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Updated: 07/08/2003 11:35 - (SA)

Kelly buried as row simmers on

06/08/2003 21:52 - (SA)

Longworth, England - David Kelly, the weapons expert at the centre of an uproar over the way Britain was led into the Iraq war, was buried on Wednesday, 19 days after he was found dead with a slit wrist.

A private funeral and burial for the one-time UN arms inspector took place at a church within sight of the woods in the English county of Oxfordshire where his body was found last month.

The funeral came a day after one of Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokespersons apologised for likening Kelly to the fictional daydreamer Walter Mitty during an off-the-record talk with a London newspaper.

Despite vigorous denials to the contrary, the gaff left the impression that Downing Street was out to blacken Kelly's name as the judicial inquiry into his apparent suicide gets underway.

His widow and their three daughters were among the 160 people at the funeral in Longworth, Oxfordshire which also included a prayer selected by Kelly's fellow followers of the Baha'i faith.

Govt presence 'discreet'

The British government's presence was discreet, with deputy prime minister John Prescott the most senior of the officials on hand. Lord Brian Hutton, the judge conducting an inquiry into Kelly's death which is due to begin hearing witnesses next Monday, was also present.

A lone bell tolled as Kelly's coffin, decked with a white wreath, was carried into the 13th century church, about 40 other wreaths lining the path.

In the churchyard, a British flag flew at half staff.

The village of Longworth was sealed off by police, as was the road to Kelly's house in a nearby village.

Blair himself is on a family vacation in Barbados this week. Also out of the country is Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary, another key figure in the affair.

Prescott, who is running the government in Blair's absence, wrote on Tuesday to Kelly's widow apologising for the Walter Mitty remark.

BBC source

Kelly has been identified as the source of a May 29 report on BBC radio that Blair's staff had misused intelligence data in a September 2002 dossier on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.

Kelly, a ministry of defence expert on chemical and biological weapons, contributed to the dossier.

According to the BBC report, one of the dossier's key claims - that Iraq could deploy chemical and biological weapons in just 45 minutes - was inserted despite reservations from intelligence chiefs.

Downing Street's denial of the report, and the BBC's refusal to correct it, triggered an ugly row between the government and the public broadcaster that was then overshadowed by Kelly's death.


One of Kelly's friends, television journalist Tom Mangold, recoiled at the Walter Mitty remark, interpreted in the British press as a metaphor for someone with delusions of grandeur.

"We will be sending to his destiny a man who did so much for peace and did so much to counteract evil and, ironically, one of the few people who would have discovered the evidence of the programme of weapons of mass destruction," Mangold said on BBC radio.

He said the vicar, Roy Woodhams, had told mourners in Longworth: "We are here because of the tragedy that has taken place.

We are not here for the media or to make a political statement or to apportion blame."

©Copyright 2003, News24 (South Africa)

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