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MEDIUM RARE, by Jim Rarey. March 11, 2004

Oxfordshire Coroner Nicholas Gardiner has a problem. On March 16th he is holding a hearing to determine if he should resume the inquest into the death of microbiologist David Kelly that was cut short with the appointment of Lord Hutton to head an inquiry.

Earlier, Gardiner had been quoted as saying he had seen no fresh evidence that would warrant reopening the inquest. The hearing was expected to be a pro forma announcement of that decision. However, Tuesday evening Dr. Nicholas Hunt, the Home Office pathologist on whose testimony Lord Hutton relied for his suicide verdict, dropped a bombshell in Gardiners lap during …. …. a Channel 4 news program.

Alex Thomson was airing film clips of interviews with medical specialists who challenged the medical evidence provided by Hunt (and toxicologist Allan) and were calling for resumption of the inquest. Thomson also showed clips from supporters of Huttons verdict.

During Thomsons how, Dr. Hunt called the newsroom and told them he would, feel more comfortable with a full coroners inquest. Dr. Hunt would obviously be one of the main witnesses in a resumed inquest and apparently has some information he feels he was not allowed to give at the inquiry.

While many have serious doubts about the suicide verdict by Lord Hutton in the death of microbiologist David Kelly, a close reading of the testimony of the two key forensic experts, on whose testimony Hutton based his verdict, reveals they also had doubts.

The questioning of the forensic witnesses was aimed at eliciting only that information that would support a suicide verdict. The questioning was replete with leading questions (suggesting the answer) and at times statement of fact with which witnesses were asked to agree. Indeed, at times it was not clear who was giving testimony, the witnesses or Lord Hutton and his Queens counsels. Statements and answers by witnesses that begged for follow-up questions were ignored or the subject was quickly changed.

For most of his time in the witness stand, Dr. Nicholas Hunt, the Home Office pathologist who performed the autopsy on David Kellys body, dutifully supplied the expected answers with two notable exceptions.

Evidently witnesses had been directed to suspend common sense and logic and stay within their fields of expertise in their testimony. When Hunt and Alexander Allan, the toxicologist on the case, were asked at the end of their stints on the witness stand is there anything else which you know of which might have contributed to the circumstances of Dr Kelly’s death? Allan answered, From a toxicological point of view, no. To the same question, Dr. Hunt replied, Nothing I could say as a pathologist, no. Clearly both were implying they had other information that was outside their expertise.

Mr. Allan had testified that the level of coproxamol components he found in Kellys blood was only about one third of what he would consider a fatal level. He also said it was not possible to determine how many of the 29 tablets not accounted for had been ingested by Kelly. However, he said, What I can say is that it is consistent with say 29/30 tablets but it could be consistent with other scenarios as well. Of course he was not asked what other scenarios.

During his testimony, Dr. Hunt refused to bail Lord Hutton out of a dilemma he faced. The two volunteers who found the body had described it as, head and shoulders against a tree and sitting up against a tree respectively. Yet all subsequent witnesses saw the body as flat on its back away from the tree. In item 151 of his report, Hutton said he had seen a photograph of the body with its head against the tree but the rest of the body on the ground. He reasoned there was no conflict in the various testimonies.

Hunt was asked if any part of Kellys body was in contact with the tree. He said no. He probably knew that was what photographs taken by Police Constable Sawyer a half hour after the volunteers left would show the body away from the tree. Thus Hutton had actually furnished proof that Kellys body had been moved at least twice after he died. Once to the tree and second to the position on its back to conform to the livor mortis evidence that showed Kelly was on his back when he died.

This may have been one of the things to which Hunt was referring in his answer when asked if he could rule out any third party involvement in Kellys death. His reply to that question was, No, there was no pathological evidence to indicate the involvement of a third party in Dr Kelly’s death. Rather, the features are quite typical, I would say, of self-inflicted injury if one ignores all the other features of the case.

The subject was quickly changed and no mention of this startling reservation appeared in the media and no one commented on the lack of follow through. With a few exceptions, the media, which has excoriated Hutton for his treatment of BBC in his report (and exoneration of the government from any wrong doing), has been strangely silent about all of the inconsistencies and contradictions in the testimony about the death. That is, until two days ago. However, the print media has yet to pick up on them or on Dr. Hunts courageous call to resume the inquest.

Stay tuned.

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