Friday, August 04, 2006

Those who say David was murdered are so wrong

by Andrew Gilligan
The Evening Standard
24 July 2006

An MP has produced a dossier that claims to show the death of Dr David Kelly was not suicide. But the man at the heart of the story disagrees.

I STILL remember, of course, how I heard about David Kelly's death. It started with a phone call, fairly early in the morning, from my friend Mick Smith, then the defence correspondent of the Daily Telegraph. Kelly had gone missing, and the police were looking for a body.

Even then, as I sat worrying on the train into work, I couldn't really believe that he'd died. It must have been one of those muddles. Maybe he'd stayed over with a friend. Maybe he'd had an accident and hadn't been able to get help. Maybe he'd just decided to go off for a few days to relieve the pressure and would turn up in some hotel, a la Stephen Fry.

When I walked in to the office of Richard Sambrook, the BBC's director of news, he got up, closed the door and told me to sit down. While I had been on the way in, he said, not sounding like he believed it himself, Kelly's body had been found, and it looked like suicide. He had taken painkilling tablets and slashed one of his wrists.

If Sambrook sounded shaken, it was nothing to how I sounded. He had to get me a glass of water to calm me down.

As well as being upset, I was very, very surprised. I hadn't known David all that well - I'd never met his family, for instance - but he didn't strike me as the suicidal type, if there is such a thing.

He was quite used to confrontation and pressure: he'd been a weapons inspector in Iraq, for goodness sake. I thought his famous grilling by the Foreign Affairs Committee had been distasteful, and symptomatic of the committee's stupidity, but it hadn't been that bad.

And anyway, the affair was basically over: Parliament was about to break for the summer recess, the BBC had refused to confirm or deny whether David was my source, and the battle between Downing Street and the BBC had reached stalemate. Politics was closing down for a month. The row between the Government and BBC was essentially a diversion. All those spin-doctors, toady New Labour journalists and compliant MPs who had helped to keep it bubbling for the previous few weeks were about to disperse to Tuscan poolsides.

All David had to do was keep his head down and it would go away. The Government, I thought, was unlikely to discipline him for the partial admissions he had made about his contacts with me. They needed him more than he needed them. If anyone was going to find Tony Blair some weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, it was David Kelly.

Such were my thoughts on that morning of 18 July 2003, thoughts that made me, at first, question whether David did actually kill himself. Now, almost exactly three years later, the indefatigable Lib-Dem MP, Norman Baker, has added some political weight to those questions.

Baker has produced what the Mail on Sunday describes as a "dossier" - not a good choice of word - which is said to "raise new questions" about the accepted cause of death.

I like Baker. I think he is one of the very few MPs who gets his teeth into ministerial legs. If there are grounds for supposing that David Kelly was indeed killed by somebody else, I do not believe that considerations of taste or offence to his family should prevent it being investigated. But I say to the world what I said to Baker when he asked me about it last year: I am pretty sure that David did commit suicide.

Baker and the conspiracy theories are wrong.

Even if the motives for David to kill himself do not, on the face of it, seem quite strong enough, the motives for anyone else to kill him are far, far weaker. In whose interests can it possibly have been to murder David Kelly? The Government's? But his death plunged the Government and New Labour into the greatest crisis in its history, a crisis from which it has still not recovered, a crisis that has some claim to be the turning point in the Blair premiership.

The intelligence services? But even if you accept the (wildly false) premise that MI5 and MI6 are rogue states within a state, popping off their own citizens whenever they feel like it, why on earth would they want to kill Kelly? His death didn't do them much good, either.

The Iraqis? The Saddam regime had dissolved weeks before and its members were hiding in holes. The Americans? Not without British permission, surely - and, again, where's the motive?

Looking at Baker's dossier, I notice that most of the "new questions" it raises are actually quite old. The most important piece of evidence questioning the official explanation is a letter written by three (later five) doctors to The Guardian newspaper as long ago as January 2004, providing statistics which showed that it was unlikely for death to be caused by slashing a minor artery, as David had done, and questioning the toxicity of the co-proxamol painkillers in his blood.

Baker has gone a little further, revealing the important fact that only one person - David Kelly - died in this way in the UK during the whole of 2003.

However, Chris Milroy, professor of forensic pathology at the University of Sheffield, points out that "the problem with the use of statistics in any single case is that 'unlikely' does not make it impossible". Furthermore, he said, "the toxicology [on Kelly] showed a significant overdose of co-proxamol".

There is also the argument that there was very little blood around David when he was discovered. Two ambulance workers who attended him, Dave Bartlett and Vanessa Hunt, said they would expect to find several pints of blood around someone who had died through slashing a wrist. They believe it "incredibly unlikely" that David died from the wound they saw.

David Kelly's place of death was, however, a field. Professor Milroy and another forensic pathologist, Professor Guy Rutty, suggested that the blood could easily have seeped into the ground.

Another explanation, said Professor Milroy, might be that David's heart condition may have made it difficult for him to sustain any significant blood loss.

Baker also says that calls to David's mobile were not checked by the police.

If the evidence of the police to Hutton is to be believed, they were checked. There is also some confusion about the position of the body, with different accounts from different witnesses. But eyewitnesses, as we know from the Jean Charles de Menezes case, are seldom consistent and not always reliable.

Anyone who has been involved in a court case or criminal trial knows that minor anomalies and inconsistencies often arise, and are not necessarily suspicious. Given the fallibilities of human memory, a set of neat, perfectly consistent accounts may actually be more suspect.

Baker is right to criticise the Hutton Inquiry; I was not alone in feeling that the tragedy at the centre of the piece was the one thing on which Hutton never really shed direct light.

But there were indirect shafts. We learned far more of the Government's extraordinary and contemptible behaviour towards David Kelly; the promises to protect him, the name game played to expose him, the offering him up to parliamentary committees, neither of whom actually wanted to see him until prodded by Downing Street. And all this in the service of a complete lie - that my famous story was "100 per cent wrong".

After learning about everything Kelly went through - the pressure, the endless interviews, the coaching sessions in what to say, the demands for a complete accounting of his contacts with journalists - it is easier to understand the road which led him to that Oxfordshire hillside.

And I think the evidence to Hutton did show me, and the other journalists who dealt with David Kelly, that we really knew rather little of him. We had no idea about his worries about his employment status. We knew nothing (why should we?) of his relationship with his wife - who, we discovered during the inquiry, was not even told he had taken up the Baha'i faith until nearly two years afterwards.

I came to the view after the inquiry that David was somebody - a type not entirely unknown in journalism, either - who defined himself almost entirely by his work. The fear of losing that work must have been terrifying to him, even if it was not a well-founded fear.

We learned that he was much more vulnerable than we had supposed. With the support of the UN and the Government in his weapons inspector role, he was a man of major achievement, and the confident, authoritative contact we had all known. Stripped of that support, isolated, furious at his treatment by his superiors, he did not realise that a lot of the whirlpool swirling around him was essentially Westminster chest-beating, political rhetoric. That was why the words turned deadly.

Lord Hutton had many failings. But the verdict of suicide on David Kelly was almost certainly one of the few things he got right.

Letters to the Evening Standard:


‘Very very surprised’ as he was, that David Kelly had committed suicide, Andrew Gilligan will not explore evidence -- unearthed by MP Norman Baker and others -- which suggests Dr Kelly’s death could not have been suicide. Far from being a terrier gnawing away to get to the bone marrow, he has accepted what he has been told!

A presumption of suicide will not do. The Hutton Inquiry was a charade. No one was subpoenaed, not a single witness cross-examined. Set up by one of Tony’s cronies and a judge with safe establishment leanings, it failed completely to investigate the cause and method of death. Suicide must be proved beyond all reasonable doubt -- it is not for Gilligan to try to sway us with his opinion.

As a doctor, I cannot accept that Dr Kelly bled to death. Without a clotting defect one cannot bleed to death from one cut ulnar artery. Where was the blood? Paramedics attending the scene were astonished at the absence of blood-staining on his clothes. They had attended literally hundreds of suicides -- in every single one the clothing was soaked in blood.

If details such as these are ever to be properly examined, we must have a proper coroner’s inquest. Lord Falconer misjudged the tragedy and the public response to it when he set up his inquiry - the public is too savvy to accept a whitewash. Let us have the truth - and please would Andrew Gilligan sharpen his mind and try to find it?

Yours sincerely

Dr C J Burns-Cox MD FRCP
Consultant Physician

Dear Sir,

Someone should tell Andrew Gilligan that suicide must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. His attempt to demolish the doubts and discrepancies outline by Norman Baker in his Mail on Sunday article was feeble.

Moving from a personal impression, ‘I am pretty sure the David did not commit suicide’; to a categorical assertion, ‘Baker and the conspiracy theorists are wrong’, Gilligan offers no concrete evidence for his views. He talks of a lack of motive as though it is evidence for suicide. It isn’t. He refers to some of the questions raised in Norman Baker’s Mail on Sunday article as ‘old’. Being old doesn’t make them less relevant.

Reference is made to Dr Kelly’s ‘overdose’ of co-proxamol. But, according to the forensic toxicologist the amount in his blood was insufficient to cause death. As for his ‘heart condition’, atherosclerosis is not something people die of, and the forensic pathologist presented no evidence of cardiac arrest.

Gilligan’s assumption that the blood would have seeped away is just that – an assumption; where is the evidence that it did?

Eyewitnesses, says Gilligan, are ‘seldom consistent’. But the two people who saw the body before the police took charge agreed the body was against the tree; and those who witnessed the body after the police took charge agreed it was lying on its back. No doubt about it.

Garrett Cooke


Rowena Thursby said...

Andrew Gilligan displays a surprising lack of interest in the possibility that David Kelly did not commit suicide. You would think a journalist whose BBC career was ruined by this death would be terrier-like in his determination to get at the truth. 'Baker and the conspiracy theories are wrong' he states. Well, no one has put up any theories, so how can they be wrong? He's 'pretty sure' that David did commit suicide. But 'pretty sure' isn't good enough. Suicide, according to QC Michael Powers, must be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

As for motives, there was a good reason why the powers-that-be wanted Kelly out of the way. It was he who had leaked to the Observer that the mobile laboratories were not for WMD, and it was he who had expressed his unhappiness with the claim WMD could be launched from Iraq in 45 minutes -- two lies that governments on both sides of the Atlantic desperately needed in place if they were to launch their desired invasion of Iraq. Kelly was one of the most senior weapons inspectors. His returning to Iraq on 26 July 2003, a date that was confirmed by the MoD the day before he disappeared, would have risked exposing once and for all that there were no WMD, and hence no reason for war.

Gilligan casually dismisses the KIG's medical questions about the causes of death - but a casual approach is not good enough. This has to be explored in depth. To answer a few of his points: the forensic toxicologist to the Hutton Inquiry stated that the amount of co-proxamol in Dr Kelly's blood was only a third of what is normally a fatal amount; the paramedics were most concerned not with lack of blood per se, but with the highly unusual distribution of blood - notably, virtually no blood splashing on the clothing when every arterial bleed they'd attended had looked like a chainsaw massacre; and, regarding 'heart condition', atherosclerosis is extremely common in men of 59, and in any case, the forensic pathologist offered no evidence there had been a cardiac arrest.

Dr Kelly's body had definitely been moved. We know that, not from unreliable eye-witness accounts, but from photographs. Photographs exist that show the body in at least two different positions. How do we know? Because Hutton himself referred to a photograph in Chapter 5 of his report which says the body was slumped against the tree, and because PC Sawyer, charged to take official photographs, states that the body was lying horizontally on its back, away from the tree.

solinus said...

Dr. Kelly should not be forgotten nor looked on as an 'odd ball' it took courage for him to speak out, he possibly saw what lay ahead for Iraq and the UK and did his best to avoid it.

Unfortunately there are not enough people in leading positions like him, the majority of politicians are whimps too ready to say yes to their superiors while looking after their own jobs and futures. It is enough to notice how many top members of this government have resigned rather than be part of Blair's contemptible elite!

Anonymous said...

None of the media seem to have noticed that when the 45-minute claim was withdrawn retrospectively from the Iraq Dossier in October 2004 following Lord Butler's Intelligence Review, it was only for biological and chemical WMD....NOT nukes.
During bthe time of the Apartheid regime, people in South Africa with whom Dr. David Kelly was connected also had a nuclear program.
Bombs were made and successfully tested there in conjunction with the Israelis.
The recent horrendous attacks that Israel made on the Lebanon were Proportionate if Israel feared that Hezbollah might have acquired a nuke.
Just one such nuke in an ambulance and taken into say Haifa, and there detonated even as a dirty bomb, even now would have catastrophic effects for the state of Israel.

Anonymous said...

In his report Lord Hutton said that because he was satisfied that the death of Dr. David Kelly had been a genuine suicide, he had not bothered to look at anything to do with WMD
Now that we know from thje private medics that Kelly's death was not a suicide where does this leave Lord Hutton??

Anonymous said...

Lord Butler's report following his Intelligence Review, said that the 45-minute claim should never have been mentioned in the 2002 Iraq Dossier for War in Iraq without specifying the type of WMD where the 45-minutes was applicable.
The media took this to mean simply that :-
1. there were never been any 45-minute WMD.
2. and so the 45-minutes was a fabrication to get us to go to War.
One can see on further scrutiny that in fact Lord Butler's statement was (wilfully?) ambiguous.
It could also be interpretted as meaning that the 45-minute WMD were of a type that until found could never be reavealed??
The latter is more probable because of the immediate reaction that had resulted earlier from John Scarlett of MI-6 statement to the Hutton Inquiry on 26th August 2003.
Scarlett had said that the WMD that mattered were 'battlefield', and could be deployed not just within 45-minutes (but even less)
This clearly showed that the Dossier for war had been sexed-up to get us to go to War, consistent with what Dr. David Kelly had told the BBC, and therefore Alistair Campbell had previously both:-
a) lied to both the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Commons and Hutton Inquiry.
b) defamed the BBC and Andrew Gilligan.
These are sackable offences.
Alistair Campbell therefore had no option 3 days later (29th August 2003) but to announce that he was quitting No.10.
Subsequent events now show that Campbell was in fact probably 'pushed' from No.10, possibly even by the BBC's lawyers?? ...because of the way that Campbell got his own back later.
Lord Hutton's report later said that Dr. David Kelly's death had been a suicide. the private medics have shown this was untrue.
Campbell was nonetheless able to exploit Hutton's bogus report.he used it to attack the BBC.
Immediately reg Dyke and Gavyn Davies exited the BBC with grace......still leaving their ptions open??
This whole thing is not going to rest until the WMD crisis is sorted and can be forgotten?
Tony Blair will have to remain at No.10 for as long as this takes.