Friday, 8 July 2011

Dr Kelly's Barbour jacket

This post will focus on whether Dr Kelly left home on the afternoon of 17th July wearing his Barbour jacket or whether this jacket was taken to Harrowdown Hill say, by a third party on the morning of the 18th, and it then slipped on him.

The reasoning I believe that has been used to suggest the second alternative can be summarised as follows:  (1) some early press reports, I can't recall exactly which ones at the moment, reported Dr Kelly leaving his home without a coat.  (2) This was the middle of a warm July, would Dr Kelly have worn a Barbour jacket in such weather?

Regarding the first point there definitely seem to be have been some problems with what the press were saying on the day Dr Kelly's body was discovered and immediately after.   Dr Kelly was found face down, or his body was found curled up are examples.  Another one was that he had supposedly been discovered at 8.30 rather than 9.15.  How did these stories originate?

If Dr Kelly really hadn't been wearing his Barbour jacket who would have observed this fact?  So far as I can see Mrs Kelly doesn't make any reference to this coat at the Inquiry. 

According to Mr Green's report Dr Kelly's shirt was a short sleeved one and I don't find anything that odd about a Barbour jacket being worn as an outer garment.  People can become particularly attached to an item of clothing to the extent of almost always wearing it virtually regardless of temperature for instance.

In the "Schedule of responses to issues raised", part of the  the bundle of documents provided to the Attorney General, they deal with the Barbour jacket matter as follows (Questions 40, 51 & 52):

Q. Hutton did not investigate what clothing Dr Kelly was found in. The Inquiry heard that Dr Kelly was found wearing a Barbour type jacket. In conflict with this, contemporaneous reports in newspapers claimed he was found in cotton shirt and jeans

A. The following clothes were recovered from the body of Dr Kelly;
A green 'Barbour' waxed jacket;
A blue, grey and white-striped shirt;
A pair of blue denim jeans;

A brown leather belt with a white metal buckle which was done up at the waist. On the brown leather belt, over the right hip area, was a 'Virgin Atlantic', Velcro closed pouch;
A pair of beige socks;
Underpants; and,
A pair of walking-type boots, brown leather, with the laces done up in
double bows.

Ruth Absalom gave oral evidence at the Hutton Inquiry and said the
following of the clothing;
Q. How was he dressed?
A. Normally. I did not take that much notice.
Q. Do you remember whether he was wearing a jacket or ...?
A. Well, he had obviously got a jacket on but whether it was a suit or an odd jacket and odd trousers I have no idea. We just stopped, said hello, had a chat about nothing in particular.

In her police statement she said, “He was wearing a light coloured shirt and what appeared to be a tweed jacket that was open at the front. I cannot remember what else he was wearing….”

It is apparent that the meeting of Dr Kelly and Mrs Absalom was of little significance to Mrs Absalom at the time and her description of the clothing is vague. However, she does mention a jacket in both accounts which does not confirm the press reports that Dr Kelly was wearing only a cotton shirt and jeans.

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Q. It was recorded that Dr Kelly was found wearing a Barbour jacket. However readings from
Radcliffe Meteorological Centre – about 7 miles from Southmoor, reported that July was warmer than average and would have been a minimum of 16C when he left for his walk. There was no rain. Why wear a Barbour jacket rather than simply a jersey.

A The observation is speculative. The Inquiry into how Dr Kelly came by his death was thorough and exhaustive. Thames Valley Police conducted their investigation as a potential homicide investigation. All relevant matters were pursued and investigated. Dr Kelly was found wearing a Barbour jacket. It was open and he had only a shirt on beneath it.

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Q. Mrs Kelly described him changing into jeans and (walking?) shoes but did not mention the
jacket. The report in the Guardian stated that Dr Kelly had left home in just a cotton shirt and

A. See above. There is no source given for the report in The Guardian and is contrary to the evidence given by Ruth Absalom that Dr Kelly was wearing a jacket.

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In the first question it can be seen that Mr Dingemans is perhaps keen to establish with Mrs Absalom that she saw that Dr Kelly was wearing a jacket but with her witness statement to look at there may be nothing untoward with his line of questioning.

My own feeling is that Dr Kelly was wearing his Barbour jacket when he left the house but really I don't think we can be sure.  Certainly I know that there are some who are dubious about the reliability of Ruth Absalom's testimony.

Whether David Kelly regularly wore his Barbour on his country walks is something that Mrs Kelly could have helpfully told us. 


  1. I should have said in this post that there is plenty of "explanation" in the Attorney General documents that can be rubbished. This comment though shouldn't be taken as applying to everything.

    Each piece of discussion in the documents has to be examined on its merits.

  2. I've been reminded of the fact that farmer Paul Weaving is reported to have seen Dr Kelly on the afternoon of his disappearance. Subsequently Mr Weaving stated he hadn't seen Dr Kelly that day, perhaps he was persuaded on this.

    If the sighting had happened though then this would be the most obvious source of the press report of Dr Kelly not wearing a coat.

  3. Brian, fortunately a forum captured a BBC news release ,posted to the forum at 10.24 hrs (not sure if BST or GMT) on Friday 18 July 2003, so perhaps published earlier by the BBC. It is found here.

    during the day, the story was updated, and the final version was published at 20.54 hrs

    In the first press statement, the identity of the person had not been estabished (due to the presence of no wallet on the body, I suppose), but there is a line on the forum which can only have come from the police
    Last seen: Clothed in off-white cotton shirt, blue jeans, brown shoes

    But who informed the police before ,say, 10am that morning??
    There is a Sky News reference,and two quotes from Dave Purnell here, so perhaps the forum post is a fusion of BBC and Sky online news releases? My feeling is that the shirt story came from Sky.
    There are some other strange snippets in these early releases which I will come back to.

  4. Felix, I'm fairly confident that the "Last seen" clothing description would have come from his wife. She would have given the police this description from her seeing him in his study on the phone at 3PM. I would guess that if he did take his jacket he hadn't put it on at that stage.

    However Paul Chapman's evidence is that, so far as he could remember, he was told prior to starting the search that Dr Kelly was wearing jacket, shirt and trousers.

  5. Brian, in which case, why didn't the last Q/A you listed above from the Attorney General's own investigation state that it was what Mrs Kelly had told the police. Instead, they are relying on a witness , Mrs Absalom, who, if we are to believe DC Coe, was in a position to describe Dr Kelly the morning afterwards, yet a few hours later the police statement describes searching for a shirt-sleeved Dr Kelly when a body had already been found and it would have been immedately known to the police that he was wearing a Barbour jacket.Conveniently,there was no identification on the body, so of course the search and the body could not be connected. Six weeks later at the Hutton Inquiry he has a jacket on, helpfully suggested by Mr Dingemans, after Mrs Absalom merely described Dr Kelly as being dressed normally. I don't believe a word of it, as usual.
    In other words, the no source ascribed to the Guardian article by the Attorney General is actually Thames Valley Police, probably via Mrs Kelly.

  6. ....and if this were a normal court a barrister would have ripped Mrs Absalom to shreds as an unreliable witness based on this performance. Yet she is the only person, apart from Mrs Kelly, who puts Dr Kelly within a million miles of Southmoor that day.

  7. I don't think it's significant but Franklin referred to a blue jacket.

    Also Mr Green says the heavily bloodstained Barbour cap was brown, blue, red and white checked; not a typical green waxed variety. I think anyone identifying it as a Barbour must have read the label.

    One candidate here is more winter apparel than summer

    Questions about the cap; why was Dr Kelly wearing a cap? why did he have a second cap with him? how did it get heavily blood stained? How did it get positioned where it was (by the head/shoulder covering a pool of vomit)?

    Dr Kelly was lay flat on his back when he vomited, possibly unconscious but the cap was covering the vomit

  8. LL
    It is Projectile vomit which lands beneath any nearby cap, as one normally finds in near-death situations.

  9. Felix

    Either that or Brock was playing fetch with the cap.

    And I think it most unfair for Louise Holmes to put Brock in the frame for moving the body.

    AG's document release TVP3 - The position of body when found

    "I did not touch the body however it is possible for my dog "Brock" may have moved the body when he found it.

    And as someone else has mentioned; why didn't the other local brocks and foxes feast on DK overnight? Maybe they were hiding from the helicopter fleet that were circling most of the night

  10. Naughty Brock, interfering with a crime scene, by dragging Dr Kelly away from the tree without so much as leaving a bit mark on his legs or shoes.

    Brian. I have been trawling press releases which must have been issued by the police (Dave Purnell) at about on Friday 18th July 2003. At that time, the pretence was that a body had been found but they were looking for Dr Kelly. You will find this sentence...
    "He has green/grey eyes and was last seen wearing an off-white cotton shirt possibly striped, blue jeans, with a brown leather belt and brown shoes."
    It seems to me that the body had already been found, and they have worked backwards to achieve a description of whom they are looking for. No mention of a coat, which has perhaps been dispensed with because Supt Purnell said elsewhere
    "Due to the bad weather and the fact it is unlikely he was wearing a coat he would have been distinctive and people who may have seen him in the area are urged to contact police as soon as possible."

    This is what Mrs Kelly's single sourced evidence is
    "And then he went to change into his jeans. He would be around the house in a tracksuit or tracksuit bottoms during the day"
    WOULD! Actually Mrs Kelly was already allegedly lying down before Dr Kelly allegedly changed.
    Actually Mrs Kelly does not actually say what Dr Kelly was wearing during the morning. He either was or wasn't wearing a tracksuit. A telephone call is invoked to give the pretext of Mrs Kelly coming downstairs to meet Dr Kelly again, but nowhere is she asked what he WAS wearing, only what she assumed him to have changed into. Was he sitting down in the study? Did she notice what he was wearing Did she actually see him?

    It is gibberish. I don't believe he was ever in the house. It sounds just like a story to put him in the house that day, and to put him into the jeans and not a very good one.
    Where did the brown belt description come from, though?

  11. Sky News was still reporting the body as being found face down the next morning 19th July, after the post mortem.

  12. The face down story originated with a Thames Valley Police spokeswoman who was interviewed by BBC News 24. Later corrected to " found lying on the ground".
    A Kate Smith gave early press briefings of Thames Valley Police about the search, so I assume it was she who reported the face down position.