IntroductionThis request, reference RFI2011000296, was received on Saturday 16 April 2011, 10:42am.
1. I understand that a journalist on the Bedfordshire on Sunday newspaper made a FOI request in 2008 regarding the helicopter search for Dr Kelly; I cannot find this request or response on your website, please direct me to where I can view the information or supply me with information (request and response) 2. Please supply full flying logs for both the Luton based helicopter and the Benson based aircraft, for the 18th July 2003. Information for all flights made by both these aircraft on the day stated including cumulated flight hours at the start and end of each flight for each aircraft. 3. Please identify the aircraft that Mrs Kelly stated was above her home at approximately 1 am on 18th July 2003, the aircraft that she says police turned their blue lights on their vehicle (s) to identify the Kelly home. 4. Please inform me who authorised the use of the helicopter(s). 5. Please inform me when the request was received by the helicopter crew(s) to attend the scene. 6. Please inform me when the Gold/Silver/Bronze command structure was established (date and time) 7. Please confirm ACC Page was Silver Commander based at Abingdon. Please inform me who Gold Commander was and where he / she was based 8. Please inform me if there was a government command centre (Platinum / Cobra) established. 9. In response to a Parliamentary Question raised by Norman Baker MP http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmhansrd/vo060605/text/60605w0008.htm He was informed that the Benson helicopter was on standby but not used, please inform me why the Luton aircraft was used and not the Benson aircraft.
Response1) This information may be viewed via: http://www.bedfordshire-news.co.uk/Home/Police-helicopter-failed-to-spot-dead-body-of-suicide-scientist.htm
2) The flying logs may be accessed via the below PDF Document. The exemptions applicable to the redacted information are:
Section 40(2) – Personal data
Section 30(1)(a)(b)(c) – Investigations and proceedings conducted by a public authority
Section 40 is a class based absolute exemption and as such the legislators have identified there would be harm in disclosure and there is not need to evidence this.
Section 30 is a prejudiced based qualified exemption which requires the prejudice (harm) to be evidenced.
Several types of harm may be generated by the disclosure of the redacted information within the helicopter logs. Future police operations may be prejudiced if operational information is inappropriately disclosed into the public domain. This may result in safety implications for the general public and police officers, placing the well being of citizens at risk and compromise the ability of the force to prevent and detect crime and protect life and/or property.
3) Mrs Kelly’s evidence at the Inquiry stated:
Q. Could you hear the helicopter?
A. Yes, it came and the police switched on their blue light on their vehicles so it could pinpoint the position of our house, the starting point for David's walk.
Q. What time did the helicopter start searching, do you remember?
A. It must have been about 1 o'clock. I am not sure.
We assume Mrs Kelly was referring to the police helicopter which arrived on scene at about 03.20hrs.
4) It is standard practice on an incident such as this to deploy the helicopter if it is available. No specific authority was required however the process is usually instigated through the control room inspector.
5) The helicopter crew were informed at 02.27hrs 18/7/03. At this time they were deployed to a fatal road traffic accident in St. Albans. They completed this task at 02.50hrs and then deployed to Southmoor.
6) There is no formal time at which this structure was established. Thames Valley Police operating methods directs that the Control Room Inspector will manage the operation until such time as a ground supervisor is in place. During this time the family were seen and initial local searching began. The deployment of dog units and air support is standard procedure for a missing person incident such as this.
The matter was escalated to Chief Superintendent (Silver) level at 0305hrs on 18/07/2003 who in turn informed ACC Page (Gold). Both senior officers were, at this time making their way in to Abingdon Police Station to command the operation. The incident was declared a Critical Incident at 0344hrs by which time it is fair to say the GSB structure was in place.
7) ACC Page was the Gold Commander operating from Abingdon Police Station.
8) No Information held
9) The two aircraft and their crews have different start and finish times. On this day the Benson aircraft would have finished duty at approx. 2 a.m. and the Luton aircraft would cover the consortium. Hence they were the only aircraft on until 04.30hrs.
The flying logs are here http://www.thamesvalley.police.uk/aboutus/aboutus-depts/aboutus-depts-infman/aboutus-depts-foi/aboutus-depts-foi-disclosure-log/aboutus-depts-foi-disclosure-log-investigate/rfi2011000296_flying_logs_1_.pdf
From the answer to question 5 we now know when the helicopter crew were informed about flying to Southmoor - 02.27. In other words they are called about 2 and three quarter hours after the Kellys phone the police.