did Mr Green really perform a critical analysis on the origin of this blood?  I suspect that he didn't.

Now I can't suggest how this contact bloodstain happened.  But if Dr David Kelly was murdered and his body then brought to Harrowdown Hill it would open the way for all sorts of scenarios that weren't considered by the Inquiry as to its origin.  And it was never confirmed that it actually was blood or that it came from Dr Kelly.  The same comment applies to all of the "blood" at the scene.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The time at which Dr Kelly's body was found

"Officially" Dr David Kelly's body was found just before 9.20 am on Friday 18th July 2003.  From a Freedom of Information Request I had ascertained that the 999 call made by volunteer searcher Paul Chapman was at 9.20 that morning.  In his evidence to the Inquiry he had stated that initially he had tried phoning control but that he got an answerphone response which led him then to try and get through to Abingdon via a treble nine call.  From this it seems reasonable to me to state that the body was actually discovered between 9.15 and 9.20.

When ACC Page is examined by Mr Dingemans  on his first visit to the Inquiry the 9.20 time comes into the public domain:

Q. We have also heard from them, Ms Holmes and Mr Chapman, how they came across the body. When did you hear about that?
A. I think within seconds of the information coming in to us but the time I have is that it was 9.20.

So that's fine then you would think.  But is it?

Five police officers (unbelievably that's all) gave verbal evidence at the Hutton Inquiry.  ACC Page has already been mentioned, as to DC Coe we get nothing definitive from him about the timing of events that morning other than he was called out at 6 am and, from his notebook, we glean that the ambulance crew confirmed at 10.07 that life was extinct.  PC Franklin wasn't asked about the time of the call from Paul Chapman.

This leaves PC Sawyer and DS Webb to have their say.  First PC Sawyer who has just stated: information came in that a body had been found 

Then from Mr Knox and the reply:

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

Immediately after PC Sawyer's evidence that morning Mr Dingemans takes over to examine Detective Sergeant Webb.  It becomes evident that DS Webb makes a number of trips between Abingdon Police Station and the home of the Kelly's at Southmoor during the course of Friday !8th.  This is the relevant part of the testiomony:

Q. How long did you stay at the house for?
A. I left the house at about 8 am to return to Abingdon police station, at that time to tell -- it was Assistant Chief Constable Page at that particular time, what the result of my inquiries were. I mean Dr Kelly's mood, the exact circumstances of his disappearance et cetera.
Q. How many police were searching at this stage, were you aware?
A. I could not say sir, I do not know.

Q. What time did you brief Assistant Chief Constable Page?
A. I got back to Abingdon I suppose about 8.30, immediately spoke to him for about 15 or 20 minutes, until really the news came in that a body had been found.
Q. What did you do as a result of that?
A. I was then tasked to go back to the Kelly family and to give them the news that it would seem that Dr Kelly had been found and that he was dead. 

Taking half an hour to return to the police station from Southmoor might appear to be a long time but the journey would have been when commuters were on the go and such a time might well be realistic for that hour of the day.  It's what follows that is particularly intriguing.  Taking DS Webb at his word I cannot reconcile his evidence with the 999 call at 9.20.  It would seem that the news of the body being found came in a little before 9 o'clock which ties in with the Sawyer evidence.
We now have to add in the fact that PCs Franklin and Sawyer took 3 police officers with them to act as cordons at Harrowdown Hill and that from a FoI request it is evident that an outer cordon was in place at 9.28.

I find it very difficult to believe that the 9.28 cordon was manned by anybody other than the police officers given a lift in the Franklin/Sawyer land rover.   If this is the case then the two PCs must have left Abingdon soon after 9 o'clock.

This is yet more evidence of failure to sort things out at the Hutton Inquiry.