Thursday, 16 June 2011

Letter to the Coroner from Dr Peter Fletcher dated 5 February 2004

Mr Nicholas Gardiner
Coroners Office
Headley Way
5 February 2004
Dear Mr Gardiner,
I expect you will be aware of my letter in The Daily Telegraph on Saturday 31 January concerning the death of Dr David Kelly.  I wish to inform you that this was my own opinion and interpretation of the circumstances surrounding that event and was not influenced or encouraged by any other individuals or interested groups.  Since that time I have, not surprisingly,  been contacted by numerous people, mostly medically qualified but also media and others with peripheral interests.
I have been struck by the fact that 100% of those contacts have endorsed the concerns I expressed in my letter and in many cases have amplified those views.  The purpose of the present letter is to support strongly the case for reopening the inquest that was discontinued when the Hutton Inquiry was set up.
A very brief summary of my qualifications and experience may be helpful.  I qualified in medicine from what is now The Royal London Hospital and went on to train in general pathology.  I then went to University College (London) and later to the Department of Chemical Pathology at St Mary’s  Hospital Medical School and qualified as a scientist (glycoprotein structure and physical chemistry of  aminohexoses).  Later I joined Medicines Division in the Department of Health becoming The Medical Assesor to the Committee on Safety of Medicines and left the DoH after I was appointed as Divisional Head (Senior Principal Medical Officer, Chief Scientific Officer and Under Secretary) in charge of Scientific Services for the NHS.  I ended my employment career as International Medical Director for IMS (Intercontinental Medical Statistics).
I have now read a large amount of information available on the internet and in other publications which relates to the death of Dr Kelly.  In particular I have given careful consideration to the relevant transcripts from the Hutton Inquiry.  It seems to me that Lord Hutton was remarkably inept as an appointed “Coroner” and failed to provide a convincing cause of death.
The claimed cause of death is haemorrhage from a severed artery in the left wrist possibly associated with an overdose of co-proxamol.  I have been unable to find any objective evidence of the extent of this haemorrhage and whether or not it was sufficient to be a credible cause of death.  At the time the police cordon was in place those conducting the examination of the scene would (if the assumptions were correct) have been surveying the site which contained the whole of Dr Kelly’s blood volume.  Some of that blood would have still been in Dr Kelly and the remainder would have been soaked into his clothing and the surrounding terrain.  If the amount remaining in Dr Kelly was greater than that outside then death from haemorrhage is unlikely.  In the converse situation then death from that cause becomes more and more probable the greater the difference is estimated to be.  In the absence of information on the volume of blood lost from Dr Kelly’s body it is not possible to determine whether or not the cause of death was haemorrhage.
It has been well known, at least since Roman times, that suicide by cutting wrist arteries is an extremely unreliable method.  In Dr Kelly’s case it seems that only the left ulnar artery was severed by transection with a knife.  This artery has about the cross section of cooked spaghetti, is situated deep in the wrist and from its position on the medial side of the wrist is more difficult to sever than the laterally situated and larger radial artery.  An artery of this size would take a considerable time (possibly hours if flow rate slows as blood pressure falls) to expel the five or so pints of blood that would have to be lost for death to result.. 
It is quite clear from evidence that is in the public domain that many discrepancies remain unexplained and I think that every effort should be made to resolve these uncertainties.  The only way in which this can be accomplished is to reopen the Inquest and to obtain evidence provided under oath from all relevant witnesses whether or not they wish to appear before the Court.
Yours sincerely
Dr Peter Fletcher  MB BS  PhD  FFPM (Distinction)

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