My concerns about the content of that report are so serious that I am asking the General Medical Council to carry out a formal assessment of whether Dr. Shepherd may be guilty of serious professional misconduct.
The title of the email is:
Concerns re possible serious professional misconduct by Dr. Richard Shepherd
The content of the (rather long) email is:
I write to draw to the attention of the General Medical Council conduct by Dr. Richard Shepherd, forensic pathologist, which I believe may constitute serious professional misconduct.
I ask that the General Medical Council institute a formal inquiry into Dr. Shepherd's conduct in this matter.
The matters to which Dr. Shepherd's deficient conduct relate are of such seriousness and ongoing public interest that I ask the General Medical Council to consider whether a hearing of this matter be held entirely in public, in order to provide reassurance in the public mind regarding the conduct of forensic pathologists acting as supposed "experts".
Dimensions of Concern
My concern about Dr. Shepherd's conduct has three dimensions:
1. Dr. Shepherd failed in multiple ways to act in the unbiased and rigorous fashion that is to be expected of a supposed "expert" forensic pathologist, arguably sufficient to consitute serious professional misconduct. That aspect of Dr. Shepherd's conduct is the subject of this email and the request to the General Medical Council to investigate what seems to me to be serious professional misconduct by Dr. Shepherd.
2. Dr. Shepherd failed to act in the unbiased and rigorous manner to be expected of what is commonly referred to as a Home Office Pathologist. I intend to write to the Pathology Disciplinary Board with respect to my concerns regarding this aspect of Dr. Shepherd's conduct.
3. Dr. Shepherd, in my view, acted in such a manner as potentially to pervert the course of justice with respect to the suspicious death of Dr. David Kelly. I am giving serious consideration to contacting the Police with respect to this aspect of Dr. Shepherd's conduct.
On 12th November 2010 Dr. Richard Shepherd was asked by Mr. Kevin McGinty of the Attorney General's Office to provide an expert forensic pathology opinion about the death of Dr. David Kelly in Oxfordshire in 2003. See http://www.attorneygeneral.gov.uk/Publications/Documents/AGO%20to%20Shepherd%2012%20November%202010.pdf
The death of Dr. Kelly is the subject of ongoing serious concern in the minds both of doctors who have studied the available evidence and lay members of the public. One group of doctors made a formal legal application to the Attorney General in September 2010 in terms of Section 13 of the Coroners Act 1988.
The question in Law to be addressed in terms of Section 13 of the Coroners Act 1988 is whether or not it is possible that a new inquest would arrive at a different verdict. In 2004 an inquiry by Lord Hutton had concluded that David Kelly had killed himself.
It was in this context of whether or not it was possible that a new inquest would reach a different verdict that the Attorney General's Office approached Dr. Shepherd.
Dr. Shepherd was supposed to provide unbiased expert assessment of the forensic pathology aspects of the case.
In his report Dr. Shepherd demonstrated his awareness of a duty to provide unbiased expert assessment.
On page 21 of his report of 16th March 2011 (which is available online here, http://www.attorneygeneral.gov.uk/Publications/Documents/Forensic%20medical%20report%20by%20Dr%20Shepherd%2016%20March%202011.pdf ) Dr. Shepherd shows his awareness of his duty to provide unbiased advice in these terms:
"I understand that I owe an overriding duty to provide independent assistance, by way of unbiased opinion in relation to the matters within my expertise and that such advice must be uninfluenced by the exigencies of the case. I have complied with, and will continue to comply with, that duty."
In my view this declaration by Dr. Shepherd is both dishonest and fraudulent.
I reach that conclusion based on these criteria:
1. Dr. Shepherd makes statements inconsistent with an unbiased assessment. Systematically, I believe that Dr. Shepherd's assessment is biased towards the "suicide hypothesis".
2. Dr. Shepherd fails fairly to express considerations which legitimately cast doubt on the "suicide hypothesis" and which ought to be expressed by a medical expert acting in an unbiased manner.
3. Dr. Shepherd makes statements which are outwith his area of expertise, yet fails appropriately to identify such comments and dishonestly allows these speculations falsely to appear to be "expert" assessment.
In the section which follows, Specific Serious Concerns, I list several of the issues where I believe that Dr. Shepherd's report departs in material respects from the conduct which the Public has the right to expect from an honest medical expert acting in an unbiased matter.
I conclude that Dr. Richard Shepherd departed seriously from the standards to be expected of an honest and diligent medical expert and that he may have demonstrated serious professional misconduct.
Specific Serious Concerns
In this section I list some points of serious concern to me that lead me to my conclusion that Dr. Shepherd may be guilty of dishonesty and serious professional misconduct.
The list which follows is illustrative rather than exhaustive.
For convenience, I list the illustrative issues in the order they appear in Dr. Shepherd's purported "expert" report of 16th March 2011.
1. The presence of "third parties" at the scene
On page 4 of the report, Dr. Shepherd states the following:
"In my opinion the length and detailed nature of the scene examination, the extent of the sampling for later scientific examination and the analyses to which those samples were subjected indicates that every effort was made to determine whether or not another individual or individuals had been present in, around or near the scene of death or had been in contact with Dr. Kelly before or after death."
This statement seems to provide sweeping reassurance that no "third party" was present at the scene. However, on more careful examination, it seems to me that such reassurance is spurious and unreliable.
First, making efforts is not the same as demonstrating something beyond reasonable doubt. Dr. Shepherd should have distinguished between those two concepts. Given his stated experience in the Coroners Court Dr. Shepherd knew, or ought to have known, about the relevance of fhe concept of "beyond reasonable doubt" for a suicide verdict properly to be sustained.
I can find no evidence in any report publicly available of "analyses" that directly informs the question of whether or not "another individual or individuals had been present in, around or near the scene of death (sic)". If such evidence exists it is very surprising that Dr. Shepherd does not express it, given the importance of the issue of possible presence of third parties at the scene at Harrowdown Hill.
In that context, Page 10 of the report of 27th September 2003 by the forensic biologist Mr Roy Green (See http://www.attorneygeneral.gov.uk/Publications/Documents/Roy%20Green%20forensic%20statement%2027%20September%202003.pdf ) states the following: "These tapes were retained at the laboratory in case further examination was required." implying that the tapes taken from the clothing had not been fully examined as of late September 2003.
That leads me to conclude that at least some of the evidence collected may never have been subject to laboratory testing.
If no such analyses were carried out (or if only partial testing was carried out) there is no secure scientific basis that I can identify to exclude the presence of third parties at the scene. If Dr. Shepherd were analysing this issue in an diligent, unbiased expert manner I feel he had a duty to identify this important conclusion and draw attention in his report to the implications of it.
Further, it is known (and Dr. Shepherd knew, see page 5 of his report) that two ambulance staff had been close to and handled the body (for example, attaching ECG electrodes).
The presence of those two individuals at the scene was undetected, so far as I'm aware. If the presence of known third parties was undetected there is no secure, logical basis to exclude the possible presence at the scene of unidentified persons.
Additionally, Louise Holmes and DC Graham Coe were close to the body but their presence at the scene was similarly undetected.
An honest and diligent expert would have identified and commented fairly on that important matter.
It seems to me that Dr. Shepherd's blanket reassurance on this matter is unreliable and biased, seeking to manufacture a certainty that no third party was present when, to the best of my knowledge, there is no adequate scientific evidence to support that as a safe conclusion.
2. Movement of the body
One of the issues generating ongoing suspicion is the evidence suggesting that the body found at Harrowdown Hill had been moved.
Dr. Shepherd attempted to address that issue on page 5 of his report.
Dr. Shepherd concludes, "In my opinion there is no evidence to support the theory that the body had been moved after discovery."
Dr. Shepherd had been provided with scene photographs. It is unknown whether or not Dr. Shepherd was provided with timing information for those photographs.
The body was found at approximately 09.15. The first photographs were taken at approximately 10.10.
It is evident, therefore, that the position of the body at "discovery" is not amenable to assesment using the photographs. The only evidence that relates to the 09.15 timepoint is that of Louise Holmes and Paul Chapman.
If Dr. Shepherd failed to inquire into the timing of the photographs he was negligent. If Dr. Shepherd knew that the photographs did not relate to the time of "discovery" then he has concealed that awareness by reason of either incompetence or dishonesty, in my view.
Dr. Shepherd knew (by virtue of the statement of Louise Holmes to which he had access, see page 20 of his report) that she found the body with head and shoulders against a tree.
Photographs (of undisclosed time) which Dr. Shepherd saw showed the body at some distance from the tree.
It is perverse, and contrary to logic, for Dr. Shepherd to conclude that the body was not moved since subsequent photographs show the body at some distance from the tree. I assume, in stating that, that Dr. Shepherd does not wish to postulate that a dead body moved itself.
Further, Dr. Shepherd visited Harrowdown Hill on 8th December 2010 (see page 3 of his report) in what I understand to have been wintry weather.
The initial examination of the scene was carried out on 18th July 2003.
What may have been "soft ground" in December 2011 might, given the clay-based nature of the soil, have been of a very different consistency in high summer in July 2003.
An honest expert would have expressed a note of caution about such potential seasonal differences. Dr. Shepherd failed to do so. I understand it is likely that he knew that no identifiable footprints were found in July 2003, indicating that at the time the characteristics of the ground were other than "soft ground".
Further, it does not require expertise in forensic pathology to realise that a body can be lifted or carried. The supposed absence of evidencing of dragging is not conclusive.
Again, in my view, Dr. Shepherd's consideration of this matter is at a minimum biased and may exhibit dishonesty and/or negligence.
Of course, if the body was in two different positions at 09.15 and after 10.10 one must conclude that it was moved, given the unlikelihood of a dead body moving itself.
That conclusion also impacts on the purported absence of third parties at the scene. If the body was moved some party other than the deceased must have moved the body.
3. Extent of bleeding at the scene
On page 5 Dr. Shepherd indulges in a bizarre attempt to assert the notion that guessing how much blood may have been lost is better than attempting to measure it.
Dr. Shepherd's consideration of this matter is risable and contrary to good science, in my view.
It is not the approach of a credible medical expert, in my view.
I accept Dr. Shepherd's assertion that in the prevailing circumstances accurate measurement of blood loss would in all likelihood be problematic. However, Dr. Shepherd's imagining that guessing how much blood was lost is an improvement on attempting measurement is something I find astonishing.
An honest expert would have stated that it is unknown how much (or how little) blood was lost at the scene. I suggest that an honest expert would also have commented that consequently it is uncertain whether or not haemorrhage was the primary cause of death.
4. Excluding of carrying of the body
On page 7 of his report Dr. Shepherd states the following, "The totality of the injuries identified were such that it is possible to exclude the use of physical restraint in any form or of holding or carrying before, during or after death.".
It seems to me that this statement is dishonest since Dr. Shepherd purports in absolute terms to exclude the possibility that the body was carried.
How, for example, can one exclude the possibility of carrying of an unconscious or dead body using, for example, a strong sheet or tarpaulin or something resembling a stretcher?
5. Supposed absence of injection marks
On page 7 of his report Dr. Shepherd states the following, "In addition there were no injection sites anywhere on the body and no marks on the skin that could be associated with an electrical stun device such as a Taser.".
An honest expert would, in my view, have qualifed the assertion about the supposed absence of injection sites by a remark such as "Given the nature of the injuries to the left wrist one cannot exclude injection in that region.".
The failure of Dr. Shepherd to insert such a qualifying remark further illustrates the bias in his report, in my view.
6. Strength of the right arm
The "suicide hypothesis" rests on the assumption of Dr. Kelly was capable of holding a knife in his right hand and incising his left wrist.
If the strength or function of the right arm is in question, the credibility of the "suicide hypothesis" is potentially seriously weakened.
On page 8 Dr. Shepherd provides what I believe to be a dishonest assessment of this important matter.
Dr. Shepherd first states, "It is self-evident that it is not possible to determine this (sic) strength of an individual's muscles after death.".
Dr. Shepherd purports to be providing a report as an expert forensic pathologist. An honest expert should have stopped there, possibly adding a comment to the effect, "This is a matter that is better investigated by questioning of those who knew the deceased in life.".
The matter is, quite simply, not one that a forensic pathologist can definitively assess.
In his continuation Dr. Shepherd, to my mind, exhibits a desire to substantiate the suicide hypothesis inconsistent with the actions of an unbiased expert.
Dr. Shepherd states, "no evidence of significant muscle wasting was recorded". However, nor was it recorded to be absent. We simply don't know if there was any muscle wasting or not. There is no documentation either way.
Dr. Shepherd attempts to undermine the evidence of Dr. Andrew Shuttleworth using tangentially relevant interpretations of the medical records. This, in my view, is risable and dishonest. Dr. Shuttleworth travelled regularly with Dr. Kelly for some two years in the period that I understand to be referred to.
Dr. Shepherd uses the silence in the GP notes from 1999 to 2003 to imply that no weakness or disability was present. This is speculation not the honest assessment of an expert. It is entirely possible that Dr. Kelly had problems with his right arm without having drawn those to the attention of his general practitioner.
Dr. Shepherd signally fails to mention the possibility of post-traumatic arthritis after a fracture of or around the elbow. If he was unaware of the condition he demonstrates his ignorance. If he was aware of the condition and didn't mention it he demonstrates his dishonesty, in my view. In any case, he is going beyond his "area of expertise". His comments on this are not, I suggest, those of an "expert".
Had he fairly considered the possibility of post-traumatic arthritis I would have expected him to comment that the elbow joint was not opened at the postmortem and therefore no opinion can be offered on the matter.
I conclude that Dr. Shepherd seeks to rubbish the concerns about functional limitation of the right arm in a manner wholly inconsistent with a dispassionate expert.
As a forensic pathologist he didn't know if the arm was weak or not. An honest forensic pathologist would, in my view, have stopped there.
7. Dr. Hunt's Postmortem Report of 25th July 2003
On page 10 Dr. Shepherd states the following with respect to Dr. Nicholas Hunt's postmortem report, "In my opinion this is a full, complete, expert pathological report on a death that was initially considered to be 'suspicious' and which had been dealt with by all members of the investigative team as a possible homicide.".
Dr. Hunt's report is online here:
There are multiple deficiencies, in my view, in Dr. Hunt's report which Dr. Shepherd fails to identify.
I will limit myself to mention here of one serious deficiency.
On page 5 of Dr. Hunt's report mention is made of "An old, curving scar around the outer aspect of the right elbow.". But no assessment is made by Dr. Hunt of the significance of that observation.
Dr. Hunt is nonetheless content, elsewhere in his report, to postulate that Dr. Kelly used the right arm to incise his left wrist.
Dr. Shepherd fails to notice and/or comment on Dr. Hunt's failure in this visibly material consideration.
We have here, I suggest, a seriously deficient approach to forensic pathology. Neither Dr. Hunt nor Dr. Shepherd (each a Home Office Pathologist) attaches any significance to the scar nor makes mention of its possible significance.
It is difficult to know whether best to describe such glaring failures as risable, dishonest or worrying. Or all three.
8. Time of death
On page 11 (and following) Dr. Shepherd seems to me to seek to cover up or minimise Dr. Hunt's error in establshing body weight and his failure to apply corrective factors.
On page 12 Dr. Shepherd also seems to me to introduce an entirely spurious hypothesis involving the loss of heat energy in any blood lost.
9. Sharpness of the knife
On page 14 Dr. Shepherd correctly identifies the inability of the forensic pathologist to estimate the sharpness of a knife.
However, he fails adequately to alert the Attorney General to the need for the laboratory assessment to be carried out, if the assessment of the assumed sharpness of the knife is to move from guess to scientifically established fact.
10. Did the knife found cause the wounds
This is a serious issue. On page 14 Dr. Shepherd appears to find it adequate for the forensic pathologist effectively to guess that a knife is vaguely suitable to create the observed wounds.
Such guesswork is not, I suggest, the approach of a credible medical scientist or expert.
It is, I suggest, possible to carry out a much more rigorous and detailed assessment of whether the wounds were caused by the alleged knife. In my view both Dr. Hunt and Dr. Shepherd erred seriously in this context.
11. Volume of water ingested
On page 14 Dr. Shepherd dismisses the question of whether 300ml (actually 389ml) of water is sufficient to have allegedly swallowed 29 tablets as "entirely speculative".
I suggest that Dr. Shepherd's dismissal is comparably "speculative" and is inconsistent with an honest, expert assessment. Dr. Shepherd did not disclose the speculative nature of his comment.
If Dr. Shepherd has any scientific basis for his statement no doubt that will emerge at a hearing before the GMC.
12. The pattern of blood loss
On page 16 Dr. Shepherd states, "In my opinion the injuries to the left wrist of Dr. David Kelly have all the features of self-infliction and they would have resulted in the pattern of blood loss that was present at the scene.".
In a situation where it is not (as I have argued earlier) possible to exclude the presence of third parties the possibility exists that such a party had sought to create the appearance of suicide when the reality was murder.
Dr. Shepherd gives no hint that he even considered that possibility.
Further, there are significant questions about whether, if the seeming suicide was genuine, it is possible to have "arterial rain" only on the left of the body.
I have raised these technical questions in some detail with the Attorney General's Office.
I am unclear whether the Attorney General's Office forwarded the relevant documents to Dr. Shepherd. I therefore simply state here that I think Dr. Shepherd is wrong about the pattern of blood loss demonstrating that the death was suicide.
13. Thirst associated with blood loss
Dr. Shepherd states on page 18, "I have been unable to find any medical references that indicate an individual suffering from acute blood loss will also suffer from such accute thirst."
I entered the terms "blood loss thirst" in Google. The third result, http://www.nda.ox.ac.uk/wfsa/html/u01/u01_006.htm. states in terms, "The patient feels thirsty", referring to patients with haemorrhagic shock.
Since Dr. Hunt asserts that haemorrhage is the primary cause of death and Dr. Shepherd approves of that assessement, a stage of haemorrhagic shock arguably seems inevitable.
Dr. Shepherd might have been wiser and more honest if he had stated that symptoms of living patients are not within the area of expertise of a forensic pathologist.
14. The glasses found in the pocket
On page 18, Dr. Shepherd states, "In my opinion it is not unreasonable to note and draw some inference from the presence of the glasses in the coat pocket.".
I suggest that the only legitimate inference that can be drawn from the finding of the glasses in the pocket is that the glasses were found in the pocket.
Any other inference is, I suggest, speculative.
In keeping with his perceived bias, Dr. Shepherd avoids criticising Dr. Hunt's unsubstantiated speculation on this matter.
15. Dr. Shepherd's "Overall Conclusions"
On page 19 Dr. Shepherd lists some "conclusions".
In my assessment these demonstrate failures of the kind described earlier.
In Conclusion 3. Dr. Shepherd states that the wounds are consistent with being self-inflicted but neglects to mention the possibility of infliction by a third party minded to make a murder look like suicide.
Conclusion 6. which excludes carrying of the body is unsafe in my view, as discussed earlier.
Conclusion 8 where it is asserted that there are no injection sites omits the necessary qualification in relation to the area of the left wrist consequent on the presence of the wound complex there.
In Conclusion 11 Dr. Shepherd asserts that the notion of measuring blood loss "owes more to fiction than reality". It can equally be said of Dr. Shepherd's reliance on guessing the blood loss relies more on speculation than on any sound scientific measurement or assessment.
Evidence of general sloppiness
There are multiple instances in Dr. Shepherd's report which demonstrate what might generally be termed a sloppiness of approach. In themselves they may not constitute misconduct. Taken together with the preceding issues, in my view they further serve to demonstrate the poor quality of Dr. Shepherd's report.
1. On page 2 of his report Dr. Shepherd states, "The sequence of events immediately before the death of Dr. David Kelly are well known and do not need to be repeated here.". It is my view that Dr. Shepherd was negligent in not inquiring into the "sequence of events" before Dr. Kelly's death. Those events have many gaps and are in dispute (in part due to the unreliability and dishonesty of key witnesses) and false evidence given to the Hutton Inquiry by Thames Valley Police officers, among others. A diligent and honest expert witness would have either given careful consideration to those events or have stated that his opinion was limited in its reliability due to his failure to inquire into those events.
2. On page 2 of his report Dr. Shepherd states that the body was found on 18th July 2007. This is incorrect. The body was found on 18th July 2003.
3. On page 5 Dr. Shepherd refers to a comment by DC Shields about the position of the body. Thames Valley Police currently contend that DC Shields did not go to the scene.
4. On page 7 Dr. Shepherd incorrectly states the date of the posmortem as 18th July 2007. The postmortem took place in 2003.
1. In my view the multiple deficiencies in Dr. Shepherd's report are such that the report falls far short of the standard reasonably to be expected of a medical practitioner acting as an "expert".
2. Dr. Shepherd's report demonstrates bias on multiple occasions, entirely inconsistent with his supposed role as an unbiased expert.
3. The effect of the deficiencies in Dr. Shepherd's report are such as potentially to pervert the course of justice with respect to the suspicious death of Dr. David Kelly by creating an unsubstantiated appearance of certainty where major unresolved questions continue to exist.
4. The multiple deficiencies in Dr. Shepherd's report suggest to me that he may be guilty of serious professional misconduct, given the documented departures by him from the behaviour to be expected of a registered medical practitioner and the wording of the declaration quoted in the early part of this email.
This is a matter of great public concern. The effect, in my view, of what I believe to be Dr. Shepherd's serious professional misconduct is to conceal a possible murder - that of Dr. David Kelly in Oxfordshire in July 2003.
I am copying this email to the Attorney General's Office given that the Attorney General made an announcement to the House of Commons on 9th June 2011, based in significant measure on what I view as being a seriously defective and materially dishonest supposed "expert" report from Dr. Richard Shepherd.
In doing so, I ask Mr. Kevin McGinty of the Attorney General's Office to forward to Dr. Richard Shepherd and to Dr. Nicholas Hunt a copy of this communication given the criticisms of their conduct that I express herein.
For the avoidance of doubt, since I consider Dr. Shepherd's conduct to be an issue of significant public concern I am sending blind copies of this email to potentially interested inviduals and reserve the right to disseminate further copies of this email at future dates.
Further, it is fair to inform the General Medical Council that there are multiple political dimensions to this case. It is my current intention to make available to Members of Parliament access to the information contained in this email.
I am also placing a copy of the full text of this email on my "Chilcot's Cheating Us" blog at:
I would be grateful for written confirmation that the General Medical Council has received this communication and, in due time, a written indication as to how the General Medical Council proposes to proceed.
This email is the result of many hours studying the documentation from the Hutton Inquiry and the documentation released by the Attorney General in June 2011. The opinions expressed are my honest assessment of the available evidence.
If the GMC wishes any further background information that is in my possession relating to Dr. Shepherd's report I would be happy to provide that to the extent that applicable practical considerations allow.
It may be relevant to mention that the Attorney General's Office is currently continuing to conceal a substantial number of potentially relevant documents. A list of some of those documents may be found online here:
I look forward to receiving an acknowledgement from the General Medical Council in the near future.
(Dr) Andrew Watt
BMedBiol(Pathology) MBChB MD(Hons) FRCP(Ed) DipPharmMed BA