Saturday, 25 August 2012

DC Coe - Police witness statement

Kevin McGinty from the Attorney General's Office is the author of six items on the AG's website that are titled Annex TVP 1, Annex TVP 2 and so on to Annex TVP 6 Logic might suggest that someone from Thames Valley Police would have been the author but a Freedom of Information request has revealed that it was this civil servant who scripted them.  I have touched on some of these "annexes" in previous posts.  Mr McGinty has called Annex TVP-1 "Evidence of Dc Coe" and it includes at least part of Coe's police witness statement.

The evident purpose of Annex TVP-1 is to provide an explanation of DC Coe's failure to remember that there was a third person with him when he met the searchers soon after they had discovered the body.  The annex also attempts to distance DC Shields and the third man from the body itself with emphasis on the fact that it was only DC Coe who was shown the body by Paul Chapman.

In this post I want to concentrate on what DC Coe had to say in his witness statement with later posts on the third man and whether anybody else went with Coe to the body.

This is the text of at least part of DC Coe's witness statement, described by Mr McGinty as 'very short, not particularly descriptive but factually correct':

At 0940 am on Friday 18th July 2003 together with a Mr. Paul Chapman a volunteer search person, I went to Harrow Down Hill, Longworth where a Mr. Chapman took me into a wooded area for about approximately 75 yards where I was shown the body of a male person who was lying on his back.  I could see that his left wrist had blood on it.  Close to the wrist was a small knife similar to a pruning knife together with a wrist watch.

There was a small bottle with a label Evian thereon.  The male was wearing striped shirt blue jeans that had a stain on the right knee Barbour type jacket.  There was also a peaked cap close to this male person.

At 1007 am ambulance crew attended the scene where death was pronounced.

The whole of Annex TVP-1 can be read here 

  • The fact that the date was quoted in the first line is indicative of the fact that none of DC Coe's actions that day prior to 9.40 were included in his statement.
  • He makes no reference at all to the other personnel who had been with him earlier.
  • Was the 'about approximately 75 yards' an eyeball measurement or did he stride it out from the track?
  • He notes the blood on the left wrist and a stain on the right knee of the jeans.  This matches what the ambulance team had to say although Vanessa Hunt had also recorded her sighting of blood on the nettles.
  • The fact that it was an "Evian" bottle is noted but he fails to check whether any liquid was in it.  The top was only a few inches from the bottle and it's surprising that Coe didn't pick up on that fact nor, of course, was he asked about it at the Inquiry.
  • At the Inquiry he's not sure whether the cap was on or off the head but thinks it was off.  Why didn't he check his note book?
  • He makes no reference in his statement to Dr Kelly's footwear.
  • No mention is made of any vomit on the face or nearby.
  • Very significantly the statement makes no reference at all to the tree.
DC Coe's statement can well be described as absolutely minimalist ... as indeed was his evidence at the Inquiry.  At the head of a witness form there is a warning to the effect that, if tendered in evidence, the witness shall be liable to prosecution if they have wilfully stated anything they know to be false or do not believe to be true.

With dodgy evidence what would you do as a police officer?  I suggest that they would follow the dictum: "When in doubt - leave it out".  I'm clear in my own mind that DC Coe's witness statement could have been, and should have been, very much more detailed than it was.  As I have said before regarding the investigation into Dr Kelly's death what wasn't written or said is almost important as what was written and said.  When important details are left out then the question to be asked is "Why?".


  1. The statement also fails to mention how close he got to the body. Or indeed how long he spent there.
    The statement to Hutton that "I have a feeling the cap was off, but I cannot be sure." is quite frankly nonsense, when his police statement (and no doubt his pocket book which he brought with him to the inquiry) with which he would no doubt have been quite familiar, stated quite clearly that the peaked hat was close to the person.

  2. His answers at the Inquiry were very terse and his police witness statement missed out vital pieces of evidence. Here was somebody schooled to reveal the absolute minimum.

    As to be expected of any police officer under these circumstances he brought his notebook with him to the Inquiry. If he genuinely was doubtful about a detail he only had to say so and check what he had written down at the time. Mr Knox is at fault too for not pressing him by suggesting he look at his notebook.

    DC Coe seems to have suffered from very selective amnesia. Whereas he isn't quite sure about the cap at least he remembers the watch being just on top of the knife.

    He failed to mention seeing blood on the knife although PC Franklin did. According to Roy Green's report 'The blade and the handle [of the knife] were heavily stained with blood'. He was close enough to see the watch strap on top of the knife handle but not the heavy blood staining on both blade and handle.

  3. According to his own evidence to Hutton, DC Coe was alone with the body for 25 or 30 minutes before other police arrived. What would you expect a police officer to do in these circumstances? I would expect him to survey the scene and make detailed notes in his pocket book. If he had done this, and these details had been given in evidence to Hutton, we would have a much clearer picture of the scene at this early stage.