Saturday, 15 January 2011

Dr Hunt had plenty of time to think

When a forensic pathologist arrives at the scene of a suspicious death my guess is that it isn't long before they get stuck right in to the examination.  Of course it is very much in the interest of the police that the pathologists work is completed as soon as possible: the police will surely want some indication of time of death and if there is evidence of foul play for example.

On Friday 18th July 2003 at Harrowdown Hill things seem to have gone in a different direction.  Just after midday Dr Hunt meets DI Ashleigh Smith and a couple of SOCOs.  Acting principal SOCO Mark Schollar gives Dr Hunt some background information and Dr Hunt is shown a scene video which takes the viewer along the common approach path, the body of the deceased is seen, also the knife and wristwatch.  It's at about this time that the officer in charge of the investigation, DCI Alan Young arrives on site and he and Dr Hunt have a discussion.  I'm guessing now but it might have been during the course of their chat that the decision was made to call out a forensic biologist (Roy Green).  It will be recalled that Mr Green received a request to attend at about "dinner time".

Here is part of the testimony from Dr Hunt at the Inquiry:

MR KNOX: When you went up to the body did you begin to examine it straight away?
A. Yes, from the point of view of looking at the body rather than touching anything at that stage.
Q. And were you able to confirm that the body was dead?
A. Yes.
Q. Can you recall at what time you did that?
A. 12.35 hours is the time I noted as having confirmed the fact of death. 

Q. And after that, did anything happen at the scene immediately after that?
A. Yes, after that there was a fingertip search conducted by police of the common approach path, and the view taken was that we would await the arrival of the scientist, the biologist and his assistant from the laboratory.

The delay in starting the body examination can be interpreted in different ways - perhaps they thought it better for the fingertip search of the common approach path to be done first or maybe, and more logically in my opinion, if Dr Hunt and Mr Green were looking to work alongside each other then starting at the same time might make sense.   We are told that the area around the body was taped off and, in his report, Dr Hunt confirms that during the whole time he was at the immediate scene he was dressed in his forensic gearThis then would include that initial approach to the body to confirm death.   I suppose it is routine for a pathologist to himself confirm death even though the police in our case had the print outs from the ambulance crew that most certainly had confirmed death had occurred.  It wasn't until 12.50 (PC Franklin's evidence) that DCI Young made the request for the fingertip search, so 15 minutes after Dr Hunt had confirmed death.

It was at about 14.10 that Dr Hunt and Mr Green crossed the inner cordon to get down to their serious work.  So it seems that Dr Hunt had about one and a half valuable hours of thinking time before Mr Green turned up.  Of course he might have disappeared to the pub for a pie and a pint but doesn't record going in or out of the outer cordon at this time.  More likely perhaps to have gone back to his car for a couple of sandwiches and cup of coffee.  Anyway he appears to have had ample time to look at the whole scene, to make a few measurements perhaps and to try and puzzle out what happened.

But did he use the time well?  After the forensic photos were taken he could have taken Dr Kelly's rectal temperature - he wouldn't have needed Mr Green's expertise for that.  Did he look at any of the nearby vegetation for blood deposits?  He doesn't mention the stinging nettles in his report whereas Vanessa Hunt, on site for a much shorter time, notes the blood on the nettles.  What about the small Evian bottle of water close to Dr Kelly's head and barely reachable?  Why does he appear disinterested in the water bottle?  He doesn't say anything about the water left in it in his report and at the Inquiry can't remember how much this was (for his information the easily recalled figure of 111 ml).

The fact that the body was flat on its back doesn't seem to occasion any surprise to him.  The choice by the mature and well educated Dr Kelly of one hard to reach ulnar artery to cut doesn't cause Dr Hunt to pause and wonder about that selection.  Did he ever consider that this might be a murder made to look like suicide?

What was Dr Hunt thinking in that one and a half hour time window before Mr Green arrived? 


  1. Brian. As far as I can see, ACC Mick Page does not even mention the involvement of DI Young at the Hutton Inquiry. He says he called out Detective Inspector Smith, who was the area detective inspector, to begin inquiries for me. And that is that.
    There seems to be nothing to say who appointed DCI Young,who seemed to be based at the Major Crime Unit in Long Hanborough.
    The only evidence we have of DCI Young taking charge is from the Tactical Support PCs!
    Correct me if I am under a misapprehension, Brian.

  2. You raise a very interesting point Felix! I must admit (my fault) that it looks as if I've been making assumptions about the status of Mr Young. Now reading P 49 of Norman Baker's book though and NB talks of DCI Young as 'the senior investigating officer for the case'. In the p-m report in which LL records the number of spectators DCI Alan Young heads the list of people present with the title 'SIO' which I assume is senior investigating officer.

    It is extremely frustrating that ACC Page doesn't adequately explain the status of certain individuals!

  3. Tim Wilkinson writes eloquently
    " [a] Radio 4 discussion actually touched on what I regard as a fairly elementary observation: that pathologists and other forensic experts ought ideally to be rigorously shielded from all other evidence of the case.
    While he says this cannot be guaranteed, in this case, it seems, by showing a police video,that the shielding is being deliberately removed and Mr Hunt is being sent along a defined route
    .." this kind of bias needs to be factored in when assessing such expert evidence - which is why experts need to be properly cross-examined, and the coroner (or jury under a coroners's direction) needs to be the one to bring in a verdict."

  4. Felix, yes that Tim Wilkinson article is a good read even though Dr Andrew Watt had to pull him up on a technical detail.

    The business of Dr Hunt being shown a "scene video" is something I also feel very strongly about. There is absolutely no way he should have been shown that video. I'm sure that there would have been zooming in on the left wrist and the knife, it should be the pathologist who sees everything with his own eyes initially. I wonder too how long DCI Young chatted to Dr Hunt, certainly discussing the scene tent to be erected over the body and the calling out of Mr Green might have been reasonable matters but not discussing the case in any detail (if that occurred).

    It certainly beggars belief that in the hour and a half available to Dr Hunt before Mr Green rolls up he didn't take the rectal temperature. If Dr Hunt gets that wrong what confidence should we have in the rest of his examination? I would suggest not too much.

  5. I know it's been mentioned before but Hunt the psychologist is on wonderful form here.

    "The fact that his watch appeared to have been removed whilst blood was already flowing suggests that it had been removed deliberatel in order to facilitate access to the wrist. The removal of the watch in that way and indeed the removal of the spectacles are features pointing towards this being an act of self harm.
    Other features at the scene which would tend to support this impression include the relatively passive distribution of the blood, the neat way in which the water bottle and its top were placed, the lack of obvious signs of trampling of the undergrowth or damage to the clothing. To my mind, the location of the death is also of interest in this respect because it was
    clearly a very pleasant and relatively private spot of the type that is sometimes chosen by people intent upon self harm.
    Q. Is that something you have found from your past experience?
    A. Yes, and knowledge of the literature."

    Advice to anyone planning to throw themselves in front of a train; make sure it's a nice spot.

  6. Brian, I have just been revisiting the evidece of Alex Allen, the toxicologist. He too was told what to look for.
    "Q. Before you carried out your examination, what had you been told about the circumstances in which Dr Kelly's body had been found?
    A. Well, very briefly, I had been told that there was a body found in some woodland near -- I cannot remember the name of the village, Southmoor or something,Littlemoor. My colleagues were at the scene. There was, I believe, evidence of damage to Dr Kelly's wrist. There was evidence of some tablets present, some Coproxamol tablets were found in his pockets. There were, I believe, 30 tablets of which one remained. And I was also informed that a bottle of water was found nearby and some vomit was also present near the body"

    I know I am digressing a bit from Mr Hunt - but two things trouble me - it is not clear whether other compounds may have been found in the samples other than those which were looked for
    Dr Allen says a "reasonable amount was present in the urine" but doesn't clarify of what. This is unsatisactory

    Dr Allen does not indicate anwhere the ratio of Dextropropoxyphene and Paracetamol in the Urine. The absence of stomach tablet residue might mean that the drug(s) could have been inserted rectally as a suppository,leading to higher blood and urine concentratins and low stomach residues (which in any case might have been produced by forced feeding through a tube).(Mr Allen concludes about ONE FIFTH of ONE TABLET remained in the stomach)

    This is what Dr Allen says to Lord Hutton:
    "The fact that there was a reasonable amount present in the urine obviously meant that his body was functioning for some time before he died and that allowed time for the paracetamol to pass -- for the dextropropoxyphene and the paracetamol to pass into the urine."
    And this is what his report says..
    "The other screens on the urine.....(showed)significant amounts of Dextropropoxyphene and its metabolites and breakdown products"
    He does not find Paracetamol in the urine in his report, but tells the Hutton Inquiry that it was there.
    It must have been easy to undress Dr Kelly, place a suppository, and dress him again. Did Mr Hunt look for or find evidence of a suppository in the 7 hours before he inserted a rectal thermometer ?

  7. LL - yes he is on "wonderful form" as you put it! The key observation I would make is that almost everything he is saying here is speculative. He reckons DK committed suicide, all the speculative stuff can then be made to fit in. One of the most ridiculous parts of this evidence (plenty to choose from) is regarding 'the neat way in which the water bottle and its top were placed'. If he is arranging something neatly in the way described he is doing that on the outset of the suicide process not toward the end for goodness sake! Dr Hunt himself talks of DK drinking water whilst the blood was flowing, and this after swallowing 29 tablets! Is he in a fit state to neatly place the water bottle and its top? I don't think so! Dr Hunt must be on another planet!

    Professor Hawton I believe says a similar thing about HH being a pleasant spot. A pleasant spot also I would suggest for making a murder look like suicide!

  8. Felix, Dr Hunt seems to have spent an incredible amount of time with the body on site. If as he has said, in this sort of investigation, he examines every millimetre of skin then what you are suggesting should have been noted I would have thought.

    We don't know if Dr Hunt did do this every millimetre of skin examination. We also don't know if he took any rest break between 14.10 and 19.19. From the timings I suspect he did his thorough examination at HH, not the right place in my opinion with the body at ground level. Perhaps he did it at the mortuary before the onlookers arrived or as part of the post-mortem itself.

    It is a question he must be asked at an inquest.

  9. "There was a heavier patch of blood staining over the right knee area. Also in this area was greenish material"



    "There was also a patch of possible bloodstaining on the ground near the left hip area"

    Or it could have been Ribena. Look you guys don't pay me enough for me to know everything!

    And didn't Lord Hutton get a bit pissy when Mr Green brought along his own photos;

    24 LORD HUTTON: Were the packets actually found -- in what
    25 part of the clothing?

    "A. They were in Dr Kelly's Barbour jacket, my Lord. I have a photograph --
    LORD HUTTON: I think it suffices to have your evidence, thank you. And it was the pathologist who found them, was it? He took them out, did he; Dr Hunt?"

    If ever they make a movie of this I think it has to comedy.

  10. A green material?Ectoplasm? Rose's Lime Marmalade? Interesting!

    Gareth Williams was found in a sports holdall in a bath in which there was a fluid which was not water. End of story. No inquest on the horizon. Spot the similarities (and differences).

    LORD HUTTON:....Thank you very much indeed, Mr Green.
    MR DINGEMANS: Thank you for coming at short notice.
    MR GREEN: You are welcome.

    Yes, it is comedy.

  11. Lancashire Lad
    I am pleased to see someone else has picked up on the "green material"
    It is very strange.
    I asked Andrew Watt if he had any idea what it was, he did not know. I don't think it was plant material....there was not much vegatation near the tree where Dr Kelly's body was found.
    I think it may have been some sort of abdominal fluid, such as bile.
    In order to get paracetamol into Dr Kelly's stomach, (as per the toxicology report) I am sure his assailants would use a tube.
    When the tube was withdrawn there may have been a spillage of fluid from the tube. Could this be the green material?
    We need expert advice!

  12. Mr Green and Dr Hickey were at Harrowdown Hill on the afternoon of the 18th. Mr Green avoids reference to the 'greenish material' in his evidence but even if he or Ms Hickey hadn't seen it (which I don't believe for a moment) then Dr Hunt would surely have drawn his attention to it. I can't believe it wasn't sampled but like every other test by Mr Green/Dr Hickey the result isn't in the public domain.

  13. The convenient holiday of Mr Hunt during the first half of the Hutton Inquiry allowed ACC Mick Page to provide the (scant) detail. Notice he says everything was swabbed for DNA but with no result. These swabs - sexual, anal, rectal etc. are obviously standard practice. Neither Mr Page or Mr Hunt referred to any results of Blood or DNA tests in their questioning at the Inquiry. Nowhere I can see does either of these two or Mr Green or Mr Allen refer to results of the DNA swabs. Mr Green's investigation was never concluded as we all know. Mr Page never mentions the results of the DNA tests as he has promised. I have been through the online reports of Drs Hunt and Allen. Nowhere (again, correct me if I am in error) do I see any reference to the blood being Dr Kelly's or Dr Kelly's own or of anybody else's DNA or blood. There are no references to any results of chemical tests on swabs which might have pointed to the use of a suppository in a murder. There seem to be no DNA results at all (aside from the ludicrous exchange over the missing dental records).
    We just seem to get a compendium of co-proxamol.
    This is ridiculous.

  14. You are right Felix! Apart from as you say the business of the dental records there was nothing forthcoming from the Inquiry about other DNA/blood tests. We do now know that Dr kelly's DNA was on the watch and on one of the blister packs but it took FOI requests to get that basic information. Did Lord Hutton ever ask about fingerprints at the scene? There's no public evidence that he did.

    The whole of the Inquiry was a farce!

  15. The DNA on the watch might have been from anything,Brian - hairs, sweat etc. and may even have been deliberately introduced eg from saliva,vomit and so on.