CHRISTOPHER SHALE: Just what the Hell is going on here?


Doubts are growing about the nature of, and reasons for, the death of the Prime Minister’s local Party Chairman

Those who you who read last night’s At the End of the Day at The Slog will know that I was quite happy to put Camerlot’s local Party Chairman down as a simple heart-attack victim way back then, all those 24 hours ago.

But now things have gone from odd to silly and on to suspicious. In last night’s post, I wrote:

‘These days, just the words ‘dead in toilet’ are suggestive of drugs. Given that Christopher Shales expired at the Glastonbury festival, I must confess this was my first thought….’

As events have not so much unfolded as been folded up into a form of spin-origami today, it might help if I summarise below the order of play, and why it sometimes seems with government these days that the desire for everything to look normal actually creates conspiracy suspicions that may be completely unfounded.

* Shales is found dead. The police cordon off the area as ‘an official crime scene’.

* The Glastonbury organiser says the death contains “the circumstances of suicide”.

* We learn that the Shales corpse ‘wasn’t found for ten hours’. That’s a long period for a husband to be missing.

* The local Tory Party refutes the suicide assumption as ‘scurrilous’, and showers the media with evidence of Shales’s family history of heart problems.

* Police decide they are “not treating the death as suspicious”.

* The post mortem staff yesterday decide to carry out ‘toxicology tests’.

* The Coroner’s Court inquest opens this morning, but within a few minutes is adjourned.

* During the brief session, the Coroner’s officer Ben Batley tells the inquest that a post mortem examination was carried out, and the preliminary cause of death was “unascertained”.

* Despite this, the Coroner says, “As a result of me having opened this inquest I am content to release the body to the family.”

Just a few observations on this train of events. Despite some of the early contradictions in the statements, such is not unusual in cases like this: there are red herrings and confused people all over the place.

Things only start to get confusing when the post-mortem staff (looking for an Elvis-straining style weak heart trauma) take toxicology tests.

They become suspicious when statements like ‘unascertained’ are released….with further toxicology tests to come.

They start to look extremely odd when, after just a few seconds consideration, the Coroner decides to release the body.

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Look, if there’s nothing unusual here, why not just say so? If there is nothing dodgy emerging from the post mortem, then why not confirm that? There could still be a perfectly normal explanation for all this: Shales had a cold, he took an OTC remedy, it turned up in his bloodstream. So now they need to recheck a few things….and release the body so it can be cremated?

I repeat: this may all be something and nothing. But anyway, there are two theories in circulation as I write.

The first is the one I made glancing reference to last night – and the words were composed after several email exchanges with my voluntary legal help:

‘rumours have been around for some time that several powerful media Tories of a West Oxford persuasion are fond of tooting the talcum of a weekend.’

I’m sure most of you can work out who the alleged line-dancers are in all this: as we know, WO is a tight-knit and rather incestuous area where elite mutual assistance and a leg-up rule supreme.

The second one has been advanced and expanded by Will Heaven in the Telegraph this afternoon. It can be summed up by the key phrase in his piece: ‘Strikingly, it looks like Tory High Command was desperate to keep this [Shale’s memo] away from the public eye’.

I’m told by a reliable media contact that the leaker was NOT a local Tory. And more along the Tebbit end of Toryism than the Prime Minister.

The best way to close this piece is by me formally apologising to The Observer for raising the question of Shale’s ‘proximity’ to the senior Newscorpers who are WO-based. The Big O may well have a point after all.

Related: Cameron and the Murdochs: a close alliance