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IRAQ EXPERT DRIVEN TO TRAGIC 'SUICIDE'

Jul 19 2003
By Gary Jones And Steve Mccomish

TONY BLAIR'S government was in crisis last night after the apparent suicide of a scientist embroiled in the Iraq WMD controversy.

David Kelly - named as the mole who said the case for war was "sexed up" - was found dead in a field yesterday morning.

Angry friends said the mild-mannered expert had been left devastated by his treatment at the hands of Labour's spin machine and the Ministry of Defence.

Mr Blair was so shaken by the tragedy he immediately ordered a judicial inquiry.

The roles of communications director Alastair Campbell and Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon are under scrutiny.

Father-of-three Dr Kelly, 59, denied being the source for a BBC story which said the Government's dossier had been "sexed up" to include the claim that Saddam Hussein could use WMD within 45 minutes.

MPs said he was a "fall guy" and had been "thrown to the wolves" when he appeared before a Commons select committee.

Dr Kelly disappeared after telling his wife he was going for a walk. When he did not return home, police were informed and a search began.

At 9.20 yesterday morning, officers found a body face down by a copse at Harrowdown Hill, five miles from Dr Kelly's home in Southmoor, Oxfordshire. It was described as a "grisly find", but police did not say how Dr Kelly died.

There was no suicide note on the body or at his 1.2million six-bedroomed country cottage. Police took away a computer.

Mr Blair, who had received 18 standing ovations as he addressed the US Congress in Washington, was informed as he was flying from America to Japan.

The PM spent hours making frantic satellite phone calls to colleagues and advisers, including Mr Campbell, Mr Hoon, and Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer.

He was ashen-faced when he got off the Boeing 777 in Japan. A spokesman said: "The Prime Minister is obviously very distressed for the family of Dr Kelly."

The news sent shockwaves around the world. The pound fell half a per cent on currency markets as traders assessed the worst crisis of Mr Blair's premiership.

Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith called on Mr Blair to cut short his tour and come home to deal with the growing turmoil.

Friends said Dr Kelly had been depressed since his appearance before the Foreign Affairs select committee on Tuesday.

Speaking so softly he could hardly be heard, he had told MPs he had spoken to BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan but denied he was the main source for the Today programme story on the sexed-up dossier.

The report sparked a feud between Mr Campbell and the BBC, with the communications director demanding an apology for "an outright lie".

According to Panorama journalist Tom Mangold, a close family friend, he was "unwell and angry about being exposed to public scrutiny".

Dr Kelly's wife Janice told Mr Mangold the scientist was "very, very stressed and unhappy about what had happened and this was really not the kind of world he wanted to live in".

Sandra Vawdrey, who is married to Dr Kelly's brother-in-law, said: "I think the politicians have a lot of questions to answer.

"We've just been watching Tony Blair on the television news offering his sympathies to the family, but it is a bit late in the day now." Another friend David Jordan said: "He looked a different person this week. The committee really hounded him. It was brutal. Dai was a private person, not used to being on television and in the public eye."

A BBC spokesman said: "We are shocked and saddened to hear what has happened and we extend our deepest sympathies to Dr Kelly's family and friends.

"Whilst Dr Kelly's family await the formal identification, it would not be appropriate for us to make any further statement." Mr Gilligan was not available for comment.

Dr Kelly, a former UN weapons inspector in Iraq who practised the Arab-founded Baha'i religion, was first named as the possible mole in newspapers on July 9.

He met Mr Gilligan in the Charing Cross Hotel, London, a week before the dossier story broke.

The MoD confirmed that he had come forward as a contact of Mr Gilligan.

Dr Kelly recognised some of the information he had passed on, but said he was not the main source. He had not said anything about the 45-minute claim.

MPs on the select committee agreed that he was not the source.

But Ben Bradshaw, the Blairite junior minister, said that in the absence of a denial by the BBC it should be assumed that he was.

During the intense hearing, Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay told the scientist he was "chaff", thrown up by the MoD to divert attention.

"Have you ever felt like the fall guy? You have been set up, haven't you?" the MP asked.

Dr Kelly replied: "I accept the process that is happening."

Last night Mr Hoon denied to the Daily Mirror he was the man who "outed" the shy scientist.

He said: "It is not true that Dr Kelly's name was put forward by the MoD. Dr Kelly came forward to say that he had had contact with Mr Gilligan and was concerned in case it was claimed he was the source.

"Dr Kelly was warned that there was a risk ... that his name may be revealed.

"We were then contacted by one newspaper that I know of and asked to confirm Dr Kelly's name. In the circumstances, having discussed the situation with Dr Kelly, we confirmed his details.

"I later wrote to the BBC to ask if this was their primary source and made it clear that we did not know that it was.

"My first thoughts are with his wife and family at what must be a terrible time for them."

©Copyright 2003. The Daily Mirror (UK)

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