With so many interlinking strands relating to the strange death of Dr David Kelly it is all to easy to overlook an interesting point of detail. Perhaps this is even more likely to occur when the subject is a rather mundane and common object ... such as a half litre bottle of water.
At this point I think the easiest thing is to look at what the early witnesses at Harrowdown Hill said about this bottle. Or, in the first case didn't say. According to the evidence the first witness to see Dr Kelly's body was Louise Holmes and the second her fellow searcher Paul Chapman. Now here is an oddity: neither Louise or Paul were questioned about the water bottle found close to Dr Kelly's body. Nor were they asked about whether they saw the knife, wristwatch or cap nearby. We know that in the case of Louise that she got within a few feet of the body. As the first person to see the body one would expect Mr Knox to get her going in to some detail as to what Dr Kelly was wearing and if there were any objects close to the body. Mr Knox is silent about this. Surely the police would have gathered this information when she made her statement and Mr Knox would have her statement to hand when questioning her.
Mr Dingemans fared only slightly better with Paul - he did ask Paul if he could see what Dr Kelly was wearing. Paul commented on jacket and shirt which was what one might expect with someone who is actually sitting with his back against a tree rather than flat on his back. But the question of objects close to the body isn't raised. From this point on witnesses start reporting their sightings of these other objects.
The fact that neither counsel raised the matter of the bottle and other objects has led to intense speculation that these were added to the scene once the searchers had headed back down the track. I don't know about that, it's possible I suppose that the shock of viewing a dead body concentrated their visual attention purely on the body to the exclusion of all else although with cap, bottle, knife and watch all close by it would be surprising if none of this is registering with the searchers. So are the two counsel being negligent in not raising the matter of the bottle, etc?
Moving on to DC Coe's evidence and the bottle makes its first appearance. This is the exchange between Mr Knox and DC Coe:
Q. Did you see a bottle?
A. I did, a water -- a small water bottle. I think that was the left-hand side of the body as well, towards the top left-hand shoulder.
Q. Was there any water in the bottle?
A. I could not tell you.
This is the testimony of paramedic Vanessa Hunt:
Q. Right. And did you see anything on the ground?
A. There was a silver bladed knife, a wristwatch, which was off of the wrist.
A. And, oh, a water bottle, a small water bottle stood up to the left side of Dr Kelly's head.
This is the relevant exchange when ambulance technician Dave Bartlett is questioned:
Q. Did you see any items next to the body?
A. Yes, to the left side above just where the arm was, there was a wristwatch, a silver knife with a curved blade and a bottle of water.
Q. And the bottle of water, was that empty or full or --
A. I think it was empty.
Q. Was it upright or can you remember?
A. Yes, it was upright.
PC Franklin's evidence:
Q. Did you see whether or not there was a watch or anything on the body?
A. If I may refer to my notes?
Q. Yes, of course.
LORD HUTTON: Yes.
A. The wrist watch was lying away from the body, next to a knife. The wrist watch was just to the left of the left arm, with the knife next to it, and also there was an open bottle of water at the scene.
Q. An open bottle of water?
A. Yes, the wrist watch was off the wrist.
Q. What, mineral water?
A. A bottle of, yes, mineral water, a plastic bottle.
Q. How large was that bottle, a big bottle or a small one?
A. A small one.
PC Sawyer's evidence:
Q. Did you see a bottle of water?
A. I did, by Dr Kelly's head. There was an open bottle of Evian, 500 ml or 300 ml bottle, with the cap by the side of it, by his head.
Q. Was it upright?
A. It was leaning slightly. It had been propped but it was upright. There was still some water in it
And now here is Dr Hunt's evidence:
Q. Did you notice a bottle of water?
A. Yes, there was a bottle of Evian water, half a litre.
Q. Was there any water in that bottle?
A. Yes, there was some remaining water. I do not recall what volume exactly.
Q. Can you remember precisely where the bottle was in
relation to the bottle?
A. Yes, it was lying propped against some broken branches to the left and about a foot away from his left elbow.
Q. And did you notice anything in particular about the bottle?
A. Yes, there was some smeared blood over both the bottle itself and the bottle top.
Q. Did that indicate anything to you?
A. It indicated that he had been bleeding whilst at least placing the bottle in its final position. He may already have been bleeding whilst he was drinking from it, but that is less certain.
So, after conflicting evidence from early witnesses about the presence of water in the bottle, the forensic pathologist has given positive evidence of some water still in it. Regrettably he can't remember the volume.
Dr Allan, the toxicologist, had this exchange with counsel:
Q. Was there anything which shed further light on your conclusions or was it simply confirmatory?
A. It was confirmatory. What I also did was I looked at the water which was found at the scene, or the contents of the water bottle that was found at the scene.
Q. What did you find in that?
A. I found traces of dextropropoxyphene in that. Presumably that would come from someone contacting the bottle with saliva in the bottle. We did not find anything else of note in there. It may be that paracetamol was in there as well but the tests are not sensitive enough to detect the traces of paracetamol that may have been present.
It's worth looking at Dr Allan's first answer here. Do we assume that Dr Allan received the water at the laboratory minus the bottle and that he was cautious enough not to definitively say that the water tested was necessarily that in the Evian bottle?
A fact that initially concerned me was the statements made by early witnesses about the position of the bottle in relation to the body - it seemed an unnatural body movement would be called for to place the bottle so far up in relation to the body position, a location close to his left hip would have made more sense. Note too the proximity of the bottle cap to the bottle. However imagine for a moment Dr Kelly sitting with his back against the tree, now we have the bottle and its top in a far more logical and comfortable position. My conjecture is that Dr Kelly's body was moved forward from the tree after the two searchers and their dog had safely disappeared down the track but that the bottle and its top weren't moved in a commensurate way. I'm not saying this scenario is correct but this is the best I can do at the moment.
The majority of those people reckoning that Dr Kelly committed suicide postulate that Dr Kelly took 29 coproxamol tablets as part of this process. This seems to be based on the fact that two constituents that occur in the tablets were found in the body combined with the fact that only one tablet was left from a potential 30 in number. Their logic is 29 tablets missing from the blister packs equates to 29 being willingly ingested by Dr Kelly. This reasoning is of course erroneous and I'm going back to the Evian bottle to show how shaky their so called logic is.
Coproxamol tablets aren't particularly small, being about half an inch long I understand. From statements made by Mai Pederson, not denied so far as I am aware, Dr Kelly not only had an aversion to tablets but had difficulty in swallowing them. From this I would suggest that he would have not been able to cope with more than one at a time. We don't know how much water was left in the bottle but to make the maths easy I am going to assume the bottle was drained. Take a glass tumbler and pour in water to a quarter of an inch depth. It's not very much at all is it. Yet if Dr Kelly did take 29 tablets we are invited to accept that it was just this very small amount of water that was available per tablet. This of course assumes that he was skillful enough to apportion the same amount of water for each.
It can be seen from what I have just written that it is highly unlikely that Dr Kelly would have taken only a half litre of water with him to deal with up to 30 tablets. Even someone without any impediment to swallowing would I think only be able to down 5 or 6 with that amount of water. The suggestion that Dr Kelly somehow managed to swallow 29 tablets is, in my opinion, a total nonsense.