Monday, 20 August 2012

The "Boat People" (1)

In my posts on the evidence of the two voluntary searchers, Ms Holmes and Mr Chapman, I included the parts that covered their interactions with some people on a boat moored on the River Thames.  Before searching the northern sector of the wood they decided to complete that part of the search that took them down the path to the river and it was here that Brock "sniffed out" the occupants of the boat.

This is what each searcher had to say:

Louise Holmes
 Q. Did you at any point go along the River Thames?
A. We went up to where we -- where our boundary of our search area was on the Thames and spoke to some people there who were just moored on a boat on the Thames.
Q. What did you say to them?
A. Well, Brock had found them because he obviously is just trained to pick up on human scent, so he went off and indicated on them and so I had a game with him as a reward. They just said: what are you doing? We said we were assisting the police in the search for a missing male person and if they saw anything to contact the police.
Q. Did they say they already had seen anything?
A. They said they had seen the helicopter up the previous night but they had not seen anybody or anything other than that.

Paul Chapman
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.

 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.

The information given by Louise Holmes was innocuous enough.  Bearing in mind the close parallel between her written and oral evidence previously highlighted I suspect that what she said to Mr Knox about the "boat people" closely mirrored what was in her police witness statementHer recollection was that they only mentioned the helicopter.

Now to Paul Chapman.  He supplied the additional information that the people on the boat had seen 'some police officers at some point previously'.  My approximate estimation of the time of the conversation is 08.45 so that the sighting of the police was prior to that.  My hypothesis is that the early presence of police on the riverbank is something that they (the police) didn't want revealed.  I can't be sure of course but I suspect that any intended comment by Mr Chapman about this subject in his witness statement was carefully smoothed away ... in the same way that we didn't see him record the fact that DC Coe was with two other officers.

When Mr Dingemans took Paul Chapman through that part of his evidence I don't think he expected any nasty surprises.  The sudden mention of police officers seen at some point previously seems to have caught Dingemans momentarily off balance.  Recovering quickly he moves away from that subject.

How come Ms Holmes didn't mention the sighting of the police officers?  She had displayed a lot of thoroughness.  The reason I suspect was simple.  Her preoccupation would have been with her dog Brock, she even said that she had a game with him as a reward for finding the boat people.  Therefore I don't think we should be surprised if some comment from the boat had passed her by.

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