Q. In the course of your inquiries were you contacted by a person who suggested there had been three men dressed in black wandering around at the time that Dr Kelly's body was found?
A. Yes, I think both we and the Inquiry received a communication from a gentleman who expressed concern that he had noticed three individuals dressed in dark or black clothing near the scene where Dr Kelly's body was found. I am speaking from memory, but I think the sighting was at somewhere between 8.30 and 9.30 in the morning, something like that.
Q. Did you follow up that sighting?
A. Yes, we undertook some fairly extensive work. We got statements from all our officers who were at the scene and that was in excess of 50. We plotted their movements on a map and eventually were able to triangulate where the writer was talking about and identify three of our officers, so I am satisfied that I am aware of the identity of these three individuals.
In Annex TVP-4 on the Attorney General's website Mr McGinty also wrote on the subject under the title "Three Men in Black" http://www.attorneygeneral.gov.uk/Publications/Documents/Annex%20TVP%204.pdf
There was much more detail in the McGinty piece:
- The observer was a keen walker who was heading west along the bank of the River Thames
- At about 10.30 am he noticed a helicopter arriving from the east and then circling above Harrowdown Hill. He also noticed two police cars at Harrowdown Hill.
- The walker initially sees the three men in black from a distance of 300 - 400 metres and, at the closest, was about 100 metres from them. They were walking alongside each other and in the direction of the river path.
- The three all wore black trousers, two of them wore long sleeved black t-shirts and the third a lightweight black leather jacket. None of them was carrying anything.
- The walker returned to his car at about 1.20 pm where he informed a police officer about what he had seen
- He was interviewed by police and a statement taken. A force wide appeal was made for any officer who thought he might have been one of the three males or who had seen them to come forward
- The three men were identified as police officers engaged in the search operation
'It must be borne in mind that this sighting was an hour after the body of Dr Kelly was discovered and some nine hours after the latest time of death as defined by Dr Hunt.
'There is no obvious scenario of a third party involvement in Dr Kelly's death which would give rise to the suspicion that the three individuals seen at that time could be anything other than the officers engaged in the search operation.'
It's interesting that this Annex was produced when it demonstrated seeming incompetence on the part of ACC Page. Page recalls that the sighting was somewhere between 8.30 and 9.30 in the morning, something like that. Now we are told it was at 10.30. Is it really conceivable that an ACC would come to an Inquiry not knowing that detail? Perhaps at the Inquiry there was a desire to make sure that the supposed sighting was before the official discovery of the body ... and Paul Chapman had already stated that the boat people had seen police at some point previously. Frankly I'm struggling to believe that Page was so incompetent.
Page said that they took statements from all the officers at the scene and that numbered over 50. The McGinty version of events has TVP making a force wide appeal. Perhaps it was after then that they identified the 50 plus at the scene. If that part of Page's recall is correct then we know that he's now aware of exactly where everybody was at 10.30 because their positions were all plotted on a map and even some triangulation done to identify the three men in black.
The observer was described by McGinty as a keen walker and as such was quite likely to have been carrying binoculars. Certainly the description of the clothing worn by the men in black seen from a distance of 100 metres is very detailed, even to the extent of saying one was wearing a lightweight leather jacket. The identification procedure followed by TVP seems excessively elaborate bearing in mind the very different clothing worn by the men in black compared with the more normal police garb.
Other points: the circling helicopter will be dealt with later. I was interested to see that two police cars were visible at the time at Harrowdown Hill - they must have been identifiable as police cars rather than just ordinary vehicles, one could be the Franklin/Sawyer land rover (which looks to have been driven up to the field by the wood at about 10.30) but the identity of the second is a mystery.
I assume that the walker had parked at Newbridge where I'm sure there would have been a police presence by 1.20 pm.
McGinty goes a bit over the top in my opinion in disassociating the three men in black with Dr Kelly's death. When he takes this approach then the alarm bells start ringing.
One other thing to add is that the location of the sighting described in this post has been identified by another Kelly investigator as being north of Harrowdown Hill. My next post will be about the two men in black seen to the north west of the Hill.