Monday, 10 September 2012

PC Sawyer - searching Hill and Home

This post is of PC Sawyer's evidence at the Inquiry where he describes the fingertip search at Harrowdown Hill and then the detailed search at the Kelly home the following day.  Mr Knox putting the questions.

Q. Now, after you had taken the photographs and seen the body, did you carry out any further searches?
A. Yes. On the way back -- once we had finished with the body, once the paramedics had finished, we went back down the common approach path to the path where DC Coe and the two uniformed officers were. We then walked, leaving them there to guard the scene so nobody else could approach it, we then walked back to the truck, our Land Rover, and drove that up where we got some more metal poles. We extended the common approach path from one pole to two poles to about a 2 foot 6 gap, so people could walk up and down. We then had a quick look on that path, a search, just to check there were no major items there. And then we waited for the senior investigating officer to arrive and liaise with Police Constable Franklin. 

For the third time Sawyer refers to the two uniformed officers being with DC Coe ... not plain clothes policemen.

Q. The senior investigating officer was?
A. DCI Young.
Q. I think we heard from PC Franklin earlier a further search was then carried out.
A. Yes. It was decided a search of the woods 10 metres either side of the body, on the approach up the hill to the body, would be carried out. I was tasked by Police Constable Franklin to organise that. I had a number of searchers at my disposal. Because of my number of searchers I decided to split it into three 5 metre wide approaches up to the body.
Q. This involves searching what you call the common approach path?
A. Yes. The first search would include the common approach path. So my team of -- if I may refer to my notes.
Q. Yes.

A. I had a team of seven searchers initially, so I put those into a 5 metre grid pattern which works up towards the body, and that would include the common approach path. So the first sweep, the first 5 metre search included the fingertip search of the common approach path.
Q. And that was carried out at what time?
A. That was carried out at -- sorry, we have an awful lot of paperwork when we are doing this job. It was started at 13.08 that first sweep. 

In his testimony Franklin had said that he was requested at 12.50 to carry out a fingertip search.  So 18 minutes from request to starting the search.

Q. How many sweeps do you do? You talk about the first sweep.
A. Right. My plan shows there were six zones eventually which we searched. The first zone, zone 1, was to the right-hand side of the common approach path to include the common approach path. The second zone was 5 metres beyond that, which took us up to level with the area that we had taped off surrounding the body. Zone 3 was the zone to the left of the common approach path. Zone 4, 5 metres further on from that. Zone 5 was the 10 metre radius round the back of the area where the body had been found, which was really dense brambles and overgrown trees. And zone 6 was the area where the body itself had been lying.
Q. We do not have a photograph here at the moment but what was the nature of the woods around the common approach path and then where the body was found?
A. Up the common approach path to where the -- the common approach path was the easiest route in, and either side of that the undergrowth was reasonably light. But as you moved away each side, left and right, the undergrowth became extremely heavy. Zone 5, which went round the back of the scene, was almost impenetrable and the searchers had a really hard job getting through the brambles and the undergrowth to check the ground.

Mr Knox said 'We do not have a photograph here at the moment ...'  It can I think be safely said that no photograph of the scene, with or without the body, would have been made publically visible even if available. 

Q. Obviously Dr Kelly had managed to get to where he was, but in the searches you did were you able to identify any footprints at all which would have explained how he got there?
A. He had moved up through the woods to the last area, where there was clear access. If I was walking into those woods myself I would have walked up as far as he had before deciding it was impossible to go any further, because there were footpaths apparently which led through that but they were so overgrown nobody had been through them for a number of months.
Q. In other words, it was possible to walk to where Dr Kelly's body was found without much difficulty?
A. Yes.

Q. If you wanted to go any further you would have to go through very dense --
A. You would struggle, really struggle, yes.
Q. How long was the common approach path?
A. Estimate between 50 and 70 metres.
Q. When did that search finish, can you recall?
A. The final search finished at 19.45. We had to wait until Dr Kelly's body was removed before we could search zone 6, which is where the body had been lying.
Q. You were involved in all these searches?
A. Yes, I team led the team searches. When you are a team leader and you are assigned to this, you see it all the way through from beginning to end.

Q. At the end of the search, did you collect all the suits you had been wearing?
A. Yes, I collected all the suits from both search teams. As PC Franklin has said, halfway through or towards the end the search teams were changed through fatigue, and all the teams' suits and all the gloves were collected and produced as an exhibit.
Q. They were taken back to the police station?
A. Yes. 

PC Sawyer estimated the length of the common approach path to be between 50 and 70 metres, the same measurement given by PC Franklin. 

Q. On the next day were you on duty as well, Saturday 19th July?
A. Yes, I was. I returned to duty the following day again to work with PC Franklin as he wanted me to team lead a search of Dr Kelly's house.
Q. And what did you do once you got there?
A. Whenever we search a premise the first thing we do is walk through with the search adviser and we, again, just check the parameters of the search. The search was to include the house, any out-buildings, garages, cars and the grounds, which were extensive in this particular case. The house itself is a very large house.
Q. What were the results of the search of the grounds of the house? Was there anything noticed?
A. The grounds there was nothing found.
Q. And what about in the house itself?
A. The house itself there were a number of exhibits. Do you want me to go through them all? 

Details of the items found appear to be listed in this document:  TVP/3/0328 - 0368 (Search document "Westfield" 19/07/03 - not for release.  Police Operational Information)

Q. I do not think you need you to go through all the exhibits themselves. Was there anything particular, apart from documents and so forth that you found in the house?
A. No. Basically there were documents that were taken away. I believe there was a photograph found in his study which has envisaged a little interest, but when I am team leading the search, the officers who find the exhibits will take them straight to the exhibits officer, who books them in to the exhibits. They then tell me so I can log them in my records, but I am not looking over their shoulder the whole time although I do travel round and supervise.
Q. Can you remember when the search of the premises began on the 19th?
A. The search began at 11.05.
Q. And when did it finish on that day?
A. It finished at 20.50, 10 to 9 that evening. The search of the study was concluded, and that was the last place to be finished. 

Mr Knox asks PC Sawyer about the start and finish times for the search on the 19th.  Two weeks later and Mr Knox fails to ask similar questions of DC Coe who, it will be recalled, was also involved in a search at "Westfield" that Saturday.

Q. I should have asked you this a moment ago, but while you were searching in the woods did you find anything at all which indicated that any other people had been there?
A. No, nothing. Normally when we search wooded areas there is a fair amount of detritus, crisp packets, bottles, cans, cigarette ends. This area itself was remarkable for its complete lack of human interference.
Q. I take it you did not find any footprints?
A. No.
Q. Would that be normal? Obviously Dr Kelly had got in there, but you would not have expected to see his footprints there?
A. I would not have expected to find any footprints in that area because of the undergrowth itself. There was not a lot of bare earth for footprints to be recorded on; and when I first saw Dr Kelly I was very aware of the serious nature of the search and I was looking for signs of perhaps a struggle; but all the vegetation that was surrounding Dr Kelly's body was standing upright and there were no signs of any form of struggle at all.
Q. Is there anything else you would like to say which you think might cast some light on the circumstances --
A. I can think of nothing else which will help the Inquiry.
LORD HUTTON: Thank you very much indeed, Constable.
A. My Lord. 

There was a lot of known human activity in the area of the body but no footprints were left.  It should have been evident to the police and to Dr Hunt that Dr Kelly, if incapacitated, could have been carried into the wood.  Alternatively he could have walked into the wood with a gun in his back.  There seems to be an assumption by the police that if Dr Kelly was murdered then there would be evidence of a struggle.  I do not believe that there would necessarily have to have been a struggle between Dr Kelly and one or more assailants, if he was murdered. 

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