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Friday, 7 December 2007

David Kelly

In 1984, David Kelly joined the civil service as head of the Defence Microbiology Division at Porton Down. He also served as an advisor to the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office. Kelly was involved in investigating possible Soviet violations of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and was a key member of the inspection team that visited the Russia between 1991 and 1994.

David Kelly also became a United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq following the end of the Gulf War. Kelly's work as a member of the UNSCOM team led him to visit Iraq thirty-seven times and his success in uncovering Iraq's biological weapons programme resulted in him being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Kelly's specialism meant he was frequently seconded to other departments. In 2002 he was working for the Defence Intelligence Staff at the time of the compilation of a dossier by the Joint Intelligence Committee on the weapons of mass destruction possessed by Iraq. The government had commissioned the dossier as part of the preparation for what later became the invasion of Iraq. Kelly was asked to proof-read sections of the draft dossier on the history of inspections. Kelly was unhappy with some of the claims in the draft, particularly a claim, originating from August 2002, that Iraq was capable of firing battlefield biological and chemical weapons within 45 minutes of an order to use them.

In June 2003 Kelly visited Iraq to view and photograph the two mobile weapons laboratories as a part of an inspection team. Kelly was unhappy with the description of the trailers and spoke off the record to The Observer, which, on 15th June 2003, quoted "a British scientist and biological weapons expert, who has examined the trailers in Iraq". The article quoted Kelly as saying: "They are not mobile germ warfare laboratories. You could not use them for making biological weapons. They do not even look like them. They are exactly what the Iraqis said they were - facilities for the production of hydrogen gas to fill balloons." This point of view made Kelly unpopular with Tony Blair and George W. Bush who were determined to order the invasion of Iraq.

Kelly had a meeting with Andrew Gilligan, a BBC journalist, on 22nd May, 2003. They agreed to talk on an unattributable basis, which allowed the BBC to report what was said, but not to identify the source. Kelly told Gilligan of his concerns over the 45-minute claim and ascribed its inclusion in the dossier to Alastair Campbell, who worked as the director of communications for Tony Blair. Gilligan broadcast his report on May 29, 2003 on the Today Programme, in which he said that the 45-minute claim had been placed in the dossier by the government, even though it knew the claim was dubious. The government rejected this version of events and demanded that the BBC reveal the name of the source.

Kelly was interviewed twice by senior officials at the Ministry of Defence (MoD). He admitted that he had provided this information to Andrew Gilligan. He was given a formal warning by the Ministry of Defence for having an unauthorised meeting with a journalist and he was told that further action might be taken against him.

It was eventually decided by the MoD and the government to release information to the media about the case. The announcement contained sufficient clues for the journalists to guess Kelly's identity and the MoD confirmed the name when it was put to them.

On 15th July, 2003, Kelly appeared before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. His evidence to the committee was that he had not said the things Andrew Gilligan had reported his source as saying. He was also questioned about several quotes given to Susan Watts, a BBC journalist working on Newsnight, who had reported a similar story. Members of the committee came to the conclusion that Kelly was not been the main source of the stories reported by Watts and Gilligan.

On 17th July, Kelly was working from his home in Oxfordshire. He spent the morning answering supportive emails from friends. One of the e-mails he sent that day was to New York Times journalist Judith Miller. He told her that he was having to deal with "many dark actors playing games." At about 3.00 in the afternoon, he told his wife that he was going for his daily 30 minute walk. He did not return and his wife did not contact the police until shortly after midnight. His body was found the next morning at Harrowdown Hill about a mile away from his home. Later the police reported that Kelly had swallowed up to 29 tablets of co-proxamol and then cut his left wrist with a knife he had owned since his youth.

Tony Blair immediately announced that Lord Hutton would lead a judicial inquiry into the events leading up to Kelly's death. During the Hutton inquiry, David Broucher, the former British ambassador to the Czech Republic (1997-2001), reported a conversation with Kelly at a Geneva meeting in February 2003. Broucher related that Kelly said he had assured his Iraqi sources that there would be no war if they co-operated, and that a war would put him in an "ambiguous" moral position. Broucher had asked Kelly what would happen if Iraq were invaded, and Kelly had replied, "I will probably be found dead in the woods."

The Hutton Inquiry reported in January, 2004 that Kelly had committed suicide. Lord Hutton argued: "I am satisfied that none of the persons whose decisions and actions I later describe ever contemplated that Kelly might take his own life. I am further satisfied that none of those persons was at fault in not contemplating that Kelly might take his own life."

The Hutton Inquiry took priority over an inquest, which would normally be required into a suspicious death. The Oxfordshire coroner, Nicholas Gardiner, considered the issue again in March 2004. After reviewing evidence that had not been presented to the Hutton Inquiry, Gardiner decided that there was no need for further investigation.

Some medical experts argued that it was highly unlikely that Kelly committed suicide. On 27th January, 2004, The Guardian published a letter written by three doctors: David Halpin (specialist in trauma and orthopaedic surgery), C Stephen Frost (specialist in diagnostic radiology) and Searle Sennett (specialist in anaesthesiology): "As specialist medical professionals, we do not consider the evidence given at the Hutton inquiry has demonstrated that Dr David Kelly committed suicide. Dr Nicholas Hunt, the forensic pathologist at the Hutton inquiry, concluded that Dr Kelly bled to death from a self-inflicted wound to his left wrist. We view this as highly improbable. Arteries in the wrist are of matchstick thickness and severing them does not lead to life-threatening blood loss. Dr Hunt stated that the only artery that had been cut - the ulnar artery - had been completely transected. Complete transection causes the artery to quickly retract and close down, and this promotes clotting of the blood. The ambulance team reported that the quantity of blood at the scene was minimal and surprisingly small. It is extremely difficult to lose significant amounts of blood at a pressure below 50-60 systolic in a subject who is compensating by vasoconstricting. To have died from haemorrhage, Dr Kelly would have had to lose about five pints of blood - it is unlikely that he would have lost more than a pint."

The letter then went onto to look at the possiblity that Kelly died as a result of taking the Co-Proxamol tablets: "Alexander Allan, the forensic toxicologist at the inquiry, considered the amount ingested of Co-Proxamol insufficient to have caused death. Allan could not show that Dr Kelly had ingested the 29 tablets said to be missing from the packets found. Only a fifth of one tablet was found in his stomach. Although levels of Co-Proxamol in the blood were higher than therapeutic levels, Allan conceded that the blood level of each of the drug's two components was less than a third of what would normally be found in a fatal overdose. We dispute that Dr Kelly could have died from haemorrhage or from Co-Proxamol ingestion or from both. The coroner, Nicholas Gardiner, has spoken recently of resuming the inquest into his death. If it re-opens, as in our opinion it should, a clear need exists to scrutinise more closely Dr Hunt's conclusions as to the cause of death."

On 19th May, 2006, Norman Baker the Member of Parliament for Lewes, resigned as the Liberal Democrat spokesman for the Environment, in order to investigate the death of David Kelly. Baker claimed that he had received information that suggested that Kelly did not die from natural causes. A couple of months later Baker announced that his computer hard drive had been wiped remotely.

It was discovered in October 2007, through a Freedom of Information request made by Norman Baker, that the knife that Kelly allegedly committed suicide with had no fingerprints on it. Baker told The Daily Mirror: "Someone who wanted to kill themselves wouldn't go to the lengths of wiping the knife clean of fingerprints. It is just very suspicious. It is one of the things that makes me think Dr Kelly was murdered. The case should be re-opened."

Baker's book, The Strange Death of David Kelly, was published in November, 2007. Baker looks in detail at the motives for the unlawful killing of Dr Kelly and the various possibilities of who could have been involved, before concluding with the most likely scenario, that Kelly was murdered by Iraqi agents.

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