Reading the testimonies of PCs Franklin and Sawyer at the Hutton inquiry you could be readily forgiven for thinking that the morning of 18th July 2003 was very quiet at Harrowdown Hill. Buzzing with activity? No, not if you believe what the two PCs said on the 2nd September. PC Franklin was examined by Mr Dingemans, PC Sawyer by Mr Knox.
PC Franklin first:
Q. How many are in your team?
A. I was given a search team leader, which is PC Sawyer, and 6 other officers, when we received a call that a body had been found at Harrowdown Hill.
Q. Do you know how many other people were out searching at this time?
A. I believe it was only the two volunteers out searching at that time. The parameters for our search and the logistics of calling our teams in does take a bit of time. So PC Sawyer and I were going to be the first team out on the ground.
Q. We have heard evidence about a helicopter out searching the night before. Had you heard about that?
Q. After you get that information, where did you go?
A. PC Sawyer and I attended Harrowdown Hill and went to the scene. We were unsure initially whereabouts we were going, but we passed Paul from the South East Berks Volunteers and he directed us to two uniformed police officers and DC Coe.
Q. The South East Berks Volunteers, what are they?
A. They are SEBEVs. South East Berks Volunteers. They are an organisation we use regularly for missing person searches.
Q. To help?
A. To help us. They are a highly professional and motivated organisation.
Q. You mentioned DC Coe. Was he part of your search team?
Q. What he was he doing?
A. He was at the scene. I had no idea what he was doing there or why he was there. He was just at the scene when PC Sawyer and I arrived.
Q. Who was in charge of the scene at this time?
A. DC Coe was until I turned up and then I took charge of the scene.
Now PC Sawyer:
We are just about to leave to perform our first searches, which would have been in the village and the surrounding areas of the route he was thought to have taken, when information came in that a body had been found. I then left with Police Constable Franklin to attend the scene.
Q. Can you remember what time it was that that information came in?
A. It would have been about 9 o'clock, I believe.
Q. So you then leave with Police Constable Franklin?
Q. And anyone else?
A. We had three other officers in the back who we took from the search team to act as the cordons, because obviously we do not want members of the public or members of the press approaching the scene until it has been obviously searched and declared sterile.
Q. And where did you then go?
A. We then went to the track that leads up to Harrowdown Hill, I do not know the name of the track, but when we arrived we saw a vehicle parked which belonged to Louise. We started walking up the track. We also had with us two paramedics who had arrived, which we took up with us to make sure that the person we were going to see did not require any medical assistance.
Q. Those two paramedics had obviously arrived separately from you?
A. They had arrived more or less at the same time we did. So the five of us went up because we were with Sergeant Alan Dadd as well.
Q. Where did you stop the cars?
A. Stopped the cars -- I believe it at is the top, I have not seen the map but I believe it is at the top of Common Lane. Then we turned left and right up to the track which leads up to Harrowdown Hill.
Q. You go along the track, where do you then go to?
A. We met Paul from SEBEV walking down the hill.
Q. Paul Chapman?
A. He told us basically the body was further up in the woods. We continued walking up the hill, where I saw DC Coe and two uniformed officers.
From the interview with DC Coe in the Mail on Sunday on 8 August 2010 we know that DC Coe and his companions left their unmarked car in Longworth and walked up. In summary then the two PCs with their 3 "cordons" arrive at the bottom of the lane at about the same time as the ambulance crew. This is at 9.55 according to Dave Bartlett's evidence. Sergeant Dadd is also there but whether he comes in his own car or the police land rover isn't clear. The car owned by Louise Holmes is spotted although she and Brock are not.
PCs Franklin and Sawyer believe that they are the first team out on the ground, apart from the volunteer searchers. PC Franklin seems bemused by the presence of DC Coe and says that he 'had no idea what he was doing there'. However he doesn't seem surprised by the presence of an outer cordon (established nearly half an hour before at 9.28) I presume because he doesn't mention it.
There is an interesting contrast in testimonies between the PCs and the ambulance crew (arriving at almost identical times we are told). This from Vanessa Hunt at the inquiry:
Q. When you arrived on the scene was anyone there?
A. Yes, there were a number of police officers.
Q. Do you remember how many?
A. Just lots and there was police vehicles there as well.
Q. Did you drive off the public road?
A. We parked up at the end of the public road, I do not know the name of the road.
Q. And you proceeded on foot?
Q. Who had met you?
A. There was an officer in regulation clothing who directed us to two or three other officers in combat trousers and black polo shirts and we followed them along the track.
Dave Bartlett's response when questioned:
Q. What happened when you arrived?
A. We parked at the end of the lane where there were some cars already parked, a lot of police officers there. We asked one police officer who directed us to the police that were in the combat uniforms and they asked us to bring some equipment and follow them down into the woods.
A report in The Observer of 12 December 2004 has the two ambulance crew speaking out about their concerns after the Hutton Inquiry. Vanessa Hunt again:
When they arrived at the woods 15 minutes later it was immediately clear that this was not a run-of-the-mill incident. 'There were a lot of police around,' said Hunt. 'Some were in civilian clothes and others in black jackets and army fatigues. I thought it might have been a firearms incident as there were the guys from the special armed response units.'
The contrast between the testimonies at Hutton could hardly have been more marked. Surely the police presence noted by the paramedics must have been seen by PCs Franklin and Sawyer.