Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This article is about David Kelly, the UN weapons inspector. There is also an article about David C. Kelly, the mathematics professor.
Dr. David Christopher Kelly CMG (May 17, 1944 – July 17, 2003) was an employee of the British Ministry of Defence (MoD), an expert in biological warfare, and a former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq. His talk with a journalist about the British government's dossier on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq inadvertently caused a major political scandal, and he was found dead days after appearing before a Parliamentary committtee investigating it. The Hutton Inquiry, a public inquiry into his death, found that he had committed suicide.
Kelly was born in the Rhondda in Wales. He graduated from Leeds University with a B.Sc., followed by an M.Sc. at the University of Birmingham. In 1971, he received his doctorate in microbiology from Oxford University. In 1984, he joined the civil service, working at what is now DSTL Porton Down, as head of the Defence Microbiology Division. He moved from there to work as an ad hoc advisor to the MoD and the Foreign Office.
His experience with biological weapons at Porton Down led to his selection as 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 37 times, and his success in uncovering Iraq's biological weapons program caused Rolf Ekéus to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize. He was made a Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1996.
Although never a member of the intelligence services, the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) regularly sought out his opinion on Iraq and other issues. David Kelly became a member of the Bahá'í Faith in about 1999. Bahá'í teachings condemn suicide and discourage a close involvement with party politics.
Involvement with the WMD dossier
Kelly's specialism led to confusion about his actual job as he was frequently seconded to other departments. His job description included liaison with the media and he regularly acted as a confidential source, although rarely going on the record or appearing on-camera. 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 of what later became the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Although not responsible for writing any part of the dossier, Kelly's experience of weapons inspections led to him being asked to proofread 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. Kelly's colleagues queried the inclusion of the claim but their superiors were satisfied when they took it up with MI6 through the Joint Intelligence Committee.
Kelly believed Iraq had retained biological weapons after the end of inspections. He was privately supportive of moves to invade Iraq and remove the government of Saddam Hussein, and made the case to friends and family when they discussed it with him. After the end of the war, he was invited to join the inspection team trying to find any trace of weapons of mass destruction programmes, and was apparently enthusiastic about resuming his work there. He made one trip to Iraq from June 5–11 2003, but owing to a confusion over his visa, he was delayed for several days in Kuwait.
Contact with Andrew Gilligan
On May 22, 2003, Kelly met with Andrew Gilligan, a BBC journalist who had spent the war in Baghdad, at the Charing Cross hotel in London. Kelly was anxious to learn what had happened in Iraq, while Gilligan, who had discussed a very early draft of the dossier with Kelly, wished to ask him about it in light of the failure to find any weapons of mass destruction. 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, the director of communications for Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Gilligan broadcast his report on May 29, 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. In a subsequent article in the Mail on Sunday newspaper, Gilligan directly identified Alastair Campbell as the person responsible. The story caused a political storm, with the government denying any involvement in the intelligence content of the dossier. The government pressed the BBC to reveal the name of the source because it knew that any source who was not a member of the Joint Intelligence Committee would not have known who had a role in the preparation of the dossier.
As the political fight ensued, Kelly knew he had talked to the journalist involved but felt that he had not said exactly what was reported. He also told his friend and work colleague Olivia Bosch that his meeting with Andrew Gilligan had been 'unauthorised' and therefore outside his terms of employment. On June 30, he wrote to his line manager at the Ministry of Defence to report his contact with Gilligan, though he added "I am convinced that I am not his primary source of information".
Kelly was interviewed twice by his employers, who concluded that they could not be sure he was Gilligan's only source. Eventually they took the decision to publicise the fact that someone had come forward who might be the source. The announcement contained sufficient clues for alert journalists to guess Kelly's identity and the Ministry of Defence confirmed the name when it was put to them. This was not a normal procedure (it normally refuses to comment on such matters), and it has been suggested that the Ministry of Defence was implementing a government decision to reveal Kelly's name as part of a strategy to discredit Gilligan.
Kelly was extremely disturbed by the publicity and arranged with a family friend to leave his home and visit Cornwall with his wife. He was asked to appear as a witness before two committees of the House of Commons that were investigating the situation in Iraq, and was further upset by the news that one of the appearances would be in public. He had been given a formal warning by the Ministry of Defence for an unauthorised meeting with a journalist, and had been given to understand that they might take more action if it turned out he had been lying to them.
Appearance before House of Commons committees
When he appeared before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee on July 15, Kelly appeared to be under severe stress. He spoke with a voice so soft that the air-conditioning equipment had to be turned off on one of the hottest days of the year. His evidence to the committee was that he had not said the things Gilligan had reported his source as saying, and members of the committee came to the conclusion that he had not been the source. However, some of the questioning was extremely pointed and appeared disrespectful to Kelly.
During the hearing, he was closely tackled about several quotes given to Susan Watts, another BBC journalist working on Newsnight, who had reported a similar story. It later emerged that Gilligan had himself told members of the committee that Watts' source was also Kelly. Kelly unconvincingly denied any knowledge of the quotes, but must have realised that he would have serious problems if the Ministry of Defence believed he had been the source of them.
On the morning of July 17, Kelly was working as usual at home in Oxfordshire. Publicity given to his public appearance two days before had led many of his friends to send him supportive e-mails, to which he was responding. One of the e-mails he sent that day was to a journalist on the New York Times, to whom Kelly mentioned "many dark actors playing games," [  (pdf). He also received an e-mail from his superiors at the Ministry of Defence asking for more details of his contact with journalists.
At about 3:00 p.m., Kelly told his wife that he was going for a walk. He appears to have gone directly to an area of woodlands about a mile away from his home, where he ingested up to 29 tablets of co-proxamol, an analgesic drug. He then allegedly cut his left wrist with a knife he had owned since his youth.
Kelly's wife reported him missing shortly after midnight that night, and he was found early the next morning. The government immediately announced an independent judicial inquiry into the events leading up to the death, and Lord Hutton was chosen to lead it. The BBC shortly afterwards confirmed that Kelly had indeed been the single source for Andrew Gilligan's report.
I am satisfied that none of the persons whose decisions and actions I later describe ever contemplated that Dr Kelly might take his own life. I am further satisfied that none of those persons was at fault in not contemplating that Dr Kelly might take his own life. Whatever pressures and strains Dr Kelly was subjected to by the decisions and actions taken in the weeks before his death, I am satisfied that no one realised or should have realised that those pressures and strains might drive him to take his own life or contribute to his decision to do so.
Hutton concluded, controversially, that the Ministry of Defence were obliged to make Kelly's identity known once he came forward as a potential source, and had not acted in a duplicitous manner. However, Hutton criticised the MoD for not alerting Dr Kelly to the fact that his name had become known to the press.
Although suicide was officially accepted as the cause of death, some medical experts have raised doubts, suggesting that the evidence does not back this up. The most detailed objection was provided in a letter from three medical doctors published in The Guardian . The doctors argue that the autopsy finding of a transection of the [ulnar artery] could not have caused a degree of blood loss that would kill someone, and that there was only a minimal amount of blood found at the scene. They also contend that the amount of co-proxamol found was only about a third of what would normally be fatal.
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. This conclusion did not satisfy those who had raised doubts, but there has been no alternative explanation for Kelly's death.
Dave Bartlett and Vanessa Hunt, the two paramedics who were called to the scene of Kelly's death, have since gone public with their view that there was not enough blood at the location to justify the belief that he died from blood loss. Bartlett and Hunt told The Guardian that they saw a small amount of blood on plants near Kelly's body and a patch of blood the size of a coin on his trousers. They said they would expect to find several pints of blood at the scene of a suicide involving an arterial cut  .
However, two of Britain's top forensic pathologists, Professor Chris Milroy and Professor Guy Rutty, have dismissed the paramedics' claims, saying it is hard to judge blood loss from the scene of a death, as some blood may have seeped into the ground. Professor Milroy also told The Guardian that Kelly's heart condition may have made it hard for him to sustain any significant degree of blood loss. 
- Our doubts about Kelly's suicide Letter to the Editor, The Guardian, January 27, 2004
- Kelly death paramedics query verdict by Anthony Barnett, The Guardian, December 12, 2004
- New Kelly claims splits medical opinion by Vikram Dodd, The Guardian, December 13, 2004
- The Hutton Inquiry, with transcripts
- David Kelly: the interrogator — an account from The Guardian, written by Kelly's colleague, of how they set about examining Iraq's biological weapons programme
- Evidence of David Kelly to the Intelligence and Security Committee
- "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Assessment of the British government, released by Tony Blair, the British prime minister, 2003
- Email sent by Dr Kelly on July 17, 2003
Other external links
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