Friday, 5 November 2010

The Death of David Kelly - the communications mast. Not part of a routine Police inquiry!

The erection of a communication mast (or masts) in the vicinity of David Kelly's home during the night of 17th to 18th July 2003 raises interesting questions.

The evidence that I'm aware of about the communications mast is sparse. But something may be better than nothing.

At the Hutton Inquiry Janice Kelly gave this evidence on the morning of Monday 1st September 2003 . The following extract is from pages 52 and 53,

25 Q. What time did the helicopter start searching, do you

1 remember?
2 A. It must have been about 1 o'clock. I am not sure.
3 Q. How many police were there then?
4 A. Certainly the three were there. I think they may have
5 been joined by a couple more by this stage.
6 Q. Did you speak to the police at all during that night?
7 A. Yes, all night, all night. Then a vehicle arrived with
8 a large communication mast on it and parked in the road
9 and then during the early hours another mast, 45-foot
10 mast was put up in our garden.
11 Q. For police communications?
12 A. Yes, indeed. And a dog was put through our house. At
13 20 to 5 the following morning I was sitting on the lawn
14 in my dressing gown while the dog went through the
15 house.
16 Q. Trying to --
17 A. Trying to establish that he was not there.

Notice an example of the strange pattern of questioning at the Hutton Inquiry. Mrs Kelly is asked about the purpose of the mast, about which she can only guess.

Yet, so far as I can trace, Assistant Chief Constable Page who would know the purpose of the mast(s) wasn't asked.

It's a fascinating repeating pattern of questioning at the Hutton Inquiry, isn't it? Ask someone who won't know and avoid asking someone who would know!

In an article in the Daily Mail, Norman Baker wrote the following:

Remember, too, Mrs Kelly's evidence at the Hutton inquiry. From her we learn that, in the early hours of Friday morning, with the search for Dr Kelly still in progress, 'a vehicle arrived with a large communication mast on it and parked in the road, and then during the early hours another mast, a 45ft mast, was put up in our garden'.

Thames Valley Police eventually told me the mast was in fact even higher, at 110ft, and was used to assist radio communications in a recognised reception black spot.

But other police sources I spoke to said that even in an area of poor reception, they would expect a mast only 15ft high to be used. Such a structure might, however, have been required to contact an aircraft a long way away.

Such as the one carrying Tony Blair between Washington and Tokyo that very day, perhaps.

Janice Kelly's evidence is that two communications vehicles arrived. The second she thought had a mast 45 feet high.

Norman Baker (on the basis of an Freedom of Information Act request, I understand) established later that the mast was 110 feet high!

Remember, at this stage David Kelly was simply a missing person.

The public narrative is that they didn't know he was dead.

Where did the first or second communications vehicles/masts come from? We don't know, so far as I'm aware.

What time did each arrive? We're not told by Janice Kelly. I'm not aware of any other source of information on timing.

Is the "communications blackspot" real? Or simply a cover story for the possible much longer distance communication needs?


  1. Perhaps the mast was just passing nearby on a vehicle, and it was just good fortune that it could be put to use in a communications blackspot. The helicopter must also been scrambled very soon after the 23.40 phone call for a medium risk missing person for it to start searching by 1.

  2. Felix,

    I assume you're being ironic.

  3. PS
    Andrew. I should add a rider to the first comment, which shows how one must take Hutton statements with a pinch of salt.
    Norman Baker says that Mrs Kelly's time for the helicopter search at was wildly inaccurate and that ACC Page's description that it came from RAF Benson was likewise probably erroneous. Relevant exchange with Mr Page from Sept 3rd ,
    page 20
    Q: So who had been responsible for calling out the police helicopter?
    A. Sergeant Morris.
    Q. Where is that helicopter based? We have heard it came from RAF Benson, is that right? A. That is correct, that is where it is based.
    Q. How many police officers were involved in the search?
    A. At that particular time half a dozen.
    LORD HUTTON: Just so that it is clear, I think what you said, Mr Page, this was a police helicopter
    A. It was a police helicopter, my Lord, yes."

    The Government statement in reply to Mr Baker hinted that the Benson helicopter had not been used, whereas that from Bedfordshire Police in Luton WAS actually employed from 2.50 onwards in two waves.

  4. Felix,

    Yes, there is something odd about the helicopter stories from Janice Kelly and ACC Page.

    I've finally found the PQ answer re the provenance of the helicopter. I'll put up a short post about it.