Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The search helicopter - summary of my thoughts

One question that had left people scratching their heads is why did the search helicopter which evidently overflew the wood on Harrowdown Hill fail to pick up the presence of Dr Kelly with its thermal imager.  A possible explanation of course is that the body wasn't in the wood at the time but let us suppose that it was there.

This was issue number 73 raised with the Attorney General:

Despite Dr Hunt's finding that Dr Kelly died between 4.15 pm and 1.15 am, a helicopter equipped with thermal imaging technology failed to spot the body although it flew over the site the body was found at 2.50 am.  This failure was not queried by Hutton.

I won't reproduce all of the response which runs to just over two pages ... it consists entirely of an explanation by Thames Valley Police.  Part of it which relates to the times of the flights I have recorded in an earlier post on the helicopterHowever the paragraph particularly relevant to this post is shown below:

In the case of woods or copses, unless it is winter or the woods are sparsely populated with trees, the leaf canopies and branches very often preclude any meaningful thermal imager search as the thermal imager cannot penetrate the leaf canopy.

This explanation may be viewed as credible and I don't seek to dispute it.  What is totally unacceptable however is the way that Thames Valley Police hid the fact that the helicopter had overflown the wood.  A reminder of what ACC Page told Mr Dingemans about where the helicopter had searched:

The police helicopter had also been called out and had been making intermittent searches around the area of the house using heat seeking equipment.

Without Freedom of Information requests we would never have known that the "Area searched included bridle paths from Longworth north to the River Thames east to Newbridge and back south to Kingston Bagpuize."  It can be seen that the answer by Page is far too vague and in fact very typical of his poor quality evidence.

In the issue raised earlier is the sentence: 'This failure was not queried by Hutton.'  So far as I am aware nobody has raised the possibility that Hutton was unaware of exactly where the helicopter had searched.  As previously posted the officer calling out the helicopter, Sergeant Morris, wasn't called by Hutton nor was a witness statement from him lodged.  Page, as usual, provided little useful information.  The flight log of the helicopter wasn't sent to the Inquiry.  Thus there was no information in the public domain at the time of the Inquiry about when Sgt Morris called out the helicopter, the times of its search flights and details of the area searched.  We did have Mrs Kelly mentioning a time for the arrival of the helicopter but that was nearly two hours adrift.  Both she and Page believed it was the one from Benson rather than Luton.  What an utter shambles!

This total failure by Thames Valley Police to properly inform the Inquiry about the helicopter flights is similar to its failure to present evidence about the lack of fingerprints at Harrowdown Hill, about which I have previously blogged.  It should not have been necessary for individuals to have to use the Freedom of Information Act to glean the information we now have.  So far as gathering evidence is concerned the Hutton Inquiry wasn't fit for purpose.

No comments:

Post a Comment