Entering the witness box at the Hutton Inquiry on 16th September 2003, one key figure stands out in the events surrounding Dr David Kelly’s death. The fact that his testimony contradicts that of five previous witnesses has received no attention in the mainstream press and has failed to be brought out in the Inquiry itself. Moreover, the position of David Kelly’s body prior to his arrival is different from its position when he leaves. This man is a British policeman: his name, Detective Constable Coe.
In his testimony before Lord Hutton, DC Coe, the third witness to Kelly’s dead body, relates how he is called out at 6.00am on 18th July to Abingdon police station. Here he is instructed (we are not told who by) to make house-to-house enquiries in the village of Longworth, about a mile from Kelly’s house. He does not follow these instructions. He heads instead to Southmoor, Kelly’s home village. Here he visits Ruth Absalom, one of Kelly’s neighbours, who was the last person to speak to the scientist the previous afternoon. From here, rather than make house-to-house enquiries, Coe sets off to the area where Ruth Absalom last sees Kelly to make what he describes to the Inquiry as “a sort of search towards the river”.
The next section of DC Coe’s testimony contains one of the most blatant discrepancies in the whole of the Hutton Inquiry. While it is clear from his own and other testimonies that he is not alone while in the region of Harrowdown Hill, a serious question mark hangs over the number of people who are with him.
In the witness box Coe claims that he is with only one other officer. But five previous witnesses – the dog-handler/searcher, Louise Holmes, the two official search officers, PCs Franklin and Saunders, and the two paramedics, Vanessa Hunt and David Bartlett – clearly state he is with two others.
In front of Lord Hutton DC Coe relates how he and “a colleague” go to the area where Ruth Absalom has last seen Kelly. He names this “colleague” as one “DC Shields”:
DC Coe: We spoke to a witness who lived more or less opposite,
4 who had seen Dr Kelly on the afternoon, the Thursday
5 afternoon, and myself and a colleague went to the area
6 where she had last seen him and made a sort of search
7 towards the river.
Under further questioning from Knox, one of the Hutton barristers, Coe reiterates that on the morning of 18th July he is with only one other person:
Knox: “Who were you with at this time?”
DC Coe: “Detective Constable Shields”.
Knox: “It is just the two of you?”
DC Coe: “Yes.”
Nowhere in Coe’s testimony is mention made of a third officer. Nor, despite the statements from the five witnesses who state he was with two other officers, is Coe asked about a third officer. Why does Coe not mention his other companion? And why does the barrister, Knox, allow this crucial point to slip by?
DC Coe arrives on the scene independently of other police officers – indeed they are not notified that he is to be on the scene at all.
PC Franklin, the officer responsible for the police search, is given to understand that on Friday 18th July only he and his search team leader, PC Sawyer and “6 other officers” are to conduct the search, which is (after conferring with Sergeant Woods on Kelly’s oft-frequented routes) set to begin at Harrowdown Hill, the site where Kelly’s body is ultimately found. “PC Sawyer and I were going to be the first”, said Franklin.
Yet on arriving at the scene they meet Paul Chapman, the volunteer searcher, who directs them to “two uniformed police officers and DC Coe”.
“Q: You mentioned DC Coe. Was he part of your search team?
Q: What was he doing:
A: He was at the scene. I had no idea what he was doing there or why he was there. He was just at the scene when PC Sawyer and I arrived.”
DC Coe goes on to describe how, on their way to the river, he and DC Shields encounter Louise Holmes and Paul Chapman (the other volunteer searcher). Louise and Paul explain how they have already found the body, and Paul Chapman leads the three (note, three, according to Chapman’s testimony) officers to it. According to the testimony of other witnesses, we are given to understand that Coe’s two (note, two) companions wait and guard the scene from the path while DC Coe visits the body alone.
When asked about Kelly’s body-position Coe twice states that it is laying on its back:
“It was laying on its back – the body was laying on its back by a large tree…”.
The way he repeats the phrase it is almost as if he is trying to prompt himself to remember to say, “laying on its back”. Yet Louise Holmes and Paul Chapman, the first two body-witnesses, have said the body is slumped AGAINST, i.e. touching, the tree.
Did Louise and Paul get it so wrong? Why would they? The sight of a dead body is not easy to forget. Or did Coe and his accomplices MOVE the body from a sitting to a lying position? And if they did, what might have been the reason?
As to Coe’s powers of observation, it is curious that, while none of the other witnesses are able to say much about the jacket, DC Coe manages to name it as a “Barbour jacket”. But when asked about the cap, he is unable to say for sure if this cap was on the head or “apart from the body” – despite the fact that, according to his own account, he has been standing “guarding” the body at a distance of only 7-8 feet for “in the region of about 25 or 30 minutes”.
Perhaps the Barbour jacket holds some particular significance for Coe. And his confusion over whether the cap is on or off could be because actually he is not standing guarding the scene as he claims, but, during the half an hour he is there, actively re-arranging it.
On 23 September 2003 Assistant Chief Constable Page of Abingdon police station tells the Hutton Inquiry that a “gentleman” has contacted both the police and the Inquiry to express his concern over his sighting of “three individuals…. in dark or black clothing” near the scene where Dr David Kelly’s body was found early on the morning of 18th July.
Page attempts to explain away the sighting, testifying how,
“…we undertook some fairly extensive work. We got
3 statements from all our officers who were at the scene
4 and that was in excess of 50. We plotted their
5 movements on a map and eventually were able to
6 triangulate where the writer was talking about and
7 identify three of our officers, so I am satisfied that
8 I am aware of the identity of these three individuals…”
But why do the police feel the need to undertake “some fairly extensive work”? Why do they take “in excess of 50″ statements”? For extensive work by the police to be deemed necessary, the “gentleman” who witnesses the incident must have described something about these three individuals which did not fit the pattern of mere search officers.
Vanessa Hunt, the paramedic and fourth body-witness, in her testimony to the Hutton Inquiry, describes PCs Franklin and Sawyer as wearing “dark polo shirts” and “combat trousers”, so presumably this must be the standard attire for police search officers – pretty much “dark clothing”.
So what is it about the man’s sighting of these particular three individuals which sets them apart from regular search officers and is unusual enough to prompt such a line of inquiry? If their clothing is similar to that of search officers, then it is possibly their behaviour that is odd in some way. Are they indeed “officers”? Are these three individuals DC Coe and his two”uniformed officers”. And are they behaving oddly?
Page claims in his September 23rd testimony that the triangulation shows that the three are police officers and satisfactorily accounted for. Yet this does not add up, because PC Franklin says, when asked how many other people are out searching at this time:
“I believe it was only the 2 volunteers out searching at that time”.
And PC Franklin should know, because he is the POLICE SEARCH ADVISOR.
PC Sawyer, the SEARCH TEAM LEADER, explains the search arrangements in his testimony as follows:
11 A. I am a search team leader, which means I have done
12 a further course which enables me to actually run
13 a search. Police Constable Franklin, being the police
14 search adviser, will liaise with the senior
15 investigating officer. They will decide on the
16 parameters of the search, what they want searched. It
17 is then turned over to me to organise the logistics of
18 it, to plan the search, do the cordons, to set the
19 searchers going and supervise them while they are
How is it then, that statements are taken from 50 police officers if there is not a single search officer on the scene between 8.30 and 9.30am on 18th July – the time given for the “men in black” sighting? The timing is crucial. It is true that Page has arranged for a much larger police search contingent, to number in the region of 40 officers. But according to the police search advisor’s testimony, this force has not, at this time, been assembled on the ground, and not a single regular police search officer was present on Harrowdown Hill at that time.
So how do we account for the three individuals in dark clothing? If there are no other police searching the area at the time they are sighted, then either these three are DC Coe and his two companions – or three other, entirely unknown, mystery individuals, possibly an SAS-style assassination or clean-up team.
Is there a reason for Coe’s “sort of search towards the river”?
As they are searching, Louise and Paul Chapman come across some riverboat people who say they have seen a helicopter up the night before and some police officers “at some point previously”. Are these DC Coe and DC Shields? Have they circled round perhaps? It is just conceivable that the riverboat is not innocent, that the people on it are not holiday-makers, and that the boat itself is the designated hide-out & get-away method for an assassination team?
Nowhere in DC Coe’s testimony are we given the names of anyone – other than DC Shields – who can corroborate any part of his story. We have no word but Coe’s that he appeared at Abingdon police station, that he was assigned to make house-to-house enquiries in Longworth, or that he ever talked to Ruth Absalom about Kelly’s route. In contrast, PCs Franklin and Sawyer, cited a “Sergeant Woods” as the person able to verify their attendance at Abingdon. The Thames Valley Police search team leaders, PCs Franklin and Sawyer, said that they had “no idea” what DC Coe and his companions (either one, according to Coe, or two, according to them) were doing there.
The one individual who could have corroborated Coe’s testimony – DC Shields – was never called before the Inquiry. Why not?
One feature of the Hutton Inquiry that is truly stunning is why there has been so little cross-examination of witnesses.
Almost nothing is cross-checked in relation to the discovery of the body – e.g. the Hutton legal counsel, Mr Dingemans, could have said to PC Franklin, the body-witness who followed DC Coe:
“You say that the body was found flat on its back, yet Louise Holmes says it was slumped against a large tree – can you explain that?”
Similarly DC Coe’s evidence is neither questioned, nor compared with evidence from previous witnesses.
He should have been asked:
- whom did you see at Abingdon police station?
- who instructed you to make a house to house search?
- who told you about Ruth Absalom?
- why were you making a search towards the river?
- whom were you with at the time?
And finally, to force an explanation it should have been put to him:
“You say you with one other person – DC Shields – yet five previous witnesses have stated you were with two people – how do you account for that?”
As this type of questioning did not take place, one cannot help but gain the impression that DC Coe in particular was let off a very uncomfortable hook.
The fact that witnesses were not cross-examined on the physical circumstances surrounding the search for/discovery of Dr Kelly’s body clearly suggests a cover-up.
DC Coe was due to testify on 2nd September but for some reason, did not appear. Counsel to the Inquiry, Mr Dingemans merely states: “we have not been able to get him here this morning.” Is that because he was waiting for all other “body-discovery testimonies” to have taken place so that none that followed would contradict what he had said? If DC Coe was not to be cross-examined subsequently, then his testimony would not be analysed under the public glare.
Those watching the hearings would be left a little confused by Coe’s contradiction of previous witnesses as to how many officers were with him, but reassured by his being a senior British policeman – a detective constable. A detective constable would surely be accurate about who he was with and what he was doing – senior policemen can always be relied upon – or can they?
Recall that DC Coe departs from the instructions he receives at Abingdon police station. Recall that he almost certainly lied about the number of individuals with him. Recall the body is reported as “sitting up” or “slumped” against a tree before his arrival, and “flat on its back” after he leaves the scene. This being the case, how far can his testimony be trusted?
Jim Rarey, in his recent article, “The Murder of David Kelly”(1) has pointed out that a Thames Valley Police operation, listed on the Hutton Inquiry website as a “TVP Tactical Support Major Incident Policy Book”, actually commenced at 2.30pm on 17th July – many hours prior to David Kelly’s body being reported missing at 11.40pm on that day – and finished at 9.30am on 18th July, around the time the “three individuals dressed in black or dark clothing” were sighted and DC Coe left the scene. The name of this operation? “Operation Mason”. The evidence suggests that DC Coe’s testimony – emanating from a figure in authority though it does – cannot, in fact, be trusted. However, it may be unfair to focus on DC Coe alone. He may have been but one link in a chain – a chain that was long, complex, and which involved many “dark actors”.
For further investigation into the death of Dr David Kelly please visit: www.deadscientists.blogspot.com
(1) The Murder of Dr David Kelly
Kelly: ‘I’ll probably be found Dead in the Woods’
Dr David Kelly, Sex Education and the BBC