We know from Freedom of Information requests that a helicopter was at Harrowdown Hill on the morning of 18th July 2003. The record shows that it was there between 10.35 and 11.00 and also that it landed for the last five minutes of this time. It was supposedly tasked to take photographs at Harrowdown Hill but the reason for the landing isn't disclosed - that vital piece of information in the log being redacted.
A helicopter had been used in the search phase but it seems that this finally went off scene at 4.45, although shown as 0.45 on the print out I'm guessing that it should be 4.45 although that leaves a measly 10 minutes for searching after it had refuelled. As part of ACC Page's meeting at 5.15 that morning there is another helicopter mention:
Q. What was the result of your meeting at 5.15?
A. Well the result of my meeting was that we began to establish a search pattern. As a holding measure, I asked for officers who were reinforcement officers who were arriving about this stage -- we had between 30 and 40 officers available to us, and I asked them to start searching outward from Dr Kelly's house. I asked for the helicopter to be brought into play again.
Although daylight by this time the helicopter doesn't reappear to continue searching. A little later ACC Page talks of having the mounted branch from Milton Keynes on the way because they can cover the ground quickly but at 7.30 they had yet to arrive. Much of that part of Oxfordshire appears to consist of large open fields with just a small amount of woodland, ideal for continued helicopter searching I would have thought.
Louise Holmes, Paul Chapman and search dog Brock arrive at the bottom of the track leading up to Harrowdown Hill at 8 o'clock. This is part of the questioning of Mr Chapman by Mr Dingemans:
Q. Where did you park up?
A. At the southern end of the path of our search area, just north of Longworth.
Q. When you arrived was anyone else in the area?
Q. Passed any cars on the way?
A. A few in the village on the way.
Q. Did you see any other search teams around?
Q. Did you hear a helicopter or anything?
A. No, there was no helicopter at all.
The question one might ask is why did Mr Dingemans mention a helicopter: he must surely have known that there wasn't one flying in that area at that time. I believe that he doesn't pose any questions without some (useful to him) reason.
So we have a picture painted as a result of the examination by Mr Dingemans of no helicopter activity or search teams around. Yet we know that when the ambulance crew arrive there is a buzz of activity on the ground and 40 minutes later a helicopter is above Harrowdown Hill.
Could it just be that Mr Dingemans wants to instill in his audience a picture of very little action happening at this critical time and certainly no helicopter flight.