Sunday, 19 August 2012

Paul Chapman - police witness statement

In Annex TVP 1 on the Attorney General's website we have this extract from Paul Chapman's witness statement:

After a couple of minutes the dog indicated a find by returning to the owner/handler.  Lou the dog's handler followed the dog.  Lou said "Oh he's found something".

I continued to walk up the hill until I saw a body from about 15 metres.  It was the body of a male wearing a light coloured shirt and dark jacket.  He was lying on his back with his feet towards me with blood covering his left arm.  He was flat on the ground.

He was found about 30 meters into the centre of the wood.  I did not see any further details as I was to far away.

The time that we found the body was 09.15 hrs.  I then tried to contact my manager but his phone was on answer machine so I called the police on 999.  Once police arrived they then were shown where the body was and they took overall charge.  I wish to further that I showed the body to DC2368 COE at 09.40 hrs.

It needs to be appreciated that in making a police witness statement it is a police officer who is writing down what you are saying.  Occasionally they will "assist" by suggesting slightly different phrasing and I think that most people would think "that's fine, he knows what he's doing, no doubt what he has written sounds better".  Looking at the last two sentences of the extract from the witness statement I would strongly suggest that these aren't the exact words used by the man from the Pru!

Compare this with the witness statement of Louise Holmes:

We met 3 Police Officers in plain clothes who identified themselves and we showed them our identity cards.  We advised them that we had found a body in Harrowdown Hill 'C'. Paul then went with the 3 Police Officers to show them the location of the body and I returned to my vehicle parked in Common Lane at 'A'.

This is precise detail with all activities in chronological order.  Why couldn't Mr Chapman do something similar?  Any deliberate lies in a witness statement can lead to the person concerned being prosecuted - it's almost like committing perjury after taking the oath.  If there is witness information the police really don't want people to know then one answer is to so blur that part of the statement that the critical detail doesn't show.  

Paul Chapman goes with DC Coe to show the latter the body.  How close to the body does he get on this second visit?  Does he see something that the police are desperate to keep hidden?  It isn't only the blurring of his witness statement it's the fact that he isn't examined in detail about this matter at the Inquiry.

Are we really expected to believe that he would have noted and quoted the number of a plain clothes detective?  Who would particularly know that number?  DC Coe might!  We now know that Mr Coe stayed at Harrowdown Hill for a lot longer than we were originally led to believe.  Did they have to wait for DC Coe to arrive back at Abingdon to get the story right?  Did DC Coe take Mr Chapman's statement, or at least sit in on it?

In his interview with Mr Coe for the Mail on Sunday on 8 August 2010 Matt Sandy says of Mr Coe: 'Since retirement, he assists detectives carrying out interviews with suspects at his local station'   I wonder how long he has been honing that skill.

The statement about the body being flat on the ground is something to talk about when the whole question of the body being moved is looked at in detail.

I should have made the point in the above argument that one driving reason for the police to ensure that Mr Chapman's statement was lacking in detail is the fact that DC Coe was accompanied by two officers rather than just one.  Coe misreports the fact he was with a third man not once but twice when he eventually appeared before the Inquiry.  It wasn't until seven years later - in August 2010 - that Mr Coe suddenly remembered that it wasn't just DC Shields who was with him that morning.

Unsurprisingly DC Coe, in his own police witness statement, made no reference at all to the officers who were accompanying him when they met the two volunteer searchers. 

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