Special Report: David Kelly
Kelly's chilling words: 'I'll be found dead in the woods'
Ewen MacAskill, Nicholas Watt and Vikram Dodd
The weapons specialist, Dr David Kelly, said six months ago that he would "probably be found dead in the woods" if the American and British invasion of Iraq went ahead, Lord Hutton's inquiry was told yesterday.
His chilling prediction of his own death during a conversation with the British diplomat David Broucher in Geneva in February, throws new light on his state of mind about the row over Britain's role in the Iraq war.
In a startling string of revelations yesterday, Lord Hutton's inquiry was told that Dr Kelly:
· confirmed there had been a "robust" debate between Downing Street and the intelligence services about the September dossier on weapons of mass destruction
· expressed scepticism about British claims that Iraq's weapons capability could be deployed quickly
· had been in direct contact with senior Iraqi scientists and officials he knew, promising them the war could be avoided
· feared he had "betrayed" these contacts and that the invasion had left him in a "morally ambiguous" position.
The latest twists came as Lord Hutton announced that Tony Blair would give evidence on Thursday and the defence secretary, Geoff Hoon, on Wednesday. Both will be pressed about the September dossier and about the way the government helped put Dr Kelly's name into the public domain.
The disclosure of Dr Kelly's unease about the Iraq war even before the invasion on March 20 undermines assumptions that his apparent suicide was tied to recent events, principally the pressure he came under last month over his conversations with the BBC reporter, Andrew Gilligan.
Dr Kelly's body was found in woods near his home last month.
Towards the end of Lord Hutton's inquiry yesterday, Mr Broucher, British ambassador to the disarmament conference in Geneva, made a surprise appearance.
He said he had sent an email to Patrick Lamb, his boss at the Foreign Office, on August 5, recalling a chance conversation with Dr Kelly at disarmament talks in February, in which he set out his concerns.
Elaborating on the email yesterday, Mr Broucher said that Dr Kelly had told him the government had pressured the intelligence community to make the September dossier as "robust as possible, that every judgment [in the dossier] had been robustly fought over".
Contrary to a claim in the dossier that biological and chemical weapons could be deployed within 45 minutes, Dr Kelly said he thought the weapons and the material to be placed inside them "would be kept separately from the munitions and that this meant that the weapons could not be used quickly".
It emerged this week that the MoD knew that Dr Kelly's views on Iraq could make uncomfortable reading for the government, and the conver sation with Mr Broucher bears out why the MoD - in particular, Mr Hoon - was so keen to prevent any disclosures.
A government memo published yesterday showed that Mr Hoon tried to stop Dr Kelly talking about weapons of mass destruction when he appeared before the Commons foreign affairs select committee.
Mr Broucher said that Dr Kelly thought that the UN weapons inspectors could gain a good idea of the state of the Iraqi arsenal because the Iraqis had learned during the British colonial days to keep full written records. That assessment runs counter to the US, which insisted inspectors were wasting their efforts.
A crucial point in the conversation with Mr Broucher was Dr Kelly's revelation about continued links with Iraqis after working in Iraq in the 90s as a UN weapons inspector. He had retained contacts with Iraqi scientists and officials, and told Mr Broucher he had tried to persuade them to comply with the inspectors in order to avoid invasion.
In his email, Mr Broucher said Dr Kelly's concern was that "if an invasion now went ahead, that would make him a liar and he would have betrayed his contacts, some of whom might be killed as a direct result of his actions".
Mr Broucher added: "I asked what would happen then, and he replied, in a throwaway line, that he would 'probably be found dead in the woods'."
His interpretation of this was Dr Kelly feared a personal attack by the Iraqis: "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."
Barney Leith, secretary of the National Spiritual assembly of Britain, who knew Dr Kelly and will testify before the Hutton inquiry about the impact of the Baha'i faith had on him, said he could not know whether the scientist might have taken his own life because of guilt. But he added: "The teachings of the Baha'i faith strongly emphasise the importance of ... keeping one's word."
©Copyright 2003, Guardian (UK)
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