Friday, 11 May 2012

Dr Kelly's death was NOT a "textbook suicide"

The forensic pathologist Nicholas Hunt wrote an article about Dr Kelly's death in the Sunday Times of 22 August 2010.  The online edition of that newspaper is behind a paywall but this BBC link summarises some of what he had written

It will be seen that he used phrases such as a "textbook case" of suicide and a "classic case of self-inflicted injury".  A driving force in his argument has always seemed to be the presence of shallower cuts to the wrist in addition to the main ones leading to transection of the ulnar artery.  Dr Hunt considers that the shallower cuts are hesitation marks whereby Dr Hunt was feeling his way and plucking up courage to make deeper incisions.  If Dr Kelly was incapacitated then it would evidently be possible for another party to make the incisions particularly if they were intent on creating a faked suicide. 

There are, it seems to me, plenty of reasons in this instance to negate Dr Hunt's assertion that it was a textbook case of suicide.
  • The body when seen by Dr Hunt is flat on its back.  Surely when attempting to cut a wrist you would at least rest your head and shoulders against a tree.
  •  In almost any position of the body where you are attempting to cut the left wrist by a knife in the right hand it would be the thumb side of the wrist that would present itself to you, the side where the radial artery lies.  In Dr Kelly's case it was the ulnar artery that was cut, toward the other side of the wrist.
  • The radial artery is much more accessible, the ulnar is much deeper and requires cutting through nerves and tendons to reach that artery, a long and painful process.
  • Slitting one's wrist or wrists is a very uncertain way of committing suicide, especially out of doors.  Someone of Dr Kelly's intellect would surely have considered a totally certain, quicker and less painful way of taking their life.
  • Assume for the moment that Dr Kelly ingested a significant number of co-proxamol tablets, dangerous in overdose.  The time gap between tablet ingestion and wrist slashing would be unknown I think but the ingestion of a large number of the tablets would likely lead to drowsiness, not the circumstances where you would be alert cutting a wrist. 
  •  The likelihood of death from co-proxamol overdose is greatly enhaced by the presence of alcohol.  This could have been purchased in Southmoor; instead Dr Kelly relied on a small bottle of water.
  • No suicide note was left and there was no proof of intent to commit suicide.
  • It's not credible to believe that a much sharper knife wasn't available to Dr Kelly.  In any case there seems to have been no effort made to test the knife blade for sharpness.
  • No fingerprints found.
  • Dr Hunt correctly comments on the presence of a scar on the right elbow of the body but makes no attempt to consider whether an elbow injury might have impacted on the strength of Dr Kelly's right hand and hence his ability to make the incisions.
  • There is no evidence that Dr Hunt considered the possibility of a homicide made to look like suicide.
The bulleted points aren't intended to exhaust the various arguments that can be marshalled to show that suicide was unlikely, rather it is a brief look of the circumstances here which I believe clearly demonstrates that this wasn't a "textbook case" of suicide.

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