Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The time at which Dr Kelly's body was found

"Officially" Dr David Kelly's body was found just before 9.20 am on Friday 18th July 2003.  From a Freedom of Information Request I had ascertained that the 999 call made by volunteer searcher Paul Chapman was at 9.20 that morning.  In his evidence to the Inquiry he had stated that initially he had tried phoning control but that he got an answerphone response which led him then to try and get through to Abingdon via a treble nine call.  From this it seems reasonable to me to state that the body was actually discovered between 9.15 and 9.20.

When ACC Page is examined by Mr Dingemans  on his first visit to the Inquiry the 9.20 time comes into the public domain:

Q. We have also heard from them, Ms Holmes and Mr Chapman, how they came across the body. When did you hear about that?
A. I think within seconds of the information coming in to us but the time I have is that it was 9.20.

So that's fine then you would think.  But is it?

Five police officers (unbelievably that's all) gave verbal evidence at the Hutton Inquiry.  ACC Page has already been mentioned, as to DC Coe we get nothing definitive from him about the timing of events that morning other than he was called out at 6 am and, from his notebook, we glean that the ambulance crew confirmed at 10.07 that life was extinct.  PC Franklin wasn't asked about the time of the call from Paul Chapman.

This leaves PC Sawyer and DS Webb to have their say.  First PC Sawyer who has just stated: information came in that a body had been found 

Then from Mr Knox and the reply:

Q. Can you remember what time it was that that information came in?
A. It would have been about 9 o'clock, I believe.

Immediately after PC Sawyer's evidence that morning Mr Dingemans takes over to examine Detective Sergeant Webb.  It becomes evident that DS Webb makes a number of trips between Abingdon Police Station and the home of the Kelly's at Southmoor during the course of Friday !8th.  This is the relevant part of the testiomony:

Q. How long did you stay at the house for?
A. I left the house at about 8 am to return to Abingdon police station, at that time to tell -- it was Assistant Chief Constable Page at that particular time, what the result of my inquiries were. I mean Dr Kelly's mood, the exact circumstances of his disappearance et cetera.
Q. How many police were searching at this stage, were you aware?
A. I could not say sir, I do not know.

Q. What time did you brief Assistant Chief Constable Page?
A. I got back to Abingdon I suppose about 8.30, immediately spoke to him for about 15 or 20 minutes, until really the news came in that a body had been found.
Q. What did you do as a result of that?
A. I was then tasked to go back to the Kelly family and to give them the news that it would seem that Dr Kelly had been found and that he was dead. 

Taking half an hour to return to the police station from Southmoor might appear to be a long time but the journey would have been when commuters were on the go and such a time might well be realistic for that hour of the day.  It's what follows that is particularly intriguing.  Taking DS Webb at his word I cannot reconcile his evidence with the 999 call at 9.20.  It would seem that the news of the body being found came in a little before 9 o'clock which ties in with the Sawyer evidence.
We now have to add in the fact that PCs Franklin and Sawyer took 3 police officers with them to act as cordons at Harrowdown Hill and that from a FoI request it is evident that an outer cordon was in place at 9.28.

I find it very difficult to believe that the 9.28 cordon was manned by anybody other than the police officers given a lift in the Franklin/Sawyer land rover.   If this is the case then the two PCs must have left Abingdon soon after 9 o'clock.

This is yet more evidence of failure to sort things out at the Hutton Inquiry.


  1. DS Webb doesn't mention suicide, but one does wonder whether it was he who first used that word which Mrs Kelly then communicated to Mrs Pape very shortly afterwards.
    On cordons, I just wondered how the river was cordoned off, bearing in mind that it would have been reported by the dog searchers that there were people aboard a boat moored at the bottom of the track.
    The setting up of the cordon so quickly seem to indicate that the police were pretty sure a body would be found in that wood.

  2. If this had been a “normal” suicide all the timings would fit perfectly, this wasn’t normal so they don’t.

    Mrs Kelly’s delay in reporting Dr Kelly missing caused the initial operation to be rushed, then when the body had been placed sat against a tree the trouble really began.

    Someone noted that the body had been lay on its back after death and therefore a post mortem might reveal that Dr Kelly had not died sitting against a tree by livor mortis markings (in the event this fear may not have been justified as at the post mortem examination livor mortis was reported as still being mobile)

    But the decision was made to reposition the body and it is this fact that turned a straight forward murder made to look like suicide into a political farce.

    Not only was the body repositioned but some of the original blood staining had to be covered up and new blood pools had to be co-ordinated with the new position of the injured wrist. This all took time, time that the people conducting the cover up did not have; so time was made up.

    The repositioning of the body (with new pools of blood) had not been completed by the time the ambulance crew arrive; they saw the body flat on its back; the ambulance technician said he stood in a gap between a tree and the head of the body. At the Hutton inquiry and since the ambulance crew have stressed how little blood there was, they said the injury on the wrist was facing upwards but not visible because it was covered with dried blood.

    The pathologist said in his report that there was a pool of blood measuring 2 to 3 feet from the injured arm, in a newspaper interview he said that the injury to the wrist had been repeatedly picked to ensure continued bleeding.

    The police officers Franklin and Sawyer gave conflicting evidence to the ambulance crew, they said the wrist injury was facing downwards and not visible. Sawyer took photographs of the scene whilst the ambulance crew were present.


    1)After the search team discovered the body it was moved from sitting against a tree to lying flat on its back.

    The ambulance crew attend the scene and then leave.

    3)The injury to the wrist is interfered with and blood forced from the body to create a new pool of blood next to the new position of the wrist. The injured wrist that had dried blood covering it when the ambulance crew saw it was then turned to facing downwards to hide the fresh blood on it.

    It is entirely possible that the part of the wood where the search team found the body was a different part of the wood to where the ambulance crew or pathologist attended.

    When Hutton said he saw a photograph of the body with its head slumped against the base of a tree and the rest of the body lying flat on the ground he was lying or the body had been moved a further time. Whatever, Hutton had no excuse for not investigating the different accounts and dismissing them as points of detail. Hutton could have shown the photograph he had seen and asked witnesses if that was the position of the body when they saw it; he chose not to.

    Brian has previously shown that contrary to Sawyer and Franklins claims that they arrived at the same time as the ambulance crew, they in fact arrived approx half an hour earlier, it is therefore entirely feasible the truth is not being told about what time the body was found; again to buy more time.

  3. Who I wonder was in charge of repositioning the body?

    Also, might you expand on this statement, LL?
    Mrs Kelly’s delay in reporting Dr Kelly missing caused the initial operation to be rushed...

    I don't quite see why the prep and the reporting had to be linked. In any case I still don't quite buy the story of waiting until 11.40 to dial 999, unless of course Dr Kelly returned home from his short walk and... (blank canvas follows)

  4. Who was in charge? is a good point Felix, I believe an emergency response command structure had been established. I don't believe sgt Morris authorised the use of a helicopter and bringing in the radio masts.

    I don't believe that when ACC Page got the call at 3.09 in the morning that he was the senior officer to take charge.

    What I mean by the initial operation being rushed is that it seems everyone was waiting in the wings to do there bit but the curtain had not come up.

    The police arrived too quickly, the helicopter was above the house too quickly (1.00am according to Mrs kelly) the chief constable was involved too quickly (according to Mrs Kelly but not ACC Page), the civilian search team were directed by the police to the exact spot and then the extras are allowed on stage to do their bit.

    Pure pantomime!

  5. LancashireLad,

    "Impure pantomime"?