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By John Helmer, Moscow 

In an act of over-confidence and carelessness on March 30, the British coroner appointed in January to investigate the cause of death of Dawn Sturgess, ex-judge and secret service advisor Baroness Heather Hallett has created a truth trap. The truth is Cremation Form Number 6 (lead image). This is the trap into which Hallett and the two lawyers advising her, Andrew O’Connor QC and Martin Smith, have now dropped themselves.

This three-page form permitted and registered the funeral and cremation of Sturgess; according to the British government, she is the only person in the world to have been killed by the Novichok nerve agent. She was released to her family after Form 6 was signed by Wiltshire county coroner David Ridley and copies handed to Chris White Funeral Directors who collected the body for the funeral ceremony on July 30; and to the Salisbury Crematorium for official authorisation to cremate the body later the same day. The signed form was passed from Ridley’s files to Hallett’s files when she replaced him as the coroner in charge of the Sturgess case last January.

Form 6  is the first official record of what caused Sturgess’s death, according to the autopsies which Coroner Ridley authorised between Sturgess’s recorded death on July 8 and July 17; only the autopsy on that date has been recorded by the press, by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and by Hallett.

On March 30, this year, Hallett released publicly for the first time the cause of death record signed by Home Office pathologists, Philip Lumb and Guy Rutty, in what the Hallett hearing was told was a report dated November 29, 2018.  That was four months later than Ridley’s Form 6. Since Ridley had ordered Lumb and Rutty to carry out their post-mortem investigation, what was the difference between the cause of death Ridley signed and the November 29 report which Hallett selected for public release? The question is the truth trap.

Hallett has now exposed the difference between Form 6 and the Lumb-Rutty report. This is the difference between life and death — but not for Sturgess.

On the two papers, revealed for the first time this month, depends the truthfulness of the British government’s story of Novichok and of the Russian state agents whom the British accuse of carrying the nerve agent into England; attacking Sergei and Yulia Skripal with it; and then abandoning it in a leftover bottle which later —  the British charge —   killed Sturgess.

Hallett refuses, however, to say there is no contradiction between Form 6 and the later pathologists’ report; she refuses to release Form 6 for verification in the courtroom or in the press.

British law carefully regulates what happens to bodies in cases of suspicious death under investigation by police, coroners, and the medical pathologists directed by coroners to conduct autopsies and prepare post-mortem reports on the cause of death.  Read the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 here

The regulations which Ridley was following start with Schedule 1, Part 1 of this statute; click to follow.

By email in January of 2019, Ridley confirmed through a spokesman that the appointment of Lumb and Rutty was his “judicial decision made by the coroner”. In a subsequent email of October 2019 Ridley refused to answer whether his repeated delays of the inquest applied, as required by the terms of the Coroners Act, to “a homicide offence involving the death of the deceased, or…an offence (other than a service offence) that is alleged to be a related offence.”

The difference between the two offences did not become clear until Hallett revealed that Lumb had conducted an initial autopsy and that Lumb and Rutty conducted a second on July 17, 2018; and that much later they reported the cause of death was “Ia Post cardiac arrest hypoxic brain injury and intracerebral haemorrhage; Ib Novichok toxicity”. 

Source: https://drive.google.com  
For analysis, click to read.

Ia cardiac arrest was not a homicide offence. Ib Novichok is a homicide offence.

In a report of December 20, 2019 — the only public report Ridley issued before he was replaced by Hallett — the coroner did not mention Lumb and Rutty by name; nor did he refer to the autopsy reports he had commissioned from them. In the brief open hearing of his court which Ridley conducted on July 19, 2018, his spokesman and the press have confirmed that a statement was read out from Sturgess’s sister and a statement from a police officer. No medical evidence from the hospital or from Lumb and Rutty was mentioned.

In his later, December 2019 report Ridley revealed that he had “tasked” a detective chief inspector of police to gather evidence on the medical treatment given to Sturgess before her death, and to her partner, Charles Rowley. This evidence has not been released.  For more details, read the book.

It is certain Ridley relied on the medical evidence when he signed Form 6 by July 30, 2018. Confirmation that he did sign the form has been provided in recent days by sources at the undertaker’s, Chris White Funeral Directors, and at the Salisbury Crematorium. Asked for details of his Form 6, Ridley himself refuses, saying through a spokesman: “Baroness Hallett is now the coroner in charge of the investigation. Your request has been forwarded to her legal team. Please could you direct future enquiries to her team for response.”

In cases of suspicious death, when inquests have not been completed, and police and pathologists are continuing their evidence-gathering, there are special rules for allowing the release of bodies to the next of kin for funeral and for cremation. These rules can read here. Form Number 6 has been drafted, the document itself says, to comply with Regulation 16(c)(ii) of the cremation rules.  

Source: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/

Regulation 18 also applied to Ridley when he was releasing Sturgess’s body to her family. That rule says:

Source: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/

Although Ridley has tried to avoid admitting he signed Form 6, he did sign because he had no choice. Because it is certain the funeral and cremation took place on July 30,2018, it is certain that Form 6, with Ridley’s record of the cause of Sturgess’s death, is available for public verification.

Source: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/

This is the truth trap Hallett and her lawyers created by revealing and quoting from the pathologists’ report of November 29.

The form of notation and numbering used in the Lumb-Rutty report cannot have been the one  used in Form 6. This is because Form 6 expressly redefined 1a and 1b, directing Ridley to identify the cause of death “or insert unascertained”.  If Ridley had written “unascertained”, he would have been contradicting what Hallett revealed on March 30 – that “on 5 July 2018 a diagnosis of Novichok poisoning was recorded in her medical notes”.  British press reporting from secret service and police sources had been claiming that Novichok was identified to them late on July 4 – that is before the intensive care doctors treating Sturgess at Salisbury hospital knew.  

If Ridley had written in a cause of death, the protocol for Form 6 required him to identify, first of all,  the “disease or condition leading to death (this does not mean the mode of dying, such as heart failure, asphyxia,  asthenia, etc.: it means the disease, injury, or complication which caused death)”.  Lumb and Rutty reported their “Ia” as heart failure, oxygen loss and bleeding in the brain. Organophosphate poison experts say these are not normally associated with nerve agent poisoning; Form 6 rules out their mention because they are descriptions of “mode of dying”. So what did Ridley put in his 1a and 1b boxes?

It is almost certain that Sturgess’s family, who had been visiting her in hospital in the days before Novichok was added to the medical notes on July 5, as well as in her last three days, were not shown Form 6, even if they asked for it. Nor have the family’s lawyers  representing them for a multi-million compensation claim seen Form 6.  Guidance to families issued by the UK Ministry of Justice  explains “there will be no medical certificate where a death has been referred to a coroner. In these circumstances your application will be supported by form Cremation 6 completed by the coroner. There is no right to inspect this form.”

Thus, the law and the regulations allow Form 6 to remain a state secret. However, if it is evidence contradicting the Lumb-Rutty report, it is evidence that Novichok was added to the cause of death reporting after Sturgess was cremated. The state secret thus becomes a state cover-up of a state lie. The family’s right to read Form 6 may be curtailed, but the government,  Ridley,  and Hallett don’t have the right to falsify what Form 6 means.  

Left to right: Heather Hallett; Martin Smith; Dawn Sturgess.

Until the inquest process is completed, British law does not permit a death certificate to be issued. A source who applied recently for a copy of Sturgess’s certificate was informed by the official registrar: “Please note that this is still going through an inquest and so the death record cannot be officially created by the registrar until this has been concluded. Therefore, a death certificate cannot currently be provided as no death record is currently in existence and will not be until the inquest is over and the death registered in line with the findings of the inquest.”

The  government guidance on the order of words, numbering, and cause-and-effect sequence of death certificates can be checked here.  The acronym MCCD stands for medical certificate cause of death.

Source: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/

The official guidance warns: “Terms that do not identify a disease or pathological process clearly are not acceptable as the only cause of death. This includes terminal events, or modes of dying such as cardiac or  respiratory arrest, syncope or shock.” Note the standard notation in the MCCD example uses the Roman initial I, not the Roman numeral 1, as appears on Form 6.

For Sturgess, however, Ridley’s Form 6 came first; the Lumb-Rutty report quoted by Hallett came four months later; there is no death certificate. Why didn’t Hallett quote Ridley’s cause of death report? Why did Lumb and Rutty delay signing the report Hallett quoted? What earlier report from Lumb did Ridley rely on in order to fill in and sign his Form 6? And what differences are there between Form 6 and the report Hallett has now revealed publicly?   

To address these questions, Hallett was asked by email last Friday “to acknowledge the existence of this [Form 6] document in the files where it is legally required to be held.” She was also asked to comment on “the evidence available indicat[ing] contradictions between Cremation Form 6 and the Lumb-Rutty report.” Smith as solicitor to the inquest was asked:  “In the event you, counsel, and Lady Hallett believe there to be no contradiction between these two identified documents, please say so.” Lastly, Hallett and Smith were asked: “What is the lawful authority on which Lady Hallett relies for withholding Cremation Form 6 from public release?”

Smith replied: “The inquest is at an early stage and evidence about the cause of death will be heard by the coroner when proceedings reach the stage of a substantive hearing. You will be able to follow the evidence at that stage, along with other members of the public and media.  However, in the meantime, you have no formal role in the inquest and so are not entitled to the information you have requested as you have neither applied for designation as an interested person in accordance with the statutory provisions, nor been so designated by the coroner.”

In her ruling after the hearing on March 30, Hallett designated five members of the Sturgess family; her partner Charles Rowley; the heads of the Wiltshire, Thames Valley and Metropolitan police; the regional ambulance service; Wiltshire county council; the Cabinet Office in London, several state ministries, the intelligence services, Defence Ministry, and the chemical warfare establishment at Porton Down.

For clarification of the response to the questions Hallett refused to answer, Smith was asked: “Are you saying that Form No. 6 has been confirmed to one or more of the designated interested persons?” He replied: “Disclosure is provided to interested persons by the Coroner prior to the inquest, usually on a confidential basis until such time as evidence is heard in public at the inquest hearing. Members of the public, journalists and bloggers have no such entitlements, although of course they may attend and report on the inquest hearing. In these circumstances, it would not be appropriate for me to respond to any of your detailed queries as you have no right to the information you are seeking.”

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