Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The Death of David Kelly - Is it possible to simulate "arterial rain"

Mr. Roy Green, forensic biologist, gave sketchy evidence to the Hutton Inquiry that he had identified "arterial rain" at the scene where Dr. Kelly's body was found.

See the transcript of oral evidence given on the afternoon of Wednesday 3rd September 2003, where on Pages 142 and 143 we read:

10 Q. Did you find anything around the body area of interest?
11 A. Yes. There was blood distribution.
12 Q. Where had the blood come from?
13 A. It appeared that the blood had originated from
14 Dr Kelly's injured left wrist.
15 Q. Right. I think we have heard from an extract that
16 Mr Page has read out to us that the ulnar artery was
17 severed. Did you understand that to be the case at the
18 time?
19 A. Obviously injuries are a pathologist's domain. However,
20 the blood distribution was what I would expect to see if
21 an artery had been severed. There was bloodstaining
22 typical of that sort of injury.
23 Q. What do you expect to see in such circumstances?
24 A. Well, when veins are severed the blood comes out under a
25 low pressure, but when arteries are severed it comes out

1 on a much higher pressure and you get spurting of blood,
2 you get a phenomenon known as arterial rain, where you
3 have a great deal of smallish stains all of about the
4 same size over the area.
5 Q. Did you find that arterial rain?
6 A. Yes.
7 Q. On what?
8 A. On the nettles -- there were nettles alongside the body
9 of Dr Kelly.

Putting aside all the other questions that have yet to be answered about Mr. Green's evidence, I wonder whether or not it is possible to simulate "arterial rain".

We don't know exactly what Mr. Green saw. But it's pretty clear that he saw what he expected to see.

Was he looking only for evidence to support what he had already assumed? Or was he applying critical thinking to what he saw? Did he, for example, carry out any blood pattern analysis, in any formal sense?

Would he have asked questions in such a way as to allow him to exclude simulated "arterial rain"?

Given the evidence of the paramedic Vanessa Hunt recorded in the transcript for the afternoon of Tuesday 2nd September 2003 on Pages 76 and 77 we read:

8 Q. And is there anything else that you know of about the
9 circumstances of Dr Kelly's death that you can assist
10 his Lordship with?
11 A. Only that the amount of blood that was around the scene
12 seemed relatively minimal and there was a small patch on
13 his right knee, but no obvious arterial bleeding. There
14 was no spraying of blood or huge blood loss or any
15 obvious loss on the clothing.
16 Q. On the clothing?
17 A. Yes.
18 Q. One of the police officers or someone this morning said
19 there appeared to be some blood on the ground. Did you
20 see that?
21 A. I could see some on -- there were some stinging nettles
22 to the left of the body. As to on the ground, I do not
23 remember seeing a sort of huge puddle or anything like
24 that. There was dried blood on the left wrist. His
25 jacket was pulled to sort of mid forearm area and from

1 that area down towards the hand there was dried blood,
2 but no obvious sign of a wound or anything, it was just
3 dried blood.

The paramedic saw some blood on the nettles, but there can't have been much.

Dr. Nicholas Hunt's postmortem report asks us to believe that the major factor in Dr. Kelly's death was blood loss.

And the evidence suggests there was surprisingly little at the scene where Dr. Kelly's body was found.


  1. I believe that the statements by paramedic Vanessa Hunt and ambulance technician David Bartlett are especially valuable here for a couple of reasons:
    1. They had we understand been to dozens of unsuccessful attempts at suicide by wrist slashing. Now it's possible that the majority of these were in a house or other confined environment where blood loss might have been more readily observable but their experience in viewing arterial blood loss would have been considerable. They were concerned enough to appear on television to record their doubts and to be interviewed by the Observer newspaper. I believe that Mr Bartlett is on record as saying that he had seen more blood from a nosebleed!
    2. The other point, perhaps ignored in the past, is the fact that they recorded their impressions exactly as seen. The fact that they weren't subsequently expected to formulate a theory for Dr Kelly's death means that their evidence ought to be untainted by any possible preconditioned thinking of how Dr Kelly met his demise.

    With transverse wrist slashing being a very poor method of committing suicide I wonder how often Dr Hunt in his role first as a pathologist and then a forensic pathologist had been to the scene of a death caused by arterial bleeding from a wrist. In his examination of course Dr Hunt would have looked at every surface affected by blood and seen what others may have missed but much of this seems to be blood smearing rather than everything being soaked in blood.

    I can appreciate that it might be difficult to make a good estimate of blood loss at the scene or indeed blood remaining in the body at the internal examination but I'm not aware of Dr Hunt even attempting an assessment of blood volumes.

  2. Adding to my earlier comment it seems to me that Dr Hunt had placed great store on the additional small cuts on Dr Kelly's left wrist, the so called hesitation marks, in declaring that Dr Kelly had committed suicide. When he commented much later about it being a "textbook suicide" I think it was the hesitation marks that led him into using that interesting phrase.

    My thought is that in examining Dr Kelly's body he saw these cuts at an early stage, decided there and then that yes it is a suicide and that the other evidence relating to the ulnar artery was subsumed into this one belief.

    One aspect not adequately aired at the Inquiry was the fact that cutting the ulnar artery without touching the radial artery would have demanded a very awkward action even if the cutter didn't have a problem elbow. Conversely (and rather importantly I feel) is the fact that for a third party facing Dr Kelly cutting the ulnar artery would become a much more normal action.

    Again if Dr Kelly was lying on his back when he died he would have had to have his left arm raised to see what he was doing, a far less comfortable position than leaning against the nearby tree and why when lying down did he put both the water bottle and its top close to the upper left side of his body with the bottle propped up.

    I believe that these are further examples of matters that Hutton should have explored in depth and the police should have considered.