Thursday, 30 June 2011

Mrs Kelly's store of co-proxamol tablets

When the Attorney General made his woeful statement to the House of Commons three weeks ago he also published a huge bundle of documents which his office has assembled in support of his position.  Perusing it all is taking some time and one has to be prepared for blood pressure to rise in respect of many of the assertions made and conclusions drawn.  I've made references in previous posts to some of the appalling contributions from Dr Shepherd and from Thames Valley Police.

One good plus is that we are at last seeing some important new information coming in to the public domain.  A question that has intrigued me for some time is 'how much co-proxamol did Mrs Kelly have in the house when Dr Kelly left the home for the last time'.  Now we have an answer. 

Within the Attorney General documents is a file titled 'Schedule of responses to issues raised'   It's a PDF file of 60 pages and 169 entries so plenty to read!   This is issue number 18:

It was assumed that, as Mrs Kelly had been prescribed co- proxamol, the empty blister
packs of these tablets found in Dr Kelly’s jacket pocket must have belonged to her. However,
this was never established adequately at the Inquiry. It was not established whether Mrs Kelly
would normally have had such a number of tablets, whether she had recently obtained a
repeat prescription, or when and from where the tablets had been dispensed.

And this is the response:

There were no assumptions made. The police investigated the matter as far as it was possible to do so.

Thames Valley Police report:

“Following the discovery of Dr Kelly’s body a search was made of his house. Mrs Janice Kelly was present and was asked to show officers any medicines in the house. Mrs Kelly showed the officers a drawer in her bedroom where there were 4 x 10 packs of co-proxamol in foil blister packs. These were not contained within a box. She also directed the officers to a kitchen drawer where a full box of 10 x 10 packs of co-proxamol were kept.

The full pack was issued to Mrs Kelly on the 20th May 2003 by the White Horse Medical Practice in Faringdon.

Mrs Kelly stated that her husband would never take any sort of tablet, not even for a headache but that he was aware that she was prescribed co-proxamol as a painkiller. He also knew that she kept her supplies of these tablets in her bedside cabinet and in a kitchen drawer.

The markings on the packets recovered from Dr Kelly’s body and those prescribed to his wife were compared and found to be identical.

The manufacturers of the tablets were approached to ascertain if it was possible to trace the history of the recovered packets. The Technical Manager told officers that each batch release would contain approximately 1.6 million packets which were distributed to numerous companies and could end up in chemists anywhere in Britain.”

Some figures then but it still fails to answer the question as to whether the (almost) empty foil packs found in the pocket of Dr Kelly's Barbour jacket originated from his wife's supply.

At the Hutton Inquiry Mr Dingemans employs some odd questioning regarding the co-proxamol when Mrs Kelly gives her testimony.  This is the relevant exchange:

Q. We have also heard that some co-proxamol was used.
A. Indeed.
Q. Do you take any medicine?
A. I do. I take co-proxamol for my arthritis.
Q. I think we are also going to hear that appears to be the source of the co-proxamol that was used.

A. I had assumed that. I keep a small store in a kitchen drawer and the rest in my bedside

I would readily accept that talking to that particular witness about the particular aspect is not a comfortable thing to do.  At a properly conducted inquest I would think that  the questioning would be very explicit rather than, as here, counsel virtually stating that Mrs Kelly's supply was the source of the co-proxamol allegedly swallowed by Dr Kelly.

Mr Dingemans' use of the words 'I think we are also going to hear that appears to be the source ...' is misleading and totally out of order in my view.  I certainly don't think any later witnesses that particular day made any statement about the source of the co-proxamol.


  1. That's quite a stash, Brian. 170 tablets, allegedly.
    What does puzzle me slightly is that the normal dose was for a 100 tablet standard pack to be prescribed to last two weeks,the dose being 6 tablets per day as far as I can discover. Lower usage levels would be for only intermittent sufferers, but in this case I wouldn't expect 170+ tablets on hand for intermittent use.
    So, for normal useage, a 100 pack issued on May 20 might not be expected to be unopened nearly two months later.
    I wouldn't call 100 tablets a small store, but never mind. Perhaps someone can clarify these points?
    Interestingly, our friend Keith Hawton had only just published a study of Suicide by Co-Proxamol poisoning in the British Medical Journal on 10 May that year. Co-proxamol and suicide: a study of national mortality statistics and local non-fatal self poisonings
    Keith Hawton, Sue Simkin, Jonathan Deeks, BMJ 2003: 326, 1006-8.
    It had been known since 1997 that Co-proxamol was little more use than Paracetamol for short-term relief of pain but with much higher rates of overdose leading to suicide.
    Hawton writes these prophetic words in the 2003 article:
    the risk of self poisoning is not restricted to the person for whom the drug is prescribed,and, as with paracetamol, availability within a household may be an influential factor, especially in impulsive overdoses.

    Except in Dr Kelly's case the pharmacology doesn't seem to support an overdose.

  2. Felix, the date of the unopened pack (20 May) is certainly interesting as to being as you have noted almost two months prior to the death.

    If the pack of 100 is the standard way those particular co-proxamol tablets were dispensed then Mrs Kelly's reference to a small store makes some sense in my opinion.

    I would imagine that on opening a pack of 100 she would put just some of the 10 blister packs in the draw of her bedside cabinet rather than perhaps putting them all there. Or maybe she would put all of the 10 blister packs in the bedroom cabinet once she opened a fresh box. Did the police ask her that vital question?

    It seems to me that Dr Kelly wouldn't have taken the tablets from the bedside cabinet. Mrs Kelly went upstairs to lie down at about 1.30 to 1.45 suggesting that he wouldn't have accessed the bedside cabinet after this time. Also I think that Mrs Kelly would perhaps be aware of the reduction of tablets from 7 strips to four.

    This leaves the kitchen drawer as the more likely source for the tablets in Dr Kelly's jacket. So we are back to the question of whether Mrs Kelly habitually left some of the 10 strips of tablets downstairs when opening a new box or whether she transferred all of the 100 tablets upstairs to her bedroom in one go.

  3. And where did the magic water bottle come from? Water used, presumably to assist with taking the pills.

    Mr Green in his FORENSIC scientific report states that the water bottle was "almost empty", yet when it was sent to the lab it had 111ml of water in it.

    The pill packs had no blood on them but the water bottle and bottle top did, therefore after swallowing 29 pills with less that 3 teaspoons of water per pill (500 - 111 / 29)DK then placed the pill packs in his pocket and then started hacking at is wrist with his cub scout pen knife.

    When he had finished hacking he felt thirsty so he reached for the water bottle again took the to off and had a drink (so ignore the sum above) DK then managed to then place the bottle, upright 25cm from his left shoulder and then place the top 12cm from that then lay down and died.

    Oh but before that he opened his empty virgin atlantic belt pouch, leaving blood on the inside and then closed it again and then died.

    It made perfect sense to the police, Hutton and Grieve.

    Grieve for Justice!

  4. If the box in the kitchen was indeed a full box of 10 strips, then there is absolutely no evidence that any of Mrs Kelly's tablets were missing. By definition, Dr Kelly had not taken any from the full box in the kitchen, and he obviously couldn't have taken them from the bedroom without his wife seeing him. Ergo he did not take any at all.

  5. By being so careful and controlled in sipping his water Dr Kelly managed to still have 111 ml left. With so much water still available it's surprising that he untidily left one pill rather than taking the lot.

  6. Anonymous, it only works in my opinion if Mrs Kelly had left three strips from another box in the kitchen draw, this previous box having been thrown out. In other words, when she opened a new box did she take some strips upstairs and leave the others downstairs. Not likely perhaps but possible.

    At the Inquiry Dingemans disgracefully didn't come from a neutral position - he should simply have asked her if she noticed any pill strips were missing.

  7. Brian
    Mrs Kelly had assumed that Dr Kelly had used 30 of her tablets, but had apparently not noticed that they were missing in the intervening 6 weeks before she gave evidence. Nearly a third of an essential prescription pack gone. Unnoticed. Incredible.

  8. Felix, you are right about Mrs Kelly assuming. This follows the disgraceful approach by Mr Dingemans in asking effectively a leading question. He should be ashamed of himself.

    Not a shred of evidence has been produced linking the blister packs at Harrowdown Hill with those in Mrs Kelly's store.

    Mrs Kelly should have been asked whether she normally transferred all her tablet strips upstairs when she opened a new pack of 100 tablets. She wasn't asked at the Inquiry, there is no evidence that the police asked her.

    It's possible that she had opened a pack downstairs, took 7 strips up to her bedroom and left the other 3 strips in her kitchen drawer - the 3 that Dr Kelly supposedly took. Why wasn't she questioned about this? It seems remarkable that she wouldn't have recollected there being 3 unused strips in the kitchen drawer in addition to the one unopened pack.

    The idea that Dr Kelly raided the draw in her bedside cabinet I view as entirely untenable.

  9. LL
    I am intrigued by the empty Virgin Atlantic belt pouch.
    Why on earth would Dr Kelly attach an empty pouch to his belt (which might contain, for example, a mobile phone) when he was wearing a Barbour jacket with many pockets which indeed contained all he required in the way of Co-proxamol tablet packages and mobile phone? I I doubt it the knife was carried in it, as there would be no reason to open it with blood-stained hands when it was already in use.
    It is perhaps the sort of pouch one might wear when going out and about in shirtsleeves on a warm afternoon. Perhaps he left it on when suddenly changing into a Barbour Jacket for later on in the day?
    It certainly doesn't seem like a money belt, which would be zipped. Had it been customised one wonders?
    Notice that Dr Hunt and Mr Green studiously ignore the tantalisingly empty pouch at the Hutton Inquiry, but it was Vanessa Hunt, paramedic, who uniquely remarked on it:
    "There was a mobile phone pouch clipped to his belt on his front but slightly to the right side, but you could not see if there was a phone within the pouch or not"
    So, this accords more with Mr Green's positional description, rather than on the right hip as seen by Dr Hunt

  10. Brian,
    None of this is making very much sense. As I think I have already told you that a few years ago during my fingertip search of the track from the wood down to the river I found two empty plastic bags stuffed in the bottom of the hedge. They came from a pharmacy in Wootton a few miles from Southmoor towards Oxford. When I tracked down and interviewed the owner of the pharmacy he told me that it was his pharmacy that had supplied Mrs Kelly with her co-proxamol. Was she perhaps sourcing it from two chemists?

  11. Frank
    This is my reasoning, right or wrong:
    The White Horse Medical Practice according to their website has its own dispensary. This is similar to the arrangement at my local medical centre which now has its own pharmacy so that for a repeat prescription for instance I wouldn't have to go to a chemist in another town.

    Here all they ask is that they have 48 hours notice to prepare the prescription, then the patient can pop in and collect it.

    My best guess is that Mrs Kelly's GP was from the White Horse Medical Practice (not necessarily Dr Warner). At the time Mrs Kelly picked up her unopened pack of 100 tablets the dispensary at the practice was up and running. It's quite possible that the addition of the dispensary occurred just before May 2003.

    If my scenario is correct then I suspect that up until that time Mrs Kelly would have been supplied by the other chemist.

    The labelling on the prescription package would be that of the dispensing chemist rather than the medical practice of course. It just so happens that on Tuesday 20 May they were one and the same in this instance.