Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The cordons at Harrowdown Hill

This is part of PC Sawyer's evidence responding to questions from Mr Knox:

Q. So Police Constable Franklin tells you that. Then what happens?
A. Then we are in the briefing that Police Constable Franklin has already described. We are just about to leave to perform our first searches, which would have been in the village and the surrounding areas of the route he was thought to have taken, when information came in that a body had been found. I then left with Police Constable Franklin to attend the scene.
Q. Can you remember what time it was that that information came in?
A. It would have been about 9 o'clock, I believe.
Q. So you then leave with Police Constable Franklin?
A. Yes.
Q. And anyone else?
A. We had three other officers in the back who we took from
the search team to act as the cordons, because obviously we do not want members of the public or members of the press approaching the scene until it has been obviously searched and declared sterile.

It's interesting that Sawyer talks of 'the route he was thought to have taken' as if the police were already aware in general terms at least of where he had gone.  Did his regular walks cover more or less the same ground?  The helicopter log assists by showing that they were concentrating their search in a quadrant north and east of the Kelly home.  Perhaps the police were already aware of sightings by Ruth Absalom and/or Paul Weaving.

Franklin and Sawyer had three spare seats in the back of their land rover and the personnel were available so taking three officers to act as cordons seems to have been perfectly sensible.  Some Freedom of Information requests sought elaboration about the cordons.

This FOI request focussed on location of the cordons and when the inner one was established:

This request, reference RFI2011000453, was received on Friday 17 June 2011, 2:03pm.
1) Where was the outer cordon established? 2) Where was the inner cordon established? 3) When was the inner cordon established? 4) Please mark positions on a map.
1) Complete information on this subject is not held however, records indicate cordon points were established at Tucks Lane/Common Lane and from Newbridge Farm along the towpath area to the north entrance to Harrowdown Hill.
2) Complete information on this subject is not held however, records indicate the outer perimeter of Harrowdown woods.
3) Complete information on this subject is not held however, references to the arrival of the two officers who began the cordon indicate the time was approximately 09:30 hrs.
4) No Information held.

A question incorporated in another request asked about when an outer cordon was established:  

This request, reference RFI2010000860, was received on Monday 20 December 2010, 1:59pm.
When was an outer cordon established at Harrowdown Hill?
An outer cordon was established at 09:28am

This is the next part of PC Sawyer's testimony:

Q. And where did you then go?
A. We then went to the track that leads up to Harrowdown Hill, I do not know the name of the track, but when we arrived we saw a vehicle parked which belonged to Louise. We started walking up the track. We also had with us two paramedics who had arrived, which we took up with us to make sure that the person we were going to see did not require any medical assistance.
Q. Those two paramedics had obviously arrived separately from you?
A. They had arrived more or less at the same time we did. So the five of us went up because we were with Sergeant Alan Dadd as well.

We have some distinctly odd timings here: from the evidence of the paramedics we know they got their "shout" at 9.40 and arrived at the foot of Harrowdown Hill at 9.55.  I don't know in 2003 how close to each other the police station and ambulance station in Abingdon were.  But I can't believe that Franklin and Sawyer took much longer than the ambulance to do the journey.  They may have left the police station at 9.35 but that still suggests a rather late departure to me.

The FOI responses tell us that an outer cordon was established at 9.28.  My assumption has been that it was the one to the south of Harrowdown Hill ie between the hill and Longworth village.  However the timing might refer to the cordon to the north (on the towpath to the west of Newbridge) ... if police were already in the area at the time.

Was Sawyer being honest about when the land rover arrived?  If he was then clearly somebody beat him to it in establishing an outer cordon at 9.28 and an inner cordon at about 9.30.  What of DC Coe's two companions?  According to another FOI result they didn't enter the outer cordon.  If these two were the 9.28 cordon why didn't TVP say so?  The wording of the response to the relevant part of this last mentioned FOI request was very clever ... I'm only now fully appreciating it ... so I'll reproduce that section: 

This request, reference RFI2011000401, was received on Sunday 29 May 2011, 3:46pm.
Please inform me when a) DC Coe, b) DC Shields and c) the 3rd man were logged out of the outer cordon 
DC Coe was logged out at 11.47am on 18/07/2003.  The other two officers did not enter the outer cordon.

We are asked to assume I think that DC Coe entered the outer cordon but that the other two didn't.  This then supports the story that the two volunteer searchers met the three officers at the bottom of the track and that only Coe went up to the wood with Paul Chapman.  However suppose another party becomes the outer cordon at the parking area at 9.28 whilst Coe and his pals are already a short way up the track.  Technically the threesome might not have entered the outer cordon in the sense of having their names noted because they were already in it when it was set up.   

I have previously discussed the point that in Annex TVP 1 a lot of trouble was taken to distance DC Shields and "the third man" from the body ... contrary to the evidence given by the two searchers http://drkellysdeath-timeforthetruth.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/dc-coe-taken-to-body-2.html

So is the last described FOI response another piece of deviousness from TVP? 


  1. Brian,

    These "extra" officers would almost certainly have entered the cordoned off area from the North (from the track that leads to the river)
    There is much said at the inquiry about a cordon being set up and police officers being positioned on the track to the South of the wood in order to enforce the cordon, but little is said about what was occurring on the other side of the wood and the track that leads down to the river.
    The fact that the wood is on a small hill also makes it more difficult to secure the area where the body was found, especially in the early stages when there were not so many police officers on site.


  2. Frank, the authorities have appeared reluctant to talk about any police presence between the wood and the River Thames!

    Paul Chapman says the boat people saw 'some police officers at some point previously'. It wasn't until the 23 September that ACC Page tied up some loose ends about the observed three "men in black" near the river bank. We now know that they were seen by the walker at about 10.30 am. Page said 'I am speaking from memory, but I think the sighting was at somewhere between 8.30 and 9.30 in the morning, something like that'.

    No police officer should be giving such information from memory! I suspect that Page was trying to spin a yarn to account for the sighting by the boat people or perhaps thought that an 8.30 to 9.30 sighting would fit better into the search phase than 10.30. Whatever it's absurd that a senior police officer would give evidence without being aware of the reported timing of the sighting of the men in black!

    I'll write a separate post on the men in black later.

  3. Brian,

    There is a distinct contrast between the precise nature of information that has been made available to us regarding police activity to the south of the wood on the morning of the 18th and the sparse and very vague information regarding police activity to the north of the wood.

    ACC Page's statement "I am speaking from memory, but I think the sighting was at somewhere between 8.30 and 9.30 in the morning, something like that" is a typical example of this.

    This is a very common police tactic. The clues are always in what they don't tell us, not what they do tell us.
    This is why we should be paying more attention to unused material, such as witness statements that have not been made public.


  4. Frank, I couldn't agree more that the clues are in what they don't tell us rather than in what they do tell us. It's also the fact that answers to questions are often deliberately vague, the quotation you've given by ACC Page is an absolute classic. No police officer, let alone a very senior one, should come to an Inquiry to answer a question which they know is going to be asked and say 'I am speaking from memory'. Of course at that time he wouldn't have expected that the reality of the sighting being at about 10.30 would enter the public domain.