Sunday, 30 September 2012

Conflicting evidence - Coe, Franklin, Sawyer (1)

Prior to his making his statement to the House of Commons on 9 June 2011 Dominic Grieve had invited members of the public to send any evidence they had about Dr Kelly's death, and the investigations that followed, to his office.

On 28 February 2011 I sent this email to Mr McGinty at the Attorney General's Office: 

Mr McGinty
This email for the consideration of the Attorney General is, I consider, clear evidence of lies told by police officers at the Hutton Inquiry.  The particular evidence to be detailed here is contained in the testimonies produced by the first three police officers known to have approached Dr Kelly's body: DC Coe, PC Franklin and PC Sawyer.
DC Coe 
In his testimony on 16 September 2003 at the Inquiry DC Coe, in contradiction to other witnesses, states that he is with one other police officer (Detective Constable Shields) when he goes towards Harrowdown Hill on the morning of 18 July 2003.  However in a press article in August 2010 DC Coe admits the presence of a third man.  Thames Valley police have subsequently confirmed to me in writing that they know the identity of this third man, although they are not prepared to tell me his name or rank.  Even though the evidence given by DC Coe was obviously inconsistent with that of the earlier witnesses at the Inquiry Lord Hutton appears to have made no attempt whatsoever to resolve the difference.
There has been an assumption that DC Coe stood close to the body from the moment searcher Paul Chapman took him to where the body lay till the time PC Franklin and PC Sawyer arrived.  However DC Coe's evidence suggests otherwise:
21 Q. How far away from the body did you actually go?
22 A. 7 or 8 feet.
23 Q. How long did you spend at the scene?
24 A. Until other officers came to tape off the area. I would
25 think somewhere in the region of about 25 or 30 minutes.
1 Q. Did anyone then arrive after that time?
2 A. Yes, two other police officers arrived, I took them to
3 where the body was laying and then they made a taped off
4 area, what we call a common approach path for everybody
5 to attend along this one path. 

The precise definition of "the scene" is open to interpretation.  Certainly from what DC Coe says it is evident that he meets the other officers at a point away from the body and takes them to it.  Evidence from other witnesses indicates he was down on the track when met by them, at a minimum 50 to 70 metres from the body.  The differing accounts by earlier examined witnesses about the position of the body is indicative of the body being moved when DC Coe was present.  I consider that a diligent judge would have checked with DC Coe how much of the 25 or 30 minutes he was down on the track and how much of the time the body was within DC Coe's sight.
PC Franklin 
This is part of PC Franklin's testimony:
2 Q. Did you get taken into the wood?
3 A. DC Coe took us into the woods, PC Sawyer and myself, to
4 the area where the body was.
5 Q. And what did you see there?
6 A. We walked between 50 and 70 metres into the wood up
7 a slight gradient, and in a clearing at the base of
8 a tree was the body of a white male.
This is confirmation of what DC Coe says, and as one would expect DC Coe actually takes PC Franklin and PC Sawyer to where the body is.
Further on in the testimony:
16 LORD HUTTON: May I just ask you: how long were you at the
17 scene before the paramedics arrived?
18 A. Less than two minutes. 

PC Sawyer
Here we have his testimony about his arrival at the bottom of the track leading up to Harrowdown Hill:
6 Q. And where did you then go?
7 A. We then went to the track that leads up to
8 Harrowdown Hill, I do not know the name of the track,
9 but when we arrived we saw a vehicle parked which
10 belonged to Louise. We started walking up the track.
11 We also had with us two paramedics who had arrived,
12 which we took up with us to make sure that the person we
13 were going to see did not require any medical
14 assistance.
15 Q. Those two paramedics had obviously arrived separately
16 from you?
17 A. They had arrived more or less at the same time we did.
18 So the five of us went up because we were with
19 Sergeant Alan Dadd as well.
No explanation is provided about any further part played by Sergeant Dadd but at least we have confirmation that the paramedics arrive at about the same time as the PCs 
This is further testimony from PC Sawyer:
25 Q. You go along the track, where do you then go to?
1 A. We met Paul from SEBEV walking down the hill.
2 Q. Paul Chapman?
3 A. He told us basically the body was further up in the
4 woods. We continued walking up the hill, where I saw
5 DC Coe and two uniformed officers. I said, you know:
6 whereabouts is the body? He pointed the path he had
7 taken. I asked him if he had approached the body. He
8 said he had. I asked him to point out where he had
9 entered the woods and PC Franklin and myself entered the
10 woods at the same point, taking with us a dozen or 15

11 aluminium poles we use when we are moving towards
12 a scene to establish a common approach path.
13 Q. Were the paramedics with you at the time?
14 A. Yes.
15 Q. The other three officers?
16 A. They remained down on the path.
17 Q. So it is you, PC Franklin and two paramedics, then the
18 other three officers you have met; is that right?
19 A. Yes.
20 Q. You go down further into the woods, is that right?
21 A. The three officers -- DC Coe and the two uniformed
22 officers -- stayed on the path which leads through the
23 woods. We branched off to the left about 50 or
24 70 metres up into the woods, where the body was.
25 Q. So it is just the four of you; is that right?

1 A. Just the four of us went up there.

From this detailed questioning it is clear that PC Sawyer's version of events is markedly different to that of PC Franklin regarding the approach to the body and whether DC Coe is with them at that time.  If PCs Franklin and Sawyer approach the body only once (with the ambulance crew slightly behind them) then it is clear that either PC Franklin or PC Sawyer is not telling the truth.  Once again Lord Hutton fails to resolve an important piece of conflicting evidence.
The three officers give conflicting accounts about what was happening between the time the volunteers find the body and the time that the ambulance crew arrive at the point in the woods where the body is situated.  Clearly it is essential for an inquest with sworn testimony to now take place.
I would be grateful if you would confirm receipt of this email.
Brian Spencer

My concern featured as number 55 in the "Schedule of responses to issues raised":

The three officers - DC Coe, PC Sawyer and PC Franklin all gave evidence to the Inquiry about finding the body which differed regarding the approach to the body and where DC Coe was.
It is inevitable that honest witnesses, recalling details to the best of their memory, will give accounts that may vary, sometimes widely.  All courts recognise this.  How important such variation is depends entirely on how relevant the evidence is to the issue in question.  The accounts of the officers does not appear to differ in any significant way.  Lord Hutton had considerable experience in presiding over complex and difficult criminal trials and was very well equipped to make findings of fact in these circumstances. 

I want to examine the conflicting evidence given by the three officers in more detail but before that it's worth looking at what Lord Hutton - an experienced judge of course - had to say about differing accounts from witnesses.  This will be the subject of my next post.  

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