The various witnesses who describe the ground conditions around Dr Kelly's body, either when at the Hutton Inquiry or elsewhere, don't seem to be of one accord. From my observations the floor of a particular wood can be remarkably consistent or highly variable regarding its vegetation. In the case of the wood on Harrowdown Hill I would expect considerable variability because of more than one species of tree, trees spaced unevenly and the hill being exposed to weather from all directions. Add in the known badger activity in the wood leading to some areas of bare ground and one could well imagine that the vegetation underfoot might not be consistent over the area of this particular wood.
The following extracts from the interview of DC Coe (retired) in the Mail on Sunday of 8 August 2010 certainly have a ring of truth about them:
I had to pick my way through brambles and nettles but it wasn’t impassable.
He was lying in the dirt near the base of the tree – in the area where there’s no undergrowth.
Rather confusingly we have forensic biologist Roy Green saying in his report:
He was lying on his back in the undergrowth of nettles and brambles.
Later Mr Green says:
The leaf litter nature of the ground meant that it would have been very absorbent to blood.
At the Inquiry Mr Dingemans helpfully suggests to Mr Green that this leaf litter acted perhaps like blotting paper.
There's a particular section of Mr Green's report which aids the identification of the area of the wood where the body was found:
On the edge of the wood there was a wooden gate which opened off the bridle path and gave access to a field. The deceased had been found approximately 100 metres further up the bridle path and then up to the left into the wood.
Somewhat supporting DC Coe's newspaper description Dr Hunt in his report says:
The body had also acquired some soiling with dirt from the process of undressing at the scene and from movement into the body bag.
At the Inquiry PC Franklin says:
We walked between 50 and 70 metres into the wood up a slight gradient, and in a clearing at the base of a tree was the body of a white male.
My overall impression regarding the position of where the body was found is that there was little or no vegetation underneath the body, some leaf litter in the vicinity but minimal depth certainly at that time of year not deep leaf mould. Vanessa Hunt talks of some nettles with blood on them near the body. PC Sawyer indicates that the area beyond the bottle is well nigh impenetrable brambles and undergrowth but how far either side of the body position isn't known.
Finally on page 54 of his book Norman Baker, having been to Harrowdown Hill, emphasises the very variable nature of the wood noting some clearings and other areas very difficult to traverse.