Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Death of Dr. David Kelly - Who chose Dr. Nicholas Hunt to carry out the postmortem?

Norman Baker asked about who chose Nicholas Hunt to carry out the postmortem on David Kelly in a Parliamentary Question in 2006. The question and written answer are here:

Dr. David Kelly

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department which individual decided that Dr. Nicholas Hunt should be the pathologist chosen to investigate the death of Dr. David Kelly in July 2003. [73992]

Joan Ryan: The selection of the pathologist to undertake a post-mortem examination is made, by the coroner with jurisdiction, under the provisions of section 19 or s20 Coroners Act 1988. In cases of suspicious death, where there may be a prosecution, the coroner would consult the police (see Rule 6 Coroners Rules 1984) before making the selection. The death of Dr. Kelly took place within the jurisdiction of the Oxfordshire coroner and so the choice of Dr. Hunt would have been made by that coroner.

A masterpiece of obfuscation.

We still don't know who actually made the choice.

The answer does, of course, confirm that the death of David Kelly was a "suspicious death".


  1. David Kelly's diary was read at the Hutton Inquiry by his daughter. I would have liked Mr Hunt's diary to be produced for July 2003.

    At 9.30am, David Kelly, apart from some smearing of blood, might have been sleeping, or had passed out after cutting a small artery in his wrist. Only at 10.07 (apparently) was life pronounced extinct. [see here for Brian's dissection of the timings from 9.30 onwards - 10.07 seems optimistically early, and of course, confirmatory paperwork has gone missing...] For Mr Hunt to be able to arrive at Harrowdown Wood by 12 Noon shows good fortune and great urgency.
    There is some discussion below this post by Brian about the rapid appointment of Mr Hunt as a Home Office Pathologist to attend at Harrowdown. It certainly needed everyone involved to get their skates on.
    Special Post Mortems tend to occur relatively frequently now when there is a suspicion of criminal causation. The death was treated as suspicious by virtue of Mr Hunt being appointed immediately. It should have been treated as such until all suspicion was eliminated. Were the specialist divers employed? When was it decided that the death was no longer suspicious? If Mr Page didn't launch a murder hunt, what did he launch? It is not clear.
    There is some intelligent discussion at the Shipman Inquiry relating to SPMs. Basically, anything is possible.
    I do wonder whether Mr Gardiner himself was present at the SPM.(redacted).
    I have only one question - if a Home Office Pathologist is asked to investigate, does that mean that a SPM must take place?

  2. Felix,

    In the circumstances of such a suspicious death appointing a Home Office Pathologist and conducting a forensic postmortem would be expected, I think.

  3. I just wonder about the caseload for Home Office Forensic Patholigists. From Norman Baker's Parliamentary Answer there were only 43 at the time in 2003. I assume Mr NCA Hunt was the nearest one, being based at the John Radcliffe Hospital, University of Oxford. Surely all suspicious death scenes cannot be attended at the drop of a hat, as occurred here so it seems?