Monday, 2 July 2012

The inquest is opened and adjourned

In the post before last I quoted a paragraph in a letter from the Coroner to the Attorney General's office.  Mr Gardiner explained how he was contacted by the police on the morning of the 18th July and it was agreed that a forensic pathologist should be called in and that Dr Hunt was selected to visit the scene and to carry out the post mortem.

In the next paragraph Mr Gardiner moves on to the post mortem itself and the opening of the inquest:

The body would then have been taken to the mortuary of the John Radcliffe Hospital where Dr Hunt would carry out the post mortem examination.  I have no note of it but I am sure Dr Hunt telephoned me after he had concluded the macroscopic examination and would have indicated that the primary cause of death was likely to be haemorrhage as a result of incised wounds to the left wrist.  Matters relating to the identification had been resolved and so I opened the inquest in open court on the 21st July; evidence as to Dr Hunt's view of the cause of death being given by my officer.  The toxicology and histology tests were carried out very quickly and within a few days Dr Hunt was able to tell me that as a result he needed to expand on the cause of death by indicating that co-proximal and heart disease would be given as contributing causes. 

As to the media recording the opening of the inquest the best report I've found so far is this from the Press Association in the Guardian of 22 July:

An inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly was opened and adjourned yesterday.

The Oxfordshire coroner, Nicholas Gardiner, said the 59-year-old had died from an "incised wound" to the left wrist. He was awaiting the results of toxicology tests before releasing the body to the family for burial, the coroner's court in central Oxford heard. None of Dr Kelly's family attended the five-minute hearing.

Mr Gardiner gave the scientist's full name as David Christopher Kelly, saying he was born on May 14, 1944 in Pontypridd, South Wales.

He said Dr Kelly, of Southmoor, Oxfordshire, was a civil servant and married to Janice Kelly, a teacher.

The coroner added: "The circumstances were that he was reported missing on July 17 and on Friday July 18 he was found dead at Harrowdown Hill. "I think on Saturday his wife confirmed the ID to a coroner's officer. It had been confirmed circumstantially anyway."

Mr Gardiner said Dr Kelly's family had asked for a burial order as soon as possible.

He continued: "I understand that the pathologist gave the original cause of death as a haemorrhage due to an incised wound to the left wrist and the results of toxicology tests are still outstanding."

The coroner adjourned the inquest to an unspecified date.

He said he would sign the release form for the body as soon as he had the results of the tests, expected in the next few days.- Press Association 

I have to say that I have concerns about Mr Gardiner here.  He is quoted by the PA as saying "I think on Saturday his wife confirmed the ID to a coroner's officer.  It had been confirmed circumstantially anyway".  He isn't sure about this most basic detail ... the formal identication of the deceased!  For a coroner to be so casual about such a fundamental takes my breath away!

It's interesting that in his letter Mr Gardiner states that it was his officer that gave evidence as to Dr Hunt's view as to the cause of death.  My assumption would be that the evidence of Dr Hunt's view has to be delivered by a third person, certainly I would expect Mr Gardiner to have the 19th July post mortem in front of him.  From the letter and the press report one would be led to believe that at that stage Dr Hunt hadn't considered that the heart disease was a contributory factor in the death.  Hutton, in his opening statement on 1 August, also refers to the 19 July version of Dr Hunt's report and quotes Dr Hunt as saying: 

"It is noted that [Dr Kelly] has a significant degree of coronary artery disease and this may have played some small part in the rapidity of death but not the major part in the cause of death."

This wording is the same as conclusion 11 in the published post mortem report of 25 July 2003.  It seems to me that that particular conclusion is common to the two reports.  However it looks to me as if "coronary artery atherosclorosis" (in conjunction with co-proxamol ingestion) was added as the secondary cause of death on the 25th.  In other words on 19 July haemorrhage and incision of the left wrist was thought to be the sole cause of death.
Finally, assuming accurate recall on the part of Mr Gardiner, Dr Hunt contacted him before completing the autopsy to say he thought the primary cause of death would be haemorrhage.  Exactly when that contact was made we don't know other than Dr Hunt had completed the macroscopic (ie eye level) examination by that time.

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