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Police enquiries continue as villagers pray for scientist

Rebecca Allison
Monday July 21, 2003
The Guardian

It was a quiet afternoon in the Oxfordshire village of Southmoor yesterday as residents tried to regain some semblance of normality after 48 hours in the media spotlight.

The only visible reminder of the tragedy was a group of police officers standing guard at the entrance to Westfield, the Kelly family's farmhouse.

Several well wishers were seen handing cards and flowers to the police, but it was not clear whether Dr Kelly's wife, Janice, or her children were at home to receive them.

Three miles away at the hamlet of Longworth, police were conducting house to house enquiries in an attempt to establish how Dr Kelly had spent his final hours.

A short walk away at Harrowdown Hill, where Dr Kelly's body was found on Friday morning, the police cordon was removed on Saturday afternoon after scenes of crime officers concluded their painstaking search of the woods and surrounding fields.

Leaders of the Baha'i religion, followed by Dr Kelly, prayed for his soul yesterday.

Barnabas Leith, secretary of the national assembly of the Baha'is in the UK, said the religion condemned suicide but added that God was "merciful" to those who had suffered.

Dr Kelly, 59, converted to the pacifist faith four years ago while in the US and attended gatherings at his local centre in Abingdon, Oxfordshire.

Mr Leith said: "The true position is that the Baha'i teachings strongly condemn suicide.

Baha'is believe that the soul of the individual comes ever closer to God in the life after death. Those who take their own lives risk damaging their soul in the life hereafter.

"But this does not mean they cease to be Baha'is. And Baha'is believe that God is always merciful to those who have suffered in this life.

"Baha'is throughout the world are praying for the progress of David Kelly's soul."

Dr Kelly was one of 6,000 Baha'is in the UK and five million worldwide. The religion, founded in Iran around 160 years ago, preaches tolerance and unity.

A service was held at St Mary's Church near the Kelly family home yesterday morning at which the congregation were asked to pray for the scientist and his grieving family. The Rev Joe Cotterill, a visiting priest from Southmoor who took yesterday's Holy Communion, said Mrs Kelly attended occasional services at the 13th century church.

In his sermon, Mr Cotterill asked the congregation of 18 people to pray for the family and all those involved with the tragedy, and to ask God to give them "courage and hope".

He said after the service: "I'm not sure people here are coming to terms with Dr Kelly's death. It's more a matter of asking why, why, why? Why should it have had to happen this way?"

"There is grief and sadness, for Janice Kelly and the children but particularly for Mrs Kelly, who is afflicted with arthritis."

He said he mentioned the Kellys in his sermon because it was the church's duty to deal with events in the "outside world" and to help the community.

"It's part of the church's purpose to go out and express sympathy and love for those who are suffering," he said.

©Copyright 2003, Guardian (UK)

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