‘There wasn’t much blood about’: Detective who found weapons expert David Kelly’s body raises questions over his death

By MATT SANDY
Last updated at 12:54 AM on 8th August 2010

The police officer who discovered the body of Dr David Kelly has spoken out for the first time – and revealed that there was ‘not much’ blood on or near the Government scientist.

Detective Constable Graham Coe was the first official on the scene after the body of the weapons expert was discovered in woods near his Oxfordshire home seven years ago. He guarded the body alone for 25 minutes.

The retired detective’s comments raise serious questions about whether Lord Hutton adequately investigated the circumstances of the scientist’s death.

And they will inevitably focus attention on Hutton’s finding that Dr Kelly died from blood loss after slitting his left wrist with a blunt pruning knife.

Graham Coe

Key evidence: DC Graham Coe has spoken for the first time about finding the body of Dr David Kelly

DC Coe, 63, joins a growing list of officials whose evidence about the death of Dr Kelly casts doubts on the verdict of the Hutton Report.

A lifelong police officer – he joined the Thames Valley Police force in 1972 – DC Coe served for 36 years, 28 as a detective, before retiring in 2008. Since retirement, he assists detectives carrying out interviews with suspects at his local station.

An unassuming man, he lives in a well-kept £200,000 cottage in an Oxfordshire hamlet with his wife Margaret, a former nurse.

He said: ‘I certainly didn’t see a lot of blood anywhere. There was some on his left wrist but it wasn’t on his clothes. On the ground, there wasn’t much blood about, if any.’

DC Coe’s version of events is supported by the two experienced paramedics who attended the scene, who also said the lack of blood was puzzling. They have previously said:

‘It is incredibly unlikely he died from the wrist wound we saw.’ He also confirms the much-disputed existence of a ‘third man’ with him and his partner DC Colin Shields that morning – a claim he denied at the Hutton Inquiry.

Critics who believe Dr Kelly was murdered have claimed the so-called ‘third man’ could have been a member of the security services. DC Coe now admits he existed and says he was a trainee officer. But he refuses to name him.

david kelly

DC Graham Coe’s evidence makes callls for inquest into Dr David Kelly’s death even more compelling

The detective also helped search Dr Kelly’s home the day after his body was found. He claims this was because the authorities were desperate to find any potentially sensitive documents about Iraq.

Dr Kelly, 59, who was one of the world’s leading experts on biological and chemical weapons, left his home in the village of Southmoor, in Oxfordshire, on the afternoon of July 17, 2003, saying he was going for a walk.

A week earlier, the former weapons inspector had been unmasked as the source of BBC claims that the Labour Government had ‘sexed up’ reports that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes.

His wife Janice reported him missing just before midnight. DC Coe, who was stationed in the nearby town of Wantage, was called at 6am and was soon making house-to-house inquiries in Southmoor, Dr Kelly’s village.

Ruth Absalom, a neighbour of Dr Kelly’s, told him and DC Shields that she had seen Dr Kelly the previous day near Longworth, a village about a mile north of Southmoor.

North of Longworth is the secluded Harrowdown Hill woods running down to the Thames.

DC Coe said: ‘We headed towards the river. I just had a gut feeling he may have gone that way. You know . . . he goes missing overnight for no reason at all.

‘You think to yourself, something ain’t going to be right. You get a thought, what’s the nearest thing? The river. We left our unmarked car in Longworth and walked up the bridle path to Harrowdown Hill.’

It was there, apparently by chance, that they ran into two of the volunteer searchers, Paul Chapman and Louise Holmes, and their dog, Brock, shortly after 9am.

Moments earlier, Brock had detected a scent and sprinted off into the woods, before running back and barking. Following his trail, Mr Chapman and Ms Holmes saw a body slumped against a tree.

kelly house

On guard: Police at Dr Kelly’s home in July 2003

Having checked for signs of life, they spoke to a sergeant at Abingdon police station at 9.20am, who said he would dispatch uniformed officers to meet them.

It was as they were walking out of the woods they encountered the detectives – and sparked one of the most enduring mysteries of Dr Kelly’s death and the subsequent Hutton report.

When questioned during the Inquiry, both Mr Chapman and Ms Holmes recalled running into three suited men on the path that morning.

However, when DC Coe was questioned by junior counsel Peter Knox, he insisted just he and his partner, DC Shields, were present.

The discrepancy has fuelled speculation that the mystery man may have been a member of the security services.

DC Coe is now willing to admit the existence of the third man but is unable to provide a plausible explanation for what he told Hutton. He says he does not remember giving that evidence.

He now claims the third man was a police constable who was still on his initial two-year probation period and had been seconded to the CID unit for a month as part of his training. But he refuses to name the officer and says he is no longer with the force.

harrowdown hill

Harrowdown Hill, where the body of Dr David Kelly was found

‘They [the two civilians] told us what they’d found and the bloke showed me where the body was,’ he said. ‘It was a dry, clear day but it was too early to be hot. There is a good canopy on the wood but you can see fine if there is daylight. I had to pick my way through brambles and nettles but it wasn’t impassable.

‘As I got closer, I could see Dr Kelly’s body sideways on, with his head and shoulders against a large tree. He wasn’t dead flat along the ground. If you wanted to die, you’d never lie flat out. But neither was he sat upright.’

Within a minute of getting to the body, he radioed in. He then guarded it alone for about25 minutes until back-up arrived – but, he claims, never touched it. He said: ‘He was lying in the dirt near the base of the tree – in the area where there’s no undergrowth. I went right up to the body and examined it.

‘I took a look at his face and his left wrist. I got in quite close. It was obvious he was dead. You can pretty much tell over the years. You aren’t going to feel his pulse, you know he’s dead. He had turned an ashen colour.

‘I think he was wearing a green Barbour jacket and a bluish checked shirt, both of which I think were rolled up, and dark cords. I think he was wearing his glasses and I think his eyes were closed. I could see his left wrist had been cut.

‘Near him was a pruning knife with a wooden handle and a curved, three-inch blade. On the ground was a cap, a watch and a small Evian water bottle. After examining him, I stood right by him – no more than a few feet away.’

DC Coe said he had dealt with too many dead bodies to be struck by the significance of what he found.

He said: ‘We had found the man we were looking for. You don’t think, “It’s all due to the Iraq War that he’s done this.” You know someone’s going to come and relieve you. All I had to do was protect the scene.’

But despite being underwhelmed by the job in hand, DC Coe is able to provide invaluable evidence on another of the major mysteries of Dr Kelly’s death – the lack of blood at the scene.

DC Coe is clear on the amount of blood he saw. He said: ‘I certainly didn’t see a lot of blood anywhere.

There was some on his left wrist but it wasn’t on his clothes. On the ground, there wasn’t much blood about, if any.

‘I didn’t see any bloodstains on the bottle and I didn’t check the knife.’

This account is much more thorough than the one that he gave in response to questions at the Hutton Inquiry. He told the inquiry he saw blood on Dr Kelly’s left wrist.

He was not pushed to answer a question about bloodstains elsewhere on his clothes nor asked about any blood on the ground.

The Hutton report was later to conclude that Dr Kelly died from severing his ulnar artery with his pruning knife – and that he had a non-lethal level of painkillers in his bloodstream.

But that finding has been thrown into fresh doubt after Dr Neville Davis MBE, an eminent forensic physician, said there would be a ‘hell of a lot of blood’ if someone had bled to death in that way.

Dr Davis, a former senior forensic medical examiner at the Metropolitan Police, said: ‘If he died because of the cut to the ulnar artery, I would expect to see a hell of a lot of blood at the scene. It has got to go somewhere.

‘If the artery is going to empty, it will spray hard. To kill the chap, he would have to lose many pints of blood. We are talking about a considerable percentage.’

But Dr Davis added he would be very surprised to see anyone die because of blood loss from severing their ulnar artery – echoing a group of 13 campaigning doctors who put together a dossier on the subject last year.

He added: ‘After about ten to 15 minutes, if the artery had been completely transected, you would then expect to see it seal up and the blood loss to stop. It is a tiny artery. You tend not to lose that much blood from it.’

DC Coe’s observations match those of the two paramedics who attended the scene, Dave Bartlett and Vanessa Hunt, who both told the inquiry how surprised they were at the lack of blood. It is also backed up by the evidence of Mr Chapman and Ms Holmes.

The forensic biologist who visited the scene, Roy Green, told Hutton there was a ‘fair bit of blood’ and he believed more could have seeped into the ground, a view echoed by DC Coe.

Dr Nicholas Hunt, the forensic pathologist, found some bloodstains on his clothing and the cap, watch, knife and bottle. He also said there was a bloodstain of 2ft in length on the ground. Eventually, two officers, PC Andrew Franklin and PC Martyn Sawyer, arrived and stood with DC Coe.

‘We sealed off a pathway to the scene,’ said DC Coe, ‘and I stayed for a bit after that and had a chat with them about old times. I told them there he is, dead, and then you chat about other things.

‘Then the ambulance team came and opened his shirt to put white pads on his chest [four electrodes connected to a heart monitor, the reading from which was a flatline].’

Dr Kelly was pronounced dead at 10.07am and DC Coe left the scene shortly afterwards.

However, that was not the end of his involvement in the Dr Kelly case. The next day, he was ordered to go to Dr Kelly’s home to act as an ‘exhibits officer’ in a thorough search.

Intriguingly, he believes the brief was to look for any papers that ‘could be of a sensitive nature’ about Iraq or other national security concerns, not for anything that might relate directly to his death.

He said: ‘We were looking for documents relating to Iraq. No one knew whether he kept any papers of a sensitive nature at home. We had to search. If someone writes a suicide note, you’ll find it. We were looking for politically sensitive documents.’

The search team took ‘several boxes’ of files back to the police station, where DC Coe spent three days examining them with an officer from Thames Valley Special Branch.

He said the documents were about ‘all sorts of things’ but will not disclose if anything sensitive was found. He also said there were drawings but, asked if they were technical drawings, said only they ‘weren’t artistic’.

His involvement was touched on only briefly at the Hutton Inquiry. He said he went to the house to act as an exhibits officer but was asked for no further details.

The inquiry was apparently satisfied with the evidence of Assistant Chief Constable Michael Page and PC Sawyer, who said the house was searched and unspecified ‘documents’ were taken away.

As for DC Coe, despite all the speculation, he remains convinced that Dr Kelly committed suicide.

He said: ‘There was nothing untoward about the scene as I found it. After 28 years as a detective, I am convinced there was nothing suspicious about that crime scene.

‘There would have been more at the scene. Nothing had been disturbed. In my view he took his own life. Only he will know why he did that.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1301210/There-wasnt-blood–Detective-weapons-expert-David-Kellys-body-gives-interview.html#ixzz0w2jSSYp3

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