Thursday, 3 February 2011

The Death of David Kelly - A tiny experiment in the woods

One of the issues which concerns me about the Thames Valley Police investigation in 2003 is the reliability of the evidence underpinning the conclusion that no "third party" was present at the scene where David Kelly's body was found.

It is far from clear from the evidence given to the Hutton Inquiry that an adequate investigation of this issue was undertaken by Thames Valley Police.

In that context, today I carried out a small series of experiments in a wood near where I live.

It should, of course, be borne in mind that the location and time of year differ from the scene at Harrowdown Hill and that, therefore the characteristics of the vegetation may differ from that at Harrowdown Hill. Nonetheless, I believe my findings are potentially interesting.

Basically, what I did was to stand (wearing walking boots) on a variety of different grasses, tussocks etc and watch how long the imprint of my boot was clearly discernible and how long it took for any discernible impression to disappear. I did that both with a very non-natural imprint (my boot in one place for several seconds) and with a more natural "walking" imprint.

On grass of a variety of lengths I was surprised just how quickly the grass sprang back into its previous shape. It took about 10 to 60 seconds for grass to resume its previous shape so I was wholly unable to identify a footprint whose exact location I knew.

It seems to me that the chances of Thames Valley Police identifying on grass-covered ground any footprints of David Kelly and/or third parties in Harrowdown Hill woodland some hours after the footprints (had they existed) were made would be, essentially, zero.

I conclude that the absence of evidence on grass of footprints tells us nothing about whether "third parties" were present at Harrowdown Hill or not.


  1. Andrew,
    The track running by the side of Harrowdown Wood is a popular walk amongst the locals so it is quite well trodden. The grass that grows on the track had been mown that evening by a local farmer and as I pointed out in an earlier comment the soil over which the track runs is Oxford Clay. In mid July such soils are normally dry and hard and do not imprint easily.
    The soil in the wood is similar and vegetation in this part of the wood is sparse, so again not much chance of any imprint from peoples footwear.
    In other words it would have taken some very careful forensic examination to detect if anybody other than Dr Kelly had walked up the track from either direction and entered the wood. Then if we also take into account the large number of police officers that appeared to attend the scene before such an examination could or did take place and the total incompetence of Thames Valley Police there is no way they can make a statement stating that no "third party" was present at the scene where David Kelly's body was found.

  2. Frank,

    You're right.

    It would require very careful forensic examination of the scene.

    I am not aware of any examination of the scene of that degree of care having been carried out.

    Your comment about the presence of several individuals (volunteer searchers, DC Coe, the ambulance team etc) having been present is an important one.