Thursday, 23 August 2012

DC Coe - heading for the river

The official narrative describes DC Coe as being the third person to see the body following its finding by the two volunteer searchers and their dog BrockDC Coe was scheduled to appear at the Inquiry on 2 September, the same day as three other police officers had their say.  This is what Mr Dingemans tells Hutton at 12.05 pm:

My Lord, Detective Coe, we have not been able to get him here this morning. That, in fact, would then complete this morning's witnesses. We have finished now, I am sorry it is a wee bit early.

No explanation is offered as to why they weren't 'able to get him'.  A time slot became available on the afternoon of the following day and one would have thought that Coe could have attended then.  However ACC Page arranged instead for the forensic scientist Roy Green to make his appearance at short notice, even though Mr Green's tests weren't complete and he had yet to submit a report. 

We had to wait for another couple of weeks, when Part Two of the Inquiry was underway, to hear what DC Coe had to say:

Tuesday, 16th September 2003
(10.30 am)
LORD HUTTON: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  Yes, Mr Knox.
MR KNOX: My Lord, the next witness is Graham Coe.
LORD HUTTON: Yes. Come and take a seat please.
Examined by MR KNOX
Mr Coe, could you tell the Inquiry your full name? 
A. It is Graham Peter Coe.
Q. Your occupation?
A. I am a police officer.
Q. At which station are you stationed?
A. I am stationed at Wantage in Thames Valley.

There has been some speculation about the role of DC Coe at the time, it being suggested that he was a member of "Special Branch".  Certainly I'm surprised that Knox tells Hutton that the next witness is Graham Coe rather than Detective Constable Coe.  Coe himself merely described himself as a police officer without disclosing his rank, again odd.  Knox should have asked him to disclose his position in Thames Valley Police - he didn't even say that he was a member of that force.

Q. On Tuesday 18th July in the early morning were you on duty? 
A. I was called out at 6 in the morning.
Q. Where did you go?
A. I went over to Longworth.
Q. Longworth police station? 
A. Abingdon police station. I went out to the Longworth area. 
Q. When you got to the police station, what were you asked to do? 
A. Go and make some house to house inquiries in the area where Dr Kelly lived.
This questioning needed to be far more detailed.  For instance we don't know when Coe arrived at Abingdon to be briefed, we don't know who briefed him, we don't know if a number of other officers were similarly carrying out house to house enquiries.

Q. Where did you then go?
A. We spoke to a witness who lived more or less opposite, who had seen Dr Kelly on the afternoon, the Thursday afternoon, and myself and a colleague went to the area where she had last seen him and made a sort of search towards the river.
Q. And could you be more precise as to where this river is?
A. It is the River Thames. We decided -- from what we were told, since the previous afternoon Dr Kelly was missing we decided to try to find the shortest route to the River Thames. 
LORD HUTTON: Do you remember the name of the person who had seen Dr Kelly? 
A. Mrs Ruth Absalom, I believe, my Lord. 

This is the first of two occasions when DC Coe indicated he had only one companion. He failed to explain why he thought it was a good idea to search towards the river and we don't know whether he spoke to a senior officer at that stage.  Whether Mr Knox would have tackled him about his decision isn't known because of the timely interjection by Hutton that revealed that Coe had been informed by Ruth Absalom.  If Hutton hadn't asked his question then it might have been difficult for Mr Knox not to enquire about why DC Coe decided to head for the river, the answer to that could have been interesting.

In his book Norman Baker ascertained that the then home of Mrs Absalom was about 100 yards away from that of the Kellys.  The loose description 'more or less opposite' doesn't fit the reality at all well. 

Q. So did you make a search of the River Thames in that area? 
A. We did not get so far as the river.
Q. What happened before you got there?
A. On the route to Harrowdown Hill I met the two people from the volunteer search team, a female and Mr Chapman. 
Q. And what did they say to you?
A. Mr Chapman told me that they had found a body in the woods. 
Q. Who were you with at this time?
A. Detective Constable Shields.
Q. It is just the two of you?
A. Yes.

The second time in his evidence when we are led to believe he had only one other officer with him.  This is the only time Detective Constable Shields is mentioned by name at the Inquiry.  A later post will have to deal with the presence of a third man with DC Coe and DC Shields.

I was relying on Mr Baker's description about the location of Mrs Absalom's bungalow in relation to that of Dr Kelly's home.  From the comments it can be seen that he was in error.  Therefore it needs to be made clear that DC Coe's description of where Mrs Absalom lived was accurate.



  1. Mrs Absalom lived in the Bungalow Stanab which was the subject of this successful and fairly recent planning application c. 2007
    It can be seen on this planning map
    As can be seen, it isn't far from being directly opposite Westfield.
    The new development on the site of Stanab may be seen recently built here on Google Street, being marketed by Thomas Merrifild of Abingdon, in 2008

    In fact, the quickest route to Longworth is along Waggon Place alongside the former grounds of Mrs Absalom (marked no through road) and over the footbridge on Harris's Lane, as seen on Geograph
    As may be noticed, it is quite a built up area full of rurban sprawl.

  2. .....indeed there seems to be a busy connecting "level crossing" between two modern estates over Waggon Place here on the map.

    The long lay-by on the A420, mentioned by Frank on the Chilcot's Cheating us blog, from which Dr Kelly might have been covertly observed, is seen here on the satellite map

    1. (last two references transposed) Sorry.

  3. Thanks very much indeed Felix for your research on the location of Ruth Absalom's former home. I must admit I assumed that Norman Baker got his facts right which I shouldn't have done without further verification.

    The important outcome is confirmation that DC Coe was factually accurate about the location of Ms Absalom's home whereas I was doubting him. Apologies to him! There are still though many serious concerns about his actions on the morning of the 18th to be considered.