Sunday, 23 September 2012

The time at which the paramedics confirmed death

Abingdon ambulance station was alerted at 9.40, twenty minutes after Paul Chapman's 999 call.  Paramedic Vanessa Hunt told Mr Dingemans:

We were asked to mobilise towards Southmoor for a male patient but we were given no more details at that time. 

The interaction at the Inquiry continued as follows:

Q. So, did you set off? 
A. Yes, we did.
Q. In an ambulance?
A. In an ambulance with my colleague Dave Bartlett.
Q. And you drove to Southmoor?
A. Yes.
Q. Did anyone meet you there?
A. On the way we were given some more information on our data screens.
Q. What did that say?
A. It just said that we were attending the address --  Harrowdown Hill in Longworth for a male believed to be a kilo 1 which is actually deceased, and the Thames Valley Police were on the scene.

According to the evidence of ambulance technician Dave Bartlett they arrived at 9.55 and then with their equipment were led up the track by the police and into the wood to the body.  Electrodes were attached to the body and the heart monitor confirmed that life was extinct.  They obtained three readouts all showing a flat line.  It seems that the machine wasn't reliable as to recording the time that readouts are made and that the normal practice was for the paramedics to check the time from their watches and write this information on the strips.

Q. What did you do with the strips from the machine?
A. Took three strips and handed them all to the police officer.    

We can be sure I think that the time would also have been recorded on the Patient Report Form which the paramedics have to complete whether the patient was alive or dead.  Having said this there is an exchange about the subject between Mr Knox and Dave Bartlett:

Q. Can you remember at what time death was pronounced?
A. (Pause). No, I did not actually make a note of the time. It would have been what was wrote on the strips.
Q. It was noted on the strips?
A. Yes.

If not Mr Bartlett then I would have thought that Ms Hunt would have kept a note of the time.  Maybe I'm wrong on this.  Whatever, with no doubt many other incidents attended in the weeks following Dr Kelly's death it would be amazing if either of the ambulance team could recall the time written on the strips.  But thanks to PC Franklin and DC Coe the official narrative informs us that the time that death was confirmed was 10.07.  But was this factually accurate?  The evidence would suggest not!  I'm not saying there is anything necessarily sinister here though.

This is PC Franklin answering Mr Dingemans:

Q. What did you see the paramedics do?
A. The shirt was unbuttoned, they placed four sticky pads, I believe it is four, on to the body, the chest, and attached it to a medical machine -- sorry, I have no idea what it is. And they pronounced life extinct at 10.07 hours that morning. 

Exactly two weeks later and DC Coe is responding to Mr Knox:

Q. Did any ambulance people arrive?
A. They did, yes.
Q. Can you remember what time they arrived?
A. I can, if I use my pocket book. Can I?
1Q. Of course.
A. I have 10.07 here.
Q. 10.07 being the time at which the ambulance arrived?
A. Pronounced death, but they might have arrived just prior to that.
Q. It is they who pronounced death; is that right?
A. Yes.

In the case of Franklin one would think that he either looked at his watch when the paramedics confirmed death and put the time in his notebook or, having been given the strips from the machine on which the time had been written as previously described, transferred that information to his notebook.  PC Sawyer is clear in his evidence that only he and PC Franklin accompanied the paramedics to the body with DC Coe staying on the track, if this was the case then DC Coe was about 75 yards away from the body when death was confirmed.  

I can well understand PC Franklin recording this time in his notebook but how would DC Coe know?  It's interesting to read the relevant wording in DC Coe's written statement as revealed in Annex TVP 1:

At 1007 am ambulance crew attended the scene where death was pronounced.  

My best guess is that 1007 was the time noted by DC Coe when he speaks to the two police constables who are being followed by the paramedics.  Several minutes can be added on for the walk into the wood with the officers putting in their marker posts for the common approach path, for Sawyer to take his photographs, for pupil reaction and carotid pulse to be checked, and for the unsuccessful attempt to look for heart activity with the paddles before using the electrodes.  There is further confirmation from Dave Bartlett:

Q. How long were you at the scene altogether?
A. 5 to 10 minutes

If my belief is correct then what's the explanation for PC Franklin's evidence?  I'm not very confident about his reliability as a witness.  Perhaps he didn't note the time at the time.  Perhaps he asked DC Coe afterwards about timings.  Perhaps, being aware that DC Coe had a time of 10.07 in his notebook, he thought that he had better use that one in his evidence.  Yet later in his testimony Franklin is quite specific in the details of the times of the fingertip search.  Am I being unfair in thinking that he wasn't too bright?  I'm not sure.

In my next post I shall look at the strong evidence that indicates that the time at which the paramedics confirmed death was in fact later than 10.07.    


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