Over a number of recent posts I have been recording the evidence given by DC Coe, PC Franklin, PC Sawyer, paramedic Vanessa Hunt and ambulance technician Dave Bartlett at the Inquiry ... and adding the occasional comment of my own. Doing this has been relatively straightforward. It's much more difficult to determine the true course of events that morning when examining the similarities and differences in the testimonies of these five key witnesses. Putting my research into words is going to be challenging!
The impression that has been given, I think, is that DC Coe stood close to the body from the time that it was shown to him by volunteer searcher Paul Chapman until the arrival of the ambulance team. This is a reminder of what DC Coe was saying to Mr Knox at the Inquiry:
Q. Did you notice if there were any stains on the clothes?
A. I saw blood around the left wrist area.
Q. Anywhere else? How close an examination did you yourself make?
A. Just standing upright, I did not go over the body. I made a thing -- I observed the scene.
Q. How far away from the body did you actually go?
A. 7 or 8 feet.
Q. How long did you spend at the scene?
A. Until other officers came to tape off the area. I would think somewhere in the region of about 25 or 30 minutes.
Q. Did anyone then arrive after that time?
A. Yes, two other police officers arrived, I took them to where the body was laying and then they made a taped off area, what we call a common approach path for everybody to attend along this one path.
A difficulty I've touched on before is how to interpret the phrase 'the scene'. I sense that here they are applying the term not just to the very immediate vicinity of the body but right out to the track that adjoins the eastern boundary of the wood.
For the moment let's assume that Mr Chapman has returned down the track and that Coe's companions aren't with him. If I was DC Coe and attending the scene in a perfectly "innocent" mode what would I do? Having assured myself that the body was dead I would radio in to say that I was with a body and that it appeared to be the corpse of Dr Kelly. This seems to have happened and the paramedics are updated with the information that the body appears to be dead and that the police are on the scene. The screen in the ambulance tells them this so we know that the information gets through between 9.40 and when they park up at 9.55.
From his conversation with Paul Chapman DC Coe would be aware that the regular police were on the way. His primary concern while waiting would be to secure the scene and avoid contamination of evidence. I imagine he would write down the more obvious aspects of the scene in his notebook such as description of the body, the clothing and any items visible in the vicinity. This is not going to take him the 25 or 30 minutes he refers to in his testimony at the Inquiry.
There is no obvious easy access into the wood than from the track. Standing on the track would enable him to see if any rambler or farmer was coming that way and also he would meet the police reinforcements and direct them to the body. Evidence given by witnesses suggests that it was necessary to climb up into the wood before seeing the body but whether there were certain points on the track from which the body would have been visible isn't clear. One must remember too that that the body was about 75 yards from the track and that there was a certain amount of undergrowth limiting visibility. In the article in The Observer of 12 December 2004 Vanessa Hunt states that they first saw the body in a clearing from about 20 metres. So they had progressed a long way into the wood before seeing the deceased.
As will be described later there is no doubt that the body was moved before being seen by the ambulance team. When the latter arrived Coe was seemingly down on the track. The questions to be asked are how long was he there as opposed to being with the body and was he physically involved in repositioning the body.