Sunday, 19 August 2012

Paul Chapman - the search

At the end of my last post I arrived at the point where the searchers had been briefed at Abingdon police station.  This is how Paul Chapman's testimony continued:

Q. After the briefing, where did you go?
A. We were tasked initially with a search area of Harrowdown Hill and the pathway running alongside it to the river.
Q. Who were you searching with?
A. I was searching with Lou Holmes and her dog Brock.
Q. How long did it take to get from Abingdon to the search area?
A. 10 or 15 minutes.
Q. You drove?
A. No, Lou drove.

Q. Where did you park up?
A. At the southern end of the path of our search area, just north of Longworth.
Q. When you arrived was anyone else in the area?
A. No.
Q. Passed any cars on the way?
A. A few in the village on the way.
Q. Did you see any other search teams around?
A. No.
Q. Did you hear a helicopter or anything?
A. No, there was no helicopter at all. 

Mr Dingemans seems particularly keen to establish the point that no other search party was in the area.  And no helicopter around at the time.  In the light of future revelations this is very interesting: by 10 am there was a considerable police presence at the parking area and half an hour after that a helicopter starts circling Harrowdown Hill.

Q. Where did you go on your search?
A. Initial search was we progressed north up the path, Brock ahead of us searching and us searching, checking the ditches either side and the pathway, until we reached the southern perimeter of Harrowdown Hill wood.  We then entered the field by the wood, did a search of the southern perimeter of the wood until we reached a barrier, the barbed wire fence halfway round the other side.
Q. Did you climb over the fence?
A. No, we decided not to. We decided to retrace our steps round the wood back to the main path so we knew on the map where we were and what areas we had covered.
Q. While you were searching up to the barrier, had you seen
anyone at this stage?
A. No.
Q. Or heard anything?
A. No, nothing at all.

Again Dingemans checks that nobody is seen and nothing is heard.

Q. You hit the barrier then retrace your steps.
A. We retraced our steps and entered the southern side of the wood and had a look through the inside of the wood, where it was slightly more open.
Q. Could you see anything?
A. Could not see anything. There was the barbed wire fence running the whole way through the woods, so that formed our natural barrier within the wood.
Q. How large was the wood?
A. 50 to 100 metres across, roughly.
Q. Did you walk into the wood?
A. We did, yes.
Q. Up to the barbed wire in the wood?
A. Up to the barbed wire, yes.
Q. Where was the dog at this stage?
A. The dog was ranging from 5, 10, 15 metres ahead of us, running in and out of the bushes and the areas. We were just following that. There were no paths or anything so we were having to climb across trees and go round all the bushes and things.
Q. Did you come across anything?

A. Nothing in the southern area, no.
Q. Having searched the southern area of the wood, what did you do then?
A. We returned to the main path, consulted with each other, looked at the map and decided we would do the rest of the pathway down to the river and get that eliminated, and then come back and do the rest of the wood.
Q. Did you do the rest of the pathway down to the river?
A. Yes, we walked all the way down the pathway, which came out to a gate just by the River Thames.
Q. Did you see anyone on that search?
A. Not until we reached the river and we met the people on the boat.

For the sake of continuity and to retain the flow I am including the evidence of the interaction with the "boat people"; it is an important subject and one I will return to in another post.

Q. How many people were on the boat?

A. Either three or four, I cannot remember.
Q. Did you speak to them?
A. Yes, we did.
Q. What did you say to them?
A. They enquired what we were doing. We explained a search team assisting the police, looking for a missing person, and gave them a rough description of his age and said if they saw anything could they contact the police.
Q. Had they seen anything?
A. They had heard the helicopter and seen some police officers at some point previously.
Q. Right. What, police officers on an earlier part of the search?
A. Yes.
Q. But they had not seen Dr Kelly at all?
A. No.
Q. After you had gone down to the river, spoken to them, where do you go next?
A. We retraced our steps back up the pathway until we reached the wood, came off the pathway and did the northern perimeter of the wood until we came to the other side of the barbed wire fence.
Q. You went back into the wood itself?
A. Initially no, we did the outside of the wood.
Q. Looking into the wood?
A. Looking into the wood. But it was quite dense undergrowth so a lot of places you could not actually get in through the perimeter there, but we were checking the wood.
Q. When you could get through a gap did you get into the wood itself?
A. We did not enter the wood there until we returned back to the main path.
Q. Where was the dog at this stage?
A. The dog was running around, like I say, just ahead of us. We were keeping back so we do not affect its scent and smell.
Q. How long did it take to do the northern part of the wood?
A. A guess, about 10 or 15 minutes.
Q. Did anything happen while you were doing the northern part of the wood?
A. Nothing. Did not find anything. There were no indications from the dog either.
Q. Where do you go after that?
A. Once we reached the barbed wire fence we retraced our steps to the main path, again walking down the side of the wood where it is much more open. We then entered the wood after another 10 or 15 metres, and walked into the wood from there.
Q. What part of the wood are you now looking at?
A. We are in the northern sector of the wood.
Q. Right. And does anything happen here?
A. After about five minutes the dog indicates a find and Louise --

It seems as if Dingemans wanted to push things along at this point because he didn't let Paul Chapman complete his sentence.


  1. Brian,

    Dingemans seems to want to cause confusion and mislead the inquiry throughout his questioning of the dog handlers. Harrowdown wood is about 100 metres wide at its widest point and about 250 metres long.
    One would assume that Dingemans would have at least familiarised himself with basic facts like this before he commenced questioning anybody at the inquiry.
    When he got the part where Louise Holmes described the point at which Brock the dog actually found the body Dingemans he asked the following question.
    "How far into the wood, roughly, was this from the point that you had actually mentioned to get in, a mile or less than that?"
    This either shows an appalling lack of understanding on the part of the questioner or a deliberate attempt to confuse the inquiry.


  2. Frank, just a small point: it was actually Knox who questioned Louise Holmes. The point you make though is a very valid one. Later that same morning he took evidence from PC Sawyer, the man who oversaw the fingertip search of the common approach path. Knox would have looked at Sawyer's statement previously and would know very well that the common approach path wasn't a mile long. No he's playing the confusion card.

    Stupidly he inserted another piece of confusion that afternoon when he asked Dave Bartlett about the number of the ambulance he was in. Bartlett couldn't remember but Knox knew. This suggests that Knox had sight of the Patient Report Form - the document that was to strangely go missing. I doubt that Mr Bartlett stated the ambulance number in his police witness statement, the PRF was almost certainly the source of this information for Knox!

  3. Establishing that no other searchers were around at 9:20 does seem to have been given quite some importance. But why were there none?

    ACC Page's evidence given to Lord Hutton on the morning of 3rd September 2003 contains the following:

    "By 7 o'clock you had got the assessment back from those two specialists in missing persons?
    And did they identify Harrowdown Hill as a site of interest for you?
    Yes, Harrowdown Hill to the best of my recollection was number 2 on their list.
    Did you send a search team to Harrowdown Hill?
    Yes, I asked the police search adviser to arrange for the area to be searched, and members of the South East Berks Emergency Volunteers and the Lowlands Search Dogs Association, who by this time had also joined us, were deployed to Harrowdown Hill."

    "Ultimately by about 7.30 I had 30 police officers drawn in from other police areas. I had the resources on duty within that police area, which would have been another 10."

    So two volunteers were sent (with no police officers) to search what had been identified as the second most likely place to find something. Then, 1 hour and 50 minutes after ACC Page had 40 officers available, still no police were there. Why not? What were they doing?

  4. This point about the seeming lack of activity on the ground by the police is very pertinent. Interestingly PCs Franklin and Sawyer thought their team would be the first one out there. Can the bureaucracy needed really have taken the best part of an hour after the briefing before they went out? Fortunately the volunteer searchers went straight out to Harrowdown Hill after their own briefing.

    It's almost as if everyone was just waiting for Paul Chapman to phone in to say the body had been found.

  5. Anonymous,

    You are absolutely right. It is total nonsense for Thames Valley Police to have searched such a wide area including footpaths right down to the river and not to have searched this small wood.

    The officers who the boat people claim to have seen before the dog handlers arrived would have almost certainly walked right past the wood on their way to, or back from the river.

    I am convinced that Dr Kelly's body was found earlier in the night by Special Branch and for some reason the decision was made not to go public with the find until the next morning, and also for the public to think the find was made by someone other than a Special Branch officer.

    We don't know who made that decision, but I guess someone very high up in Her Majesty's Government was involved in the decision making. Remember the tall mast in the Kelly's garden.

    The civilian dog handlers were then called in and given a relatively small and straight forward area to search.


  6. In 2009 I joined with others to lobby for an inquest into the death of Dr Kelly. In 2011 I approached the Thames Valley Police requesting copies, under the Freedom of Information Act, of three documents. These were refused on the grounds that it would not be in the public interest to release them!! Shortly after my exchange of correspondence with TVP, a motor cycle police Officer with Thames Valley Police emblazoned on the back of his high visibility jacket visited North Quay, Conyer, where my euro cruiser was moored! What was that all about?! To move on, as it were, I have very recently written to David Cameron asking him to reverse his decision not to hold an inquest and to now order one. We will see. What we really need now is a whistle blower, that person who knows exactly what happened to Dr Kelly that night 17/18 July 2003. So, if you are out there, come on let's hear it. The Hutton Enquiry was a sham, a complete cover up. Dr Kelly was a brilliant, honourable man of absolute integrity who did his best for his country. We owe it to him and to ourselves to find out the truth about his death. Angela Hughes. PS All it takes for evil to succeed is for good men to stand by and do nothing. David Cameron is a good man, why doesn't he get on with it!