Thursday, 16 August 2012

Review of the early search evidence

Earlier this month I had looked at the evidence of the initial police investigation after one of the Kelly family had reported Dr Kelly missing.  The testimonies given at the Hutton Inquiry were abysmal and much of what we now know had to be winkled out via Freedom of Information requests.  The commentary that follows is about what we were told at the Inquiry and this can be contrasted with what is now in the public domain.

1. Mrs Kelly tells the Inquiry that they called the police at about twenty to twelve.  It seems odd to me that she used the word 'about' and then was precise enough to record the time as twenty to twelve.  In a distraught state would she have really looked at her watch and remembered - it's hard to imagine (to me).  In his report Lord Hutton says that they rang the police at about 12.20 am on Friday 18 July.  Was it a false recall by Mrs Kelly or was Hutton being sloppy?

2. Mrs Kelly said that three people turn up with the missing person form.  Why didn't Hutton investigate the necessity for three officers at night to take the missing person details.  Wouldn't one, possibly two, be enough?

3. We hear that Sergeant Simon Morris went to the Kelly home, talked to the Kellys, made a search of the house and grounds with officers of the night shift, and ordered the helicopter to assist.  Ideally Morris should have been called by Hutton but at a minimum there should have been a witness statement from him.

4. Mrs Kelly, unasked, volunteers information about the helicopter search.  Compared with the later released flight logs Mrs Kelly is nearly two hours too early with the arrival time of the helicopter.  Not only that but she states it was the one stationed at RAF Benson that was used, the reality is that the helicopter from Luton did the searching.  A witness statement from Sergeant Morris and the deposition of the flight logs would have given Hutton the correct information.  It took an FoI request to record the time that the helicopter pilot was informed that he was needed.  This was 02.27 am.  Hutton should have been told and the facts produced at the Inquiry.

5.  Page, like Mrs Kelly, tells Hutton that it was the Benson helicopter used.  He vaguely describes the helicopter as making intermittent searches around the house.  If Page was an honest witness then he certainly was unprofessional.  So far as to which helicopter was used he either didn't check or didn't want to be seen to contradict Mrs Kelly or there was another unrecorded helicopter flight.  I suspect that he was just sloppy.  The flight logs, released after a FoI request, gave some detail as to the area searched and of course the times.  It was evident that the pilot overflew the wood on Harrowdown Hill, logically Sergeant Morris would have first gained information from the family of the area that Dr Kelly regularly walked.  Perhaps there was a reluctance on the part of Page to admit that the helicopter had flown over the site where Dr Kelly's body was eventually discovered.

6. As with the helicopter Mrs Kelly tells the Inquiry about the communication masts.  She describes the height of one but is wrong by a significant amount.  No police evidence on the masts is given.  Although TVP eventually give an explanation for their use in an FoI response they avoid answering the question of when they were asked for.

7. Page gets a call at 03.09 and goes to Abingdon Police StationFrom a briefing he finds out that Sergeant Morris has assessed Dr Kelly's disappearance as a medium risk.  When PC Sawyer arrived at Abingdon for a meeting at about 8 am he is informed by PC Franklin that Dr Kelly was a high risk missing person.  We aren't told at the Inquiry just when "medium risk" was regraded to "high risk".  This is very fundamental information that Hutton should have demanded.  Tucked away in a FoI response is the nugget that the incident was declared a Critical incident at 03.44.  Nothing is said about whether or not Page referred the matter up at this time.

8. Mrs Kelly tells the Inquiry that she finds herself out on the lawn in her dressing gown at 20 to five as a dog is put through her house.  Again that precise timing is of interest and difficult to believe.  Had she in fact checked this time with the police who would have logged the start time of the search.  If the explanation of her presence distracting the dog is correct then I assume that other members of the family had to temporarily exit the house.  Another reference to a family member being present at the search would surely refer to Sergeant Morris's earlier one. 

It musn't be forgotten that Hutton didn't take evidence under oath. Hutton also made the point that he had no problems with compelling: every witness he wanted to attend to give evidence actually came.  For a highly experienced judge to have been satisfied with the testimonies he was getting is unbelievable.

There is a further key statement by Mrs Kelly that merits inclusion in this post.  At the Inquiry we have this response to Mr Dingeman's question:

Q. The police are called. Do they turn up?
A. They turn up. Three of them come with a missing persons form to fill in. I explained the situation that David had been in and it seemed immediately to go up to Chief Constable level.

The Assistant Chief Constable isn't informed until over three hours later (03.09) and he makes no reference to the involvement of the Chief Constable before the body was found.  So why did Mrs Kelly say that 'it seemed immediately to go up to Chief Constable level'? 

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