Friday, 26 November 2010

The death of David Kelly - The FOI response about the helicopter flight

For completeness, I post the full text of the Thames Valley Police FOI response regarding the helicopter flights on 18th July 2003.

My questions are in italics.

I have emphasised in bold two paragraphs that I think merit careful thought.

Subject: RFI2010000727 - FOI Request: Response
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 2010 13:13:25 -0000
From: "FOI"
To: <[redacted]>

Dear Dr Watt

Reference No: RFI2010000727

Thank you for your request for information dated 26/10/2010 which for clarity I have repeated below with our response to each point.

1) I wish to make a Freedom of Information request regarding the log of the Police Helicopter with respect to the search for Dr. David Kelly after the report that he was missing (approx. 23.40 on 17th July 2003, I understand). I ask for a copy of the Police helicopter log for the relevant search and for the following specific information.

Please find attached to this email copy of two helicopter logs. You will find that within the documents provided information has been redacted. Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 200 requires Thames Valley Police, when refusing to provide such information (because the information is exempt) to provide you the applicant with a notice which: (a) states the fact, (b) specifies the exemption in question and (c) states (if that would not otherwise be apparent) why the exemption applies.

The exemptions applicable to the redacted information are:

Section 30(1)(a)(b)(c) – Investigations and proceedings conducted by a public authority.

Section 40(2) – Personal Data.

Section 40 is a class based absolute exemption and as such the legislators have identified that there would be harm in disclosure and there is not need to evidence this.

Section 30 is prejudiced based qualified exemption which requires the prejudice (harm) to be evidenced.

Several types of harm may be generated by the disclosure of the redacted information within the helicopter logs. Future police operations may be prejudiced if operational information is inappropriately disclosed into the public domain. This may ultimately result in safety implications for the general public and police officers, placing the well being of citizens at risk and compromise the ability of the force to prevent and detect crime and protect life and/or property.

2) At what time did the helicopter begin to search for heat sources?

Please see attached helicopter logs which details deployment times.

3) Further, I wish to ask if the helicopter surveyed Harrowdown Hill, if so at what time Harrowdown Hill was surveyed and if any heat source was identified there.

The helicopter crew were asked to survey an area which included Harrowdown Hill. There were no relevant heat sources identified.

The thermal imagers fitted to police helicopters in 2003 were not penetrative. In the case of woods or copses, unless it is winter or the woods are sparsely populated with trees, the leaf canopies and branches very often preclude any meaningful thermal imager search as the thermal imager cannot penetrate the leaf canopy.

4) Finally, I ask for identification of the make and model of the heat seeking equipment in the helicopter and the date/time on which it was last tested prior to the search of interest.

The camera used was a FLIR Leo 2. The camera is subject to routine maintenance in line with aircraft maintenance schedules. It was working correctly at the time of the incident. It was last serviced on 27th June 2003.

Please contact me quoting the above reference number if you would like to discuss this matter further.

It seems to me that the Thames Valley Police response raises at least a couple of interesting questions.

Did the helicopter use the heat-seeking equipment to survey the woodland on Harrowdown Hill? Or did it simply survey the bridle path that runs, so I understand, along the edge of the woodland?

If the heat-seeking equipment had been directed at the woodland area on Harrowdown Hill would it have been capable of detecting the presence of a (possibly) still warm body?


  1. The answer doesn't exactly say that the heat imaging device was in use.(i.e. sources wouldn't be identified if the imagers were not switched on) It all depends on what you mean by surveyed

  2. Felix,

    You're right, of course. It doesn't explicitly say that the heat imager was switched on at all or during which times it was switched on.