Kelly Investigation: Is The Case Cut And Dried?
16 MARCH 2004
Is the case cut and dried?
Dr Nicholas Hunt, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on Dr David Kelly, phoned the Channel 4 News studio on 9 March to say he would be "more comfortable" with a full coroner's inquest. He was reacting to a debate, reflected on an Alex Thomson film about to be aired, that was instigated by a group of medical specialists who are publicly questioning his conclusions as to how Dr Kelly died. On the film, even forensic scientists who back Dr Hunt's conclusions, called for a full inquest to restore public confidence.
Only two days after Dr Kelly was found dead in a wood near his home, there was some surprise when the inquest into his death was adjourned on the orders of Lord Falconer, and subsumed into the Hutton Inquiry. It has since been assumed by many that the Hutton Inquiry took the place of an inquest and investigated Dr Kelly's death thoroughly, concluding that he had died from haemorrhage and poisoning, after cutting his wrist and taking painkillers. These apparent causes of death were then echoed in Lord Hutton' s Report. But did Dr Kelly really die by his own hand? And should we be satisfied with the official version of events?
The Kelly Investigation Group has spent hundreds of hours examining witness testimonies. Here are a few disturbing irregularities that have never been examined by the due process of law:
The search volunteers who found the body told the Inquiry that Dr Kelly was discovered with his head and shoulders slumped against a tree. Lord Hutton referred in his report to a photograph showing this to be the case. Yet the direction of the dried vomit on Kelly's face was towards his ears, indicating that he had died on his back. Was the body propped up against the tree after death?
Although the body was found partially upright, forensic pathologist Dr Nicholas Hunt, who examined the body some hours later, clearly stated, when he came to examine the body, that it was laid flat on its back, not touching the tree. Had the body been moved again?
A member of the public reported that he had seen three individuals in black or dark clothing acting suspiciously at the scene of Dr Kelly's death at about 8.30am on the morning his body was found; it was later reported they were search officers. But the two police search team leaders stated that they were the first search officers on the scene, arriving almost an hour later - at about 9.20am.
The name given to the police tactical support operation started not after Dr Kelly's death, but at 2.30pm - 9 hours before he had been reported missing. Its code-name was "Operation Mason".
As dozens of witness statements, considered "irrelevant" by the police, were withheld from the Inquiry, Oxfordshire coroner, Nicholas Gardiner stated in November last year that he wanted to review them and present his conclusions at a hearing. At first sight this seemed promising: was he to question Lord Hutton's Report? A Mail on Sunday article on 29 February made it clear that this was not to be the case. "No fresh evidence" had come to light it said, and Mr Gardiner was therefore seeking "closure" on the matter. But if, for example, the body positions vary, then the body must have moved: who moved it, and why? Witnesses need to be cross-examined, and testimonies scrutinised - before a jury. At the hearing representations are being made by "properly interested" parties. One submission, however, will not be read out in court today: that of dissenting members of the medical profession.
On the eve of the publication of the Hutton Report, a letter appeared in The Guardian from three medical specialists - one a surgeon - disputing that Dr Kelly could have bled to death from a single transected ulnar artery in his left wrist. They claimed it would have retracted and clotted within a matter of minutes and Dr Kelly would probably have lost no more than a single pint of blood. Three blister packs of co-proxamol were found in his jacket pocket; 29 were said to be missing. But the forensic toxicologist at the Hutton Inquiry could not confirm that Dr Kelly had taken 29 tablets. Only the equivalent of a fifth of a tablet was found in his stomach, and about a third of what is normally a fatal level of the drug found in his blood.
A flurry of interest from the media followed the letter, and a core member of the Kelly Investigation Group - orthopaedic and trauma surgeon, David Halpin - was interviewed on GMTV. The Daily Mail and Daily Express carried the story, and the Evening Standard carried the front-page banner headline: "Was Kelly Murdered?" Since this time the medical component of the KIG has continued to grow and two more letters, from more doctors, were published in the Guardian on 12 and 19 Feburary. On 9 March both David Halpin and vascular surgeon John Henry Scurr appeared on a Channel 4 News film making the points above. Even forensic scientists on the programme backing Dr Hunt, agreed that a full inquest was needed to more rigorously investigate Dr Kelly's death and restore public confidence. Crucially, Dr Nicholas Hunt, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy, phoned the Channel 4 studio before the broadcast to say he too would be "more comfortable" with a full coroner's inquest.
Today, Nicholas Gardiner is in receipt of a letter from six medical experts and two barristers. In the letter Dr Michael Powers QC states that in his view, the growing body of medical opinion does, in fact, constitute the "exceptional reason" required by the coroner to resume a full inquest. To date witnesses have not been subpoenaed; nor have they given evidence on oath and been cross-examined. The Hutton Inquiry did not have the jurisdiction to make this happen. Only a full coroner's inquest held in front of independent members of the public will permit a thorough and detailed investigation into Dr Kelly's death. Without it, serious questions will remain unanswered, and doubts will remain deep in the public mind.
For more information, or to contact the KIG medical team, please contact:
Rowena Thursby New Milton Hampshire