David Kelly (weapons expert)

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David Kelly

David Kelly 2000s.jpg
Kelly during a public hearing on 15 July 2003, two days before his death
David Christopher Kelly

(1944-05-14)14 May 1944
Died17 July 2003(2003-07-17) (aged 59)
Oxfordshire, England
Cause of death Suicide: haemorrhage from incised wounds of the left wrist, in combination with coproxamol ingestion and coronary artery atherosclerosis
Body discoveredHarrowdown Hill, Longworth, Oxfordshire
Alma mater
OccupationSpecialist in biological warfare; UN weapons inspector in Iraq
EmployerMinistry of Defence
Janice Vawdrey(m. 1967)

David Christopher Kelly CMG (14 May 1944 – 17 July 2003) was a Welsh scientist and authority on biological warfare, employed by the British Ministry of Defence, and formerly a weapons inspector with the United Nations Special Commission in Iraq. He came to public attention in July 2003 when an unauthorised discussion he had off the record with BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan about the UK Government's dossier on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was cited by Gilligan and led to a major controversy. Kelly's name became known to the media as Gilligan's source and he was called to appear on 15 July before a parliamentary Foreign Affairs Select Committee investigating the issues Gilligan had reported. Kelly was questioned aggressively about his actions. He was found dead two days later. [1]


Prime Minister Tony Blair's government set up the Hutton Inquiry, a public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Kelly's death. The inquiry concluded that Kelly had committed suicide, with the cause of death as "haemorrhage due to incised wounds of the left wrist" in combination with "coproxamol ingestion and coronary artery atherosclerosis". Lord Hutton also decided that evidence related to the death, including the post-mortem report and photographs of the body, should remain classified for seventy years. Hutton said he had done so to protect Kelly's family from the distress of further media reports about the death, and concealed no relevant evidence. [2]

In 2009, Hutton's verdict was challenged by a group of British doctors who had not had access to the evidence, including Michael Powers, who is also a barrister and former coroner. Offering their opinion based on published reports that the cause of death was untenable, they argued that the artery is small and difficult to access, and severing it would not have triggered sufficient blood loss to cause death. This opinion was challenged by several forensic pathologists who also had not had access to the evidence, who told The Guardian that the combination of Kelly's heart disease and the overdose would have meant a smaller loss of blood could have killed him than would be needed to kill a healthier person. [3] In August 2010, former Leader of the Conservative Party Michael Howard called for a full inquest, [3] and Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General for England and Wales, confirmed that he was considering re-opening it. [4]

In October 2010, the postmortem, including the pathologist's 14-page report and the six-page toxicology report, was made public, re-iterating the conclusion of the Hutton report. [2]


Early life, education and first jobs: 1944–1984

Linacre College, Oxford, where Kelly studied for his doctorate in microbiology Linacre Main Enterence.jpg
Linacre College, Oxford, where Kelly studied for his doctorate in microbiology

David Christopher Kelly was born in Llwynypia, Glamorgan, South Wales, on 14 May 1944. His parents were Thomas John Kelly and Margaret, née Williams; [5] Thomas was a schoolteacher who was serving in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve as a signals officer during the Second World War. [6] Thomas and Margaret divorced in 1951 and she took her young son and moved in with her parents in Pontypridd. From the age of eleven he attended the local grammar school. [7] He was a keen sportsman and musician at school, and represented Wales in the youth cross-country running team; he played double bass in the National Youth Orchestra of Wales and played the saxophone to a high standard. [8]

In 1963 Kelly was admitted to the University of Leeds to study chemistry, botony and biophysics. [9] His mother died two years later from an overdose of prescription barbiturates. Although the coroner's inquest gave an open verdict, Kelly believed she had killed herself. As a result of the death, Kelly suffered from insomnia and was prescribed sleeping pills; he was also given an extra year to complete his degree. [lower-alpha 1] [lower-alpha 2] Kelly graduated in 1967 with a BSc in bacteriology; he then obtained an MSc in virology from the University of Birmingham. [12] [13] Between his first and second degrees, on 15 July 1967, he married Janice Vawdrey, who was studying at Bingley Teacher Training College. [6] [lower-alpha 3]

Kelly joined the Insect Pathology Unit at the University of Oxford in 1968, while a student of Linacre College. [6] [8] In 1971 he received his doctorate in microbiology for his thesis "The Replication of Some Iridescent Viruses in Cell Cultures". [6] [15] In the early 1970s he undertook postdoctoral research at the University of Warwick, before moving back to Oxford in the mid-1970s to work at the Institute of Virology, [lower-alpha 4] where he rose to the position of Chief Scientific Officer. Much of his work was in the field of insect viruses. [15] [16]

Porton Down, Russia and Iraq: 1984–2003

Gruinard Island, which Kelly assisted with decontaminating from weaponised anthrax View towards Gruinard Island - geograph.org.uk - 836894.jpg
Gruinard Island, which Kelly assisted with decontaminating from weaponised anthrax

In 1984 Kelly joined the Ministry of Defence (MoD), as the head of the Defence Microbiology Division working at Porton Down, Wiltshire. [17] [lower-alpha 5] The department had only a small number of microbiologists when he arrived, and most of their work involved the decontamination of Gruinard Island, which had been used for experiments during the Second World War with weaponised anthrax. He increased the scope of his department, obtaining additional funding to undertake research into biodefence. Because of the work undertaken by Kelly and his team, the UK were able to deploy a biodefence capability during the 1990–1991 Gulf War. [18]

Russia: 1991–1994

In 1989 Vladimir Pasechnik, the senior Soviet biologist and bioweapons developer, defected to the UK and provided intelligence about the clandestine biological warfare (BW) programme, Biopreparat. [19] The programme was in contravention of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention which banned the production of chemical and biological weapons. [lower-alpha 6] Pasechnik was debriefed by the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS), who requested technical assistance to process the information on chemical and biological matters; Kelly was seconded to the DIS to assist with his colleagues Brian Jones and Christopher Davis. They debriefed Pasechnik over a period of three years. [22] [23]

Stepnogorsk Scientific and Technical Institute for Microbiology, one of the Biopreparat facilities visited by Kelly Stepnagorsk Corona Composite.jpg
Stepnogorsk Scientific and Technical Institute for Microbiology, one of the Biopreparat facilities visited by Kelly

Kelly undertook several visits to Russia between 1991 and 1994 as the co-lead of a team from the UK and US who inspected civilian biotechnology facilities in Russia. [6] [8] [17] One of the restrictions placed on the inspectors was that visits could only be to non-military installations, [24] so, for the first visit in January 1991, the team visited the Institute of Engineering Immunology, Lyubuchany; the State Research Centre for Applied Microbiology in Obolensk; the Vector State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology in Koltsovo; and the Institute of Ultrapure Preparations, in what was then called Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg). [25] The team faced obstructed by the Russians, who tried to stop inspection of key areas of the facilities, and who lied about the use to which parts of the installations were put. [26] On one visit to the Vector facility, Kelly had a conversation with a laboratory assistant—one who was too low grade to have been fully briefed by the KGB. Kelly asked the assistant about the work he was doing, and was surprised when the man said he was involved in testing smallpox. Kelly questioned Lev Sandakchiev, the head of Vector, about the use of smallpox, but received no answers. Kelly described the questioning sessions as "a very tense moment". [27] [28]

In a 2002 review of the verification process, Kelly wrote:

The visits did not go without incident. At Obolensk, access to parts of the main research facility—notably the dynamic aerosol test chambers and the plague research laboratories—was denied on the spurious grounds of quarantine requirements. Skirmishes occurred over access to an explosive aerosol chamber because the officials knew that closer examination would reveal damning evidence of offensive BW activities. At Koltsova access was again difficult and problematic. The most serious incident was when senior officials contradicted an admission by technical staff that research on smallpox was being conducted there. The officials were unable to properly account for the presence of smallpox and for the research being undertaken in a dynamic aerosol test chamber on orthopoxvirus, which was capable of explosive dispersal. At the Institute of Ultrapure Preparations in Leningrad (Pasechnik's former workplace), dynamic and explosive test chambers were passed off as being for agricultural projects, contained milling machines were described as being for the grinding of salt, and studies on plague, especially production of the agent, were misrepresented. Candid and credible accounts of many of the activities at these facilities were not provided. [26]

The official reports of the visit concluded that Soviets were running a covert and illegal BW programme. [29] Kelly also took part in reciprocal visits to the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and visits to Porton Down by Russian and American inspectors. [30] Despite their findings, Kelly concluded that the tripartite inspection programme had failed. It was, he said, "too ambitious; its disarmament objective deflected by issues of reciprocity and access to sites outside the territories of the three parties". [31] He went on to add that "Russia's refusal to provide a complete account of its past and current BW activity and the inability of the American–British teams to gain access to Soviet/Russian military industrial facilities were significant contributory factors". [31]

Iraq: 1991 – May 2003

Appointment to UNSCOM

Following the end of the Gulf War (August 1990 – February 1991), United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 imposed the articles of Iraq's surrender. The document stated "that Iraq shall unconditionally accept the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless, under international supervision, of ... All chemical and biological weapons". [32] This was to be made possible by "The forming of a special commission which shall carry out immediate on-site inspection of Iraq's biological, chemical and missile capabilities, based on Iraq's declarations and the designation of any additional locations by the special commission itself". [32] The group set up was the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), and Kelly was appointed to it in 1991 as one of its chief weapons inspectors in Iraq. [17] [33] The Iraqis had provided Rolf Ekéus, the director of UNSCOM, with a list of sites connected with the research and production of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in the country, about half of which had been bombed during Operation Desert Storm. These sites provided the starting point for the investigations. [34] In August 1991 Kelly led the first group of UN BW investigators into the country. [33] When asked where the inspection teams would visit, he told reporters "We will go to sites which we deem to have characteristics associated with biological activity, but at the moment ... I have an open mind." [35] [36] The first UNSCOM missions finished with no evidence found of an Iraqi biological or chemical programme, although they did establish that some sites suspected by US intelligence services of involvement in biological or chemical warfare research were legitimate. These included a bakery, a pharmaceutical research business in Samarra, a dairy and a slaughterhouse. [37] [38]

A UN weapons inspector in Iraq, 2002 WeaponsInspector.JPG
A UN weapons inspector in Iraq, 2002

UNSCOM undertook 261 inspection missions to Iraq between May 1991 and December 1998, 74 of which were for biological weapons. [39] [40] [lower-alpha 7] Kelly led ten of the missions involved in BW inspections. [40] In 1998 and 1999 Iraq refused to deal with UNSCOM or the inspectors; the country's President, Saddam Hussein, singled out Kelly by name for expulsion from the country. [6] [41] During an inspection mission to Iraq in 1998, Kelly worked alongside an American translator and US Air Force officer, Mai Pederson, who introduced him to the Baháʼí Faith. Kelly remained a member of the faith for the rest of his life, attending spiritual meetings near his home of Southmoor, Oxfordshire. He was, for a time, the treasurer of his local branch, based in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. [6] [42] [43] His time in Iraq left him with a deep affection for country, its people and culture, although he abhorred Saddam's regime. [6]

British dossier on Iraqi WMD

In 2000 UNSCOM was replaced by the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), whose mission was similar to that of UNSCOM, and was to:

"continue with ... [UNSCOM's] mandate to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction ... and to operate a system of ongoing monitoring and verification to check Iraq's compliance with its obligations not to reacquire the same weapons prohibited to it by the Security Council. [44]

Kelly returned to work as a government advisor with the MoD on biological warfare, but also worked with UNMOVIC and continued to visit Iraq. [15] [17] He was involved in at least 36 missions to Iraq as part of UNSCOM and UNMOVIC, [45] [lower-alpha 8] and was instrumental in making the breakthrough to discover Iraq's BW facilities, despite interference and obstruction tactics by the Iraqis: the anthrax production programme at the Salman Pak facility, and a BW programme run at Al Hakum. [47] [48]

Hans Blix, the head of UNSCOM from March 2000 to June 2003 Hans Blix in 2015-2.jpg
Hans Blix, the head of UNSCOM from March 2000 to June 2003

In his 2002 State of the Union address, George W. Bush, the President of the United States, discussed the use of WMD by the Iraqi regime and claimed that, along with Iran and North Korea, Iraq was part of an "axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world". [49] Later that year he declared that "the stated policy of the United States is regime change". [50] As part of the British government's arguments for war on Saddam, Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, published a dossier on Iraqi WMD on 24 September 2002. [lower-alpha 9] The dossier, which was "based, in large part, on the work of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC)", included the statement that the Iraqi government had:

  • military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, including against its own Shia population. Some of these weapons are deployable within 45 minutes of an order to use them;
  • command and control arrangements in place to use chemical and biological weapons. Authority ultimately resides with Saddam Hussein. [55]

Before its publication, Kelly had been shown a draft copy of the dossier and took part in a meeting at the DIS to review it. Four pages of comments were made regarding the information in the report, of which Kelly contributed twelve individual statements. The observations from the DIS were passed up to the Joint Intelligence Organisation; none of them referred to the 45-minute claim. [56] [57]

On 8 November 2002 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1441, "a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations under relevant resolutions of the Council; and accordingly decides to set up an enhanced inspection regime with the aim of bringing to full and verified completion the disarmament process". [58] The resolution stated that the Iraqi government needed to provide full details of its WMD programme within 30 days. [58] [lower-alpha 10] As a result of the increasing pressure on the Iraqi government, UNSCOM inspectors were readmitted to the country and information was provided on the Iraqi WMD programme. According to Kelly, despite the steps taken, Saddam "refuse[d] to acknowledge the extent of his chemical and biological weapons and associated military and industrial support organisations", [59] and there was still a concern about “8,500 litres of anthrax VX, 2,160 kilograms of bacterial growth media, 360 tonnes of bulk chemical warfare agent, 6,500 chemical bombs and 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical and biological warfare agents [which] remained unaccounted for from activities up to 1991". [59]

Interaction with journalists

Purported Iraqi mobile weapons laboratories, actually for production of hydrogen to fill wind-sensing balloons. Powell UN Iraq presentation, alleged Mobile Production Facilities.jpg
Purported Iraqi mobile weapons laboratories, actually for production of hydrogen to fill wind-sensing balloons.

In February 2003 Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, addressed the United Nations Security Council to discuss Iraq's WMD. He included information on mobile weapons laboratories, which he described as "trucks and train cars ... easily moved and ... designed to evade detection by inspectors. In a matter of months, they can produce a quantity of biological poison equal to the entire amount that Iraq claimed to have produced in the years prior to the Gulf War." [61] [62] Following his examination of the vehicles in question, Kelly spoke, off the record, to journalists from The Observer . In their article in the newspaper on 15 June 2003 they described him as "a British scientist and biological weapons expert", [60] and quoted him 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. [60]

One of the journalists who wrote the story, Peter Beaumont, confirmed to the Hutton Inquiry that Kelly was the source of this quote. [63] Kelly was often approached by the press and would either clear the discussion with the press office of the FCO, or used his judgement before doing so; it was within his remit to liaise with the media. [64] [lower-alpha 11] Shortly before the 2003 invasion of Iraq (20 March – 1 May 2003) Kelly anonymously wrote an article on the threat from Saddam which was never published. He outlined his thoughts on the build up to war:

Iraq has spent the past 30 years building up an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Although the current threat presented by Iraq militarily is modest, both in terms of conventional and unconventional weapons, it has never given up its intent to develop and stockpile such weapons for both military and terrorist use. [59]

He continued that "The long-term threat, however, remains Iraq's development to military maturity of weapons of mass destruction – something that only regime change will avert." [59] On 20 March 2003 British and American troops entered Iraq to bring about the regime change. Most of the country was occupied and the Saddam regime was overthrown within four weeks; Bush stated that war was over on 1 May 2003. [66] [67]

Two BBC journalists Kelly was in contact with over the 45-minute claim
Susan Watts.jpg
Susan Watts, the science editor of the BBC's Newsnight programme
Andrew Gilligan.jpg
Andrew Gilligan, the Defence and Diplomatic Correspondent for BBC Radio 4's Today programme

On 7 May 2003 Kelly was telephoned by Susan Watts, the science editor of the BBC's Newsnight programme; the call lasted 15 to 20 minutes. They discussed various matters relating to Iraq including, towards the end of the conversation, the matter of the 45-minute claim. Watts's handwritten shorthand notes showed Kelly stated the claim was "a mistake to put in. Alastair Campbell seeing something in there, single source but not corroborated, sounded good." [68] [lower-alpha 12] The pair also had a subsequent call on 12 May. [57]

Kelly flew to Kuwait on 19 May as part of a military team. He hoped to meet members of the Iraq Survey Group to see how the organisation worked. When he arrived in Kuwait he found that no visa had been arranged for him, so he returned home. [70] [71]

Contact with Andrew Gilligan

On 22 May 2003, at the Charing Cross Hotel in London, Kelly met Andrew Gilligan, a BBC journalist who had spent some time writing about the war in Baghdad. 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 allegedly ascribed its inclusion in the dossier to Alastair Campbell, the director of communications for Tony Blair.

Gilligan broadcast his report on 29 May 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. 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 colleague Olivia Bosch that his meeting with Andrew Gilligan had been "unauthorised" and therefore outside his terms of employment. On 30 June 2003, 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 publicly acknowledge that an employee 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. It usually refuses to comment on such matters, and it was alleged by some critics of the government that the Ministry of Defence was implementing a government decision to reveal Kelly's name as part of a strategy to discredit Gilligan. Andrew Rawnsley has claimed that Blair on 8 July sanctioned a strategy designed to reveal Kelly's identity; [72] Lord Hutton found that the decision was only to confirm that a civil servant had come forward, without giving a name, because there was uncertainty that Kelly was in fact Gilligan's source. [73]

Kelly was extremely disturbed that the media[ citation needed ] had identified his role in the matter 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 made 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 15 July 2003, [74] Kelly appeared to be under severe stress which was probably increased by the televising of the proceedings. He spoke with a voice so soft that the air-conditioning equipment had to be turned off even though it was one of the hottest days of the year. [75] 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. [76] Some of the questioning was very precise. The Labour MP Andrew MacKinlay, in particular, used a forceful tone in his cross-examination. For example, when asked to simply list the journalists that he met, Kelly declined to answer and requested that such a list be sought from the MoD, which triggered a response: "...This is the high court of Parliament and I want you to tell the Committee who you met... You are under an obligation to reply". [77] The Chairman of the Committee (Donald Anderson) underscored the validity of MacKinlay's question telling Kelly: "It is a proper question... If you have met journalists there is nothing sinister in itself about meeting journalists, save in an unauthorised way." [77] MacKinlay offered his opinion that Kelly had been used by Gilligan telling Kelly: "I reckon you are chaff; you have been thrown up to divert our probing. Have you ever felt like a fall-guy? You have been set up, have you not?" [78]

Kelly was deeply upset by his treatment before the Committee and privately described MacKinlay as an "utter bastard". [79] During the hearing, he was closely questioned 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 denied any knowledge of the quotes. On the following day, 16 July 2003, Kelly gave evidence to the Intelligence and Security Committee. He told them that he liaised with Operation Rockingham within the Defence Intelligence Staff.


On the morning of 17 July 2003, Kelly was working as usual at home in Oxfordshire. Media coverage of his public appearance two days before had led many of his friends to send him supportive emails, to which he was responding. One of the emails he sent that day was to New York Times journalist Judith Miller, [80] who had used Kelly as a source in a book on bioterrorism and to whom Kelly had mentioned "many dark actors playing games". [81] [82] He also received an email from his superiors at the Ministry of Defence asking for more details of his contacts with journalists.

Just before 3 pm Kelly's superior, Wing Commander Clark, [83] called him at home and spoke to him for 6–7 minutes. Clark called again at about 3:20 pm, wishing to speak with Kelly; the call was answered by Kelly's wife who said that he had gone out for his daily walk. He appears to have gone directly to an area of woodlands known as Harrowdown Hill about a mile away from his home where he ingested up to 29 tablets of painkillers and co-proxamol, an analgesic drug, then cut his left wrist with a knife he had owned since his youth. [84] His wife reported him missing shortly after midnight that night, and he was found dead early the next morning. [85] Questioned on a flight to Hong Kong that day, Blair denied that anyone had been authorised to leak Kelly's identity. [86]

Hutton Inquiry

The government immediately announced that Lord Hutton would lead an inquiry into the events leading up to Kelly's death. The BBC shortly afterwards confirmed that Kelly had indeed been the single source for Andrew Gilligan's report. The inquiry took priority over an inquest, which would normally be required into a suspicious death. [87] The Oxfordshire coroner, Nicholas Gardiner, considered the issue again in March 2004. After reviewing evidence not presented to the Hutton Inquiry, Gardiner decided there was no need for further investigation. This conclusion did not satisfy those who had raised doubts, but there has been no alternative official explanation for Kelly's death. The Hutton Inquiry reported on 28 January 2004 that Kelly had committed suicide. Lord Hutton wrote:

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. Whatever pressures and strains 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 that the Ministry of Defence was obliged to make Kelly's identity known once he came forward as a potential source, and had not acted in a duplicitous manner. Hutton criticised the MoD for not having alerted Kelly to the fact that his name had become known to the press.

During the inquiry, British ambassador David Broucher 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 cooperated, and that a war would put him in an "ambiguous" moral position. [88] Broucher had asked Kelly what would happen if Iraq were invaded, and Kelly had replied, "I will probably be found dead in the woods." Broucher then quoted from an email he had sent just after Kelly's death: "I did not think much of this at the time, taking it to be a hint that the Iraqis might try to take revenge against him, something that did not seem at all fanciful then. I now see that he may have been thinking on rather different lines." According to an entry in one of Kelly's diaries, discovered afterwards by his daughter Rachel at his home, this meeting did not take place in February 2003, but in February 2002. According to Kelly's half-sister, Sarah Pape, the day after his daughter's wedding on Saturday 22 February 2003, Kelly flew to New York. Pape told the inquiry that Kelly "certainly did not mention he was going to be flying almost straight back to visit Geneva." [89]

Fatality of ulnar artery cuts

Although suicide was officially accepted as the cause of death, some medical experts have raised doubts, suggesting that the evidence does not support this. The most detailed objection was provided in a letter from three medical doctors published in The Guardian , [90] reinforced by support from two other senior doctors in a later letter to the newspaper. [91] These doctors argued that the post-mortem finding of a transected ulnar artery could not have caused a degree of blood loss that would kill someone, particularly when outside in the cold (where vasoconstriction would cause slow blood loss). Further, this conflicted with the minimal amount of blood found at the scene. They also contended that the amount of co-proxamol found was only about a third of what would normally be fatal. Dr Rouse, a British epidemiologist wrote to the British Medical Journal offering his opinion that the act of committing suicide by severing the wrist arteries is an extremely rare occurrence in a 59-year-old man with no previous psychiatric history. [92]

In December 2010 The Times reported that Kelly had a rare abnormality in the arteries supplying his heart; the information had been disclosed by the head of the Academic Unit of Pathology at Sheffield University Medical School, Professor Paul Ince, who noted that the post-mortem had found severe narrowing of the blood vessels, and said that heart disease was likely to have been a factor in Kelly's death as the cut to the wrist artery would not itself have been fatal. Vice-President of the British Cardiovascular Society Ian Simpson said that Kelly's artery anomaly could have contributed to his death. [93]

Dave Bartlett and Vanessa Hunt, the two paramedics who were called to the scene of Kelly's death, have since spoken publicly with their opinion that there was not enough blood at the location to justify the belief that he had died from blood loss. Bartlett and Hunt told The Guardian that they had seen 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. [94] [95] Two forensic pathologists, Chris Milroy of Sheffield University and Guy Rutty of Leicester University, 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. 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. [96]

On 15 October 2007, it was discovered, through a Freedom of Information request, that the knife had no fingerprints on it, [97] nor were fingerprints retrieved from the medication blister pack or Kelly's mobile phone. [98]

Alternative theories for Kelly's death

The BBC broadcast a programme on Kelly on 25 February 2007 as part of the series The Conspiracy Files ; [99] the network commissioned an opinion poll to establish the views of the public on his death. 22.7% of those surveyed thought Kelly had not killed himself, 38.8% of people believed he had, and 38.5% said they did not know. [100] On 19 May 2006 Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes, who had previously investigated the Hinduja affair, which led to the resignation of government minister Peter Mandelson, announced that he had been investigating "unanswered questions" from the official inquiry into Kelly's death. [101] He later announced that he had uncovered evidence to show that Kelly did not die from natural causes. [102] In July 2006, Baker claimed that his [ whose? ] hard drive had been wiped remotely. [103] Baker's book The Strange Death of David Kelly was serialised in the Daily Mail before publication in November 2007. In his book, Baker argued that Kelly did not commit suicide. [104] Kelly's family expressed their displeasure at the publication; his sister-in-law said: "It is just raking over old bones. I can't speak for the whole family, but I've read it all [Baker's theories], every word, and I don't believe it." [105]

On 5 December 2009 six doctors began legal action to demand a formal inquest into the death, [106] saying there was "insufficient evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt he killed himself". In January 2010, it was disclosed that Hutton had requested that all files relating to the postmortem remain secret for 70 years. [107] Hutton said this was to protect Kelly's family from the distress of further media reports about the death, saying: "My request was not a concealment of evidence because every matter of relevance had been examined or was available for examination during the public inquiry. There was no secrecy surrounding the postmortem report because it had always been available for examination and questioning by counsel representing the interested parties during the inquiry." [2]

In 2010, Attorney General Dominic Grieve was said to be considering an inquiry to review the suicide finding. [108] Early that August, a group of nine experts, including former coroners and a professor of intensive-care medicine, wrote a letter to the newspaper The Times questioning Lord Hutton's verdict. [109] [110] [111] On 14 August 2010, Jennifer Dyson, a retired pathologist, amplified the criticism, saying that a coroner would probably have recorded an open verdict in the absence of absolute proof that suicide was intended. She cast further doubt on the circumstances surrounding the death of Kelly, and also criticised Hutton's handling of the inquiry. She joined other experts questioning the official finding that Kelly had bled to death and argued that it was more likely that he had suffered a heart attack due to the stress he had been placed under. This intervention came as Michael Howard, the former Conservative Party leader, became the most prominent politician to call for a full inquest into Kelly's death. [112]

Publication of postmortem report

In October 2010, the postmortem that Hutton had requested be sealed for 70 years to protect the Kelly family was made public by the new government. The report by Nicholas Hunt stated: [2] [113]

It is my opinion that the main factor involved in bringing about the death of David Kelly is the bleeding from the incised wounds to his left wrist. Had this not occurred he may well not have died at this time. Furthermore, on the balance of probabilities, it is likely that the ingestion of an excess number of co-proxamol tablets coupled with apparently clinically silent coronary artery disease would both have played a part in bringing about death more certainly and more rapidly than would have otherwise been the case. Therefore I give as the cause of death: 1a. Haemorrhage; 1b. Incised wounds to the left wrist; 2. Co-proxamol ingestion and coronary artery atherosclerosis.

Powers expressed scathing criticism of the lack of rigour of the Hutton inquiry, and asserted that the officially stated cause of death was highly implausible. The Independent on Sunday [114] published a "head-to-head" exchange of letters between two journalists: Miles Goslett, who argued that (as with all sudden or violent deaths) a proper inquest should be held; and John Rentoul, who was convinced that the death was a suicide and that to think otherwise was a "ridiculous and tasteless fairy story" created by conspiracy theorists.

Exhumation of body

On 29 October 2017 it was reported that Kelly's body had been exhumed at the request of his family. This action was taken due to threats of exhumation by protestors who did not believe Kelly committed suicide. The body was apparently moved and cremated. [115]


The death of Kelly and preceding events have served as an inspiration for artistic tributes and dramatisations including the song "Harrowdown Hill" by Thom Yorke; [116] a 2008 painting, Death of David Kelly, by Dexter Dalwood; [117] [118] Jonathan Coe's 2015 novel Number 11 ; [119] [120] and a poem, "Hand-Washing Technique – Government Guidelines" (subtitled "i.m. Dr David Kelly"), by Simon Armitage. [121] [122] Kelly was the subject of a 2005 television drama, The Government Inspector , starring Mark Rylance; [123] [124] Kelly's last moments are featured in the centre monologue of the stage play Palace of the End by Judith Thompson. [125] [126]

In the 1996 Birthday Honours Kelly was appointed as Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG); [127] the citation reads:

He devised the scientific basis for the enhanced biological warfare defence programme and led strong research groups in many key areas. Following the Gulf War he led the first biological warfare inspection in Iraq and has spent most of his time since either in Iraq or at various sites in the former Soviet Union helping to shed light on past biological warfare related activities and assisting the UK/US RUS trilateral confidence building process. He has pursued this work tirelessly and with good humour despite the significant hardship, hostility and personal risk encountered during extended periods of service in both countries. ... His efforts in his specialist field have had consequences of international significance. [128]

Lord Hutton, in the report to his inquiry, suggests that Kelly might well have been under consideration for a knighthood in May 2003. [128] His work in Iraq earned him a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. [6] [129] His biographer, the former MP Norman Baker, wrote of Kelly:

It is no exaggeration to say that between 1990 and his death in 2003, Dr Kelly probably did more to make the world a more secure place than anyone on the planet. Even among the elite group of international weapons inspectors, he was regarded with some awe, as the inspectors' inspector. [130]

See also

Notes and references


  1. When Kelly was vetted by MI5 for his defence work, his mother's suicide was considered; the MI5 officer noted that the event had made Kelly work harder, and that he was a well-balanced individual. [10]
  2. Thomas—known as Tim—died in 1984. [11]
  3. The couple later had a daughter followed, two years later, by twin girls. [13] [14]
  4. The Institute of Virology was subsequently renamed the Natural Environment Research Council. [16]
  5. Kelly's employment record was, in the opinion Lord Hutton, in the report to his inquiry, "somewhat complex". [17] In April 1995 the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) was established as an agency of the MoD; Kelly's personnel management was passed to the new organisation. The following year he was seconded back to the MoD as part of the Proliferation and Arms Control Secretariat; as part of the role he was an advisor to the Non-Proliferation Department, which was part of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It was through the FCO that Kelly undertook his role on the UN inspection teams. He also acted as an advisor to the DIS and the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). In 2001, with a further re-organisation of the UK's defence establishment, Kelly's personnel management was moved to the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, who was his formal employer until 2003, although he was still on secondment to the MoD. [17]
  6. The full title is the "Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction". This banned the development, production and stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction. [20] [21]
  7. The remaining visits were nuclear and ballistic missile inspections. [39]
  8. The number of Kelly's visits to Iraq varies. Germ Warfare: Dr Kelly's Last Interview, a Channel 5 documentary broadcast in 2004, states it was 36 visits; [45] Lord Hutton, in the report to his inquiry, says 37 visits, [17] as does Tom Mangold, in Kelly's biography in the Dictionary of National Biography ; [6] and Robert Lewis, in his biography of Kelly, states Kelly made 38 visits. [46]
  9. The dossier, "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Assessment of the British Government" became known as the "September Dossier". A briefing paper, "Iraq – Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation" was published in February 2003; this became known as the February, or Dodgy, Dossier. It later transpired that this document was plagiarised from "Iraq's Security and Intelligence Network: A Guide and Analysis", an article by Ibrahim al-Marashi, published in September 2002 in the Middle East Review of International Affairs . [51] [52] The February Dossier made no mention of the 45-minute claim. [53] [54]
  10. Point 3 of the resolution states that the Iraqi government need to "provide to UNMOVIC, the IAEA, and the Council, not later than 30 days from the date of this resolution, a currently accurate, full, and complete declaration of all aspects of its programmes to develop chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and other delivery systems such as unmanned aerial vehicles and dispersal systems designed for use on aircraft, including any holdings and precise locations of such weapons, components, subcomponents, stocks of agents, and related material and equipment, the locations and work of its research, development and production facilities, as well as all other chemical, biological, and nuclear programmes, including any which it claims are for purposes not related to weapon production or material." [58]
  11. Between April 2002 and March 2003, Kelly's personnel file recorded that in addition to speaking at numerous seminars and conferences, he had given briefings on an attributable and unattributable basis concerning Iraq, Russia, weapons, anthrax and smallpox. These were to:
  12. The quote was Watts reading from her shorthand copy, which reads "..a mistake to put in..A Campbell seeing something in there... NB single source. but not corroborated..sounded good." [69]

Related Research Articles

Iraq and weapons of mass destruction

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Bombing of Iraq (1998) aerial bombardment of Iraq carried out by the USA and the UK in December 1998

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Iraq – Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation was a 2003 briefing document for the British prime minister Tony Blair's Labour Party government. It was issued to journalists on 3 February 2003 by Alastair Campbell, Blair's Director of Communications and Strategy, and concerned Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. Together with the earlier September Dossier, these documents were ultimately used by the government to justify its involvement in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Assessment of the British Government, also known as the September Dossier, was a document published by the British government on 24 September 2002 on the same day of a recall of Parliament to discuss the contents of the document. The paper was part of an ongoing investigation by the government into weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, which ultimately led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It contained a number of allegations according to which Iraq also possessed WMD, including chemical weapons and biological weapons. The dossier even alleged that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons programme. Without exception, all of the allegations included within the September Dossier have been since proven to be false, as shown by the Iraq Survey Group.

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Reports, including transcripts and evidence

Post mortem report https://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/publications/corporate-reports/MoJ/2010/pathologist-report-dpa.pdf

Tox report http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/publications/corporate-reports/MoJ/2010/toxicologist-report-dpa.pdf

Journals and magazines

  • al-Marashi, Ibrahim (June 2006). "The "Dodgy Dossier:" The Academic Implications of the British Government's Plagiarism Incident". Middle East Studies Association Bulletin. 40 (1): 33–43. JSTOR   23062632.
  • Buczacki, Stefan (Autumn 2003). "Dr David Kelly (1965)". Linacre News. No. 26. pp. 14–15.
  • Ekéus, Rolf (8 September 2016). "The Lessons of UNSCOM and Iraq". The Nonproliferation Review. 23 (1–2): 131–146. doi:10.1080/10736700.2016.1186875.
  • Findlay, Trevor (September 2005). "Looking Back: The UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission". Arms Control Today. 35 (7): 45–48. JSTOR   23627820.
  • "IAEA and UNSCOM Inspection Teams In Iraq Since the Gulf War". Arms Control Today. 23 (3): 29. April 1993. JSTOR   23624961.
  • Mangold, Tom (October 2008). "Kelly, David Christopher (1944–2003)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/92249.(subscription or UK public library membership required)
  • "No. 54427". The London Gazette . 14 June 1996. p. 3.
  • Stone, Richard (25 July 2003). "British Expert Leaves Impressive Arms Control Legacy". Science. 301 (5632): 445, 447. JSTOR   3834650.



Oral evidence taken before the Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday 15 July 2003 https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200203/cmselect/cmfaff/uc1025-i/uc102502.htm


  • A Fight To The Death (Television production). Panorama. BBC 1. 21 January 2004.
  • Germ Warfare: Dr Kelly's Last Interview (Television production). Five. 13 February 2004.

Further reading

Films and video