Sunday, 23 December 2007

Princess Diana, Dr Kelly, and their inquests

I am writing this piece to compare two very different inquests, the first spread over many months and costing many millions of pounds whilst the other was completed very quickly and was totally unsatisfactory.

So, the Diana inquest first of all. This is about half way through at the moment. Although the inquest is I think specifically in relation to the late Princess its conclusions would presumably apply to Dodi Fayed as well. There was some talk about the process costing about £10 million, even if that figure is incorrect it will doubtless be a heck of a lot of money. Although it is early days to make a prophecy as to what reason the jury will give as to her death I would be incredibly surprised if it is anything other than the most obvious one. The main thing here is that whatever the expense the due process is being followed.

Now let us compare and contrast her inquest with one completed some little time ago: I talk of that of weapons inspector Dr David Kelly. Just to remind ourselves of some of the known facts - Dr Kelly set off for a walk from his home in Southmoor in Oxfordshire at about 3 pm on Thursday 17 June 2003. He failed to come home. He was found dead in a wood at Harrowdown Hill, which lies to the north of the village, at about 8.30 the following morning by volunteer searcher Louise Holmes. Of course the police were quickly appraised of the discovery and the coroner, Nicholas Gardiner, informed. Pathologist Dr Nicholas Hunt subsequently arrived to make a detailed examination of the body but we are led to believe didn't take Dr Kelly's rectal temperature until four minutes before he left the scene! Taking this temperature can be a very good indicator as to when death took place, information that the police would want to know as soon as possible. If he hadn't checked this temperature at an earlier opportunity then it would constitute in my opinion a 'schoolboy' error and betray a lack of competence. I have to say here that I'm taking this information from 'The Strange Death of David Kelly' by Norman Baker.

An inquest was opened and adjourned. The British government were very fast off the mark and appointed Lord Hutton to conduct a public enquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr Kelly. Amazingly the option was taken of making this enquiry one of an informal nature so that witnesses didn't have to attend if they didn't want to and even if they did appear they didn't have to say anything under oath! Lord Hutton decided that Dr Kelly had committed suicide without seemingly tested the evidence. If that wasn't enough the proper inquest was reconvened at very short notice whilst the Hutton enquiry was proceeding, took evidence from just two witnesses, pathologist Dr Hunt and toxicologist Alex Allan and issued a full death certificate, the cause of death 'Suicide'. This mockery of an inquest was completed without the knowledge of Hutton.

Space doesn't permit me to go into all the conflicts of evidence surrounding Dr Kelly's death, you need to read Norman Baker's 399 page book for that. Suffice to say that even if Baker was wrong in some of his conjectures there is more than enough evidence that Dr Kelly did not kill himself. Apart from the book mentioned it is worth reading Rowena Thursby's blog here.

At the start of the third paragraph above I said "compare and contrast" when considering both inquests. I shall say no more now other than Dr Kelly's death and its aftermath is a real stain on the reputation of this country.

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