Thames Valley Police was today accused of "failing" to find the body of missing weapons expert David Kelly, despite using a helicopter fitted with heat-seeking equipment.

According to the Mail on Sunday, details released under the Freedom of Information Act showed that at about 2.50am on July 18, 2003, the helicopter flew over Harrowden Hill, near Longworth, where his body was discovered six hours later, close to Dr Kelly's home in Southmoor.

A pathologist told the Hutton Inquiry, held into the scientist's death, that the latest time Dr Kelly could have died was 1.15am.

The indication is police failed to spot the scientist's body during their early morning flight.

In reply, a spokesman for Thames Valley Police said: "There has been a thorough investigation into the death of Dr David Kelly and that investigation has been the subject of a major inquiry.

"Everything we have to say on the matter is fully documented and is a matter of public record. We have no further comment to make."

The helicopter searched bridleways from Longworth to the River Thames, east to Newbridge and back to Kingston Bagpuize, near Abingdon.

Lord Hutton ruled that Dr Kelly took his own life by cutting his left wrist and taking coproxomal tablets.