Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The communication masts (1)

My last six posts have dealt with the search helicopter and one issue I have highlighted is just how inaccurate the evidence was from Mrs Kelly on this matter.  Rather than criticise her for the inaccuracies the point that needs to be made is that it was ludicrous for her testimony to be used as the primary source of a technical matter that was really the province of the police.  The question that has to be asked is why did Hutton rely on the wrong witness for this information ... one possible reason I suggest is that counsel wouldn't consider questioning her further on such things whereas a technically orientated witness might find themselves overstepping the mark with the answers they gave.

After her testimony about the helicopter Mrs Kelly moved on to the communication masts.  Once again, following Freedom of Information requests, her evidence was demonstrated to be incorrect as to the detail.  These are the questions from Mr Dingemans and her replies:

Q. Did you speak to the police at all during that night?
A. Yes, all night, all night. Then a vehicle arrived with a large communication mast on it and parked in the road and then during the early hours another mast, 45-foot mast was put up in our garden.
Q. For police communications?
A. Yes, indeed. And a dog was put through our house. At 20 to 5 the following morning I was sitting on the lawn in my dressing gown while the dog went through the house.
Q. Trying to --
A. Trying to establish that he was not there. 

It is plainly ludicrous for the Inquiry to have relied on the evidence of a non expert on communication masts when a police officer could have been asked  about it.  In his book Norman Baker relates information he was given by Thames Valley Police in a letter dated 27 February 2007: the mast was even higher at 110 feet!  He quotes them as saying it was 'to assist radio communications in an, at that time, recognised black spot'.  Mr Baker tells us that he had also spoken to a chief constable (evidently not Peter Neyroud of Thames Valley Police) who told him that he would expect a mast only 15 feet high to be used in an area of poor reception.

Whether Mrs Kelly had mentioned the masts in her police witness statements I don't know but apart from that possibility there is no indication that Hutton was provided with any detail about the masts.  Hutton might have been as much in the dark as the rest of us.  It is plainly wrong that Hutton didn't obtain the proper technical evidence about this.

Following his reply from TVP it's not surprising that Mr Baker, followed by many others, believed that this tall mast was there so that communication could be made with Mr Blair as he was flying from America to Japan.  I have to admit that I was one who subscribed to that theory, the more so because of my memory of the Portland spy furore decades earlier when it was revealed that the Krogers transmitted information to Moscow from Ruislip, Middlesex using a 74 foot aerial.

An indication of just how tall the communication mast appeared to be can be seen in this Getty image:

Later information from TVP invalidated the height figure given to Mr Baker and eventually they were more forthcoming about why the masts were used.  I will cover this in my next post.

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