Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary.
Betrayed by his MoD bosses
THE widow of Dr David Kelly yesterday all but sealed the fate of Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, as she described how her husband felt "betrayed" by the Ministry of Defence.
Giving evidence to the Hutton Inquiry through a video link, Janice Kelly said her husband was "ballistic" when it emerged that he was to be subjected to a televised grilling at the behest of the MoD.
She told the inquiry that he felt belittled by No10’s attempts to downplay his status - and had a "broken heart" in the final hours before he was found with a slit wrist in woods outside his home.
In a emotionally wrenching submission to the inquiry, made all the more devastating by the dignified and calm manner in which it was delivered, Mrs Kelly said her husband was certain that his identity would be protected by the MoD when he admitted talking to Andrew Gilligan, the BBC reporter.
As soon as he saw the MoD statement saying that an unnamed official had come forward, she said, he believed officials had left a trail to his door which the media was certain to follow.
Mrs Kelly described how she first realised what had happened when they were both watching a television report that the MoD had said an official had come forward.
"He said ‘It’s me.’ My reaction was total dismay. My heart sank. I was terribly worried because the fact that he had said that to me, I knew then he was aware his name would be in the public domain quite soon.
"He said in his own mind he knew from that point [the first MoD statement] that the press would soon put two and two together."
She then described how a unsolicited visit by a journalist gave the first taste of what was in store. She said that Nick Rufford of the Sunday Times used Rupert Murdoch’s name to try to persuade Dr Kelly to write an article in return for hotel accommodation.
Mr Rufford, she said, "said David was to be named that night and that the press were on their way in droves ... he got the impression from Nick that the gloves were off now, that Nick would use David’s name in any article that he wrote and he was extremely upset".
At this point, she said, Dr Kelly "said several times over coffee, over lunch, over afternoon tea that he felt totally let down and betrayed".
Asked whom he felt had betrayed him, she said: "He did not say in so many terms, but I believed he meant the MoD because they were the ones that had effectively let his name be known in the public domain."
Although Mrs Kelly was careful not to mention Mr Hoon by name, her clear and repeated identification of the MoD will make the Defence Secretary the most culpable minister in the chain of events.
Crucially, Mrs Kelly said that Dr Kelly had been assured by the MoD that he would not be named, a move which later threw him into the public battle between the government and the BBC.
"I think initially he had been led to believe that it would not go into the public domain. He had received assurances and that is why he was so very upset about it," she added.
Lord Hutton, who has shown particular interest in this point, asked who had given such assurances. "From his line manager, from all their seniors and from the people he had been interviewed by," she said.
The evidence most damaging to Mr Hoon was when Mrs Kelly detailed how there was no support from the MoD once her husband’s name was made public.
"There did not seem to be anything in the way of support. I was surprised nobody rang him and said: ‘Look, you know, why does not somebody come down to talk to you?’ And that had not happened," she said.
On their own initiative, she said, they identified a retreat in Cornwall where they could flee if necessary. They decided to go when the MoD telephoned and advised them to leave as soon as possible. They packed and left within ten minutes.
Describing the desperation which gripped Dr Kelly, she said he was in worse condition than he had been when visiting the former Soviet Union where his duties included interrogation.
"I had never in all the Russian visits and all the difficulties he had to go through in Iraq, where he had lots of discomforts, lots of horrors, guns pointing at him, munitions left lying around, I had never known him to be as unhappy as he was then. It was tangible," she said.
Barely controlling her grief, Mrs Kelly went on to tell the inquiry of the last moments she shared with her husband before he left the family home in Oxfordshire and went for the short walk during which he took his life by slashing his wrist with a pocket knife he had first owned as a boy scout.
"I just thought he had a broken heart. He really was very, very - he had shrunk into himself. He looked as though he had shrunk, but I had no idea at that stage of what he might do later, absolutely no idea at all," she continued.
Mrs Kelly said her husband had been frustrated by No 10’s strategy of attacking the BBC’s report by portraying Dr Kelly as a "technician" a "middle-ranking" official.
Surprisingly, Mrs Kelly was not asked about the BBC, or whether her husband had felt that Gilligan had exaggerated the report - the question which No 10 is most keen to answer.
However, Rachel Kelly, his daughter, said he was severely critical of Mr Gilligan’s report when he came to stay with her before giving evidence to the Commons foreign affairs select committee.
"He referred again to Andrew Gilligan and his feeling was that he had accumulated this information over time and he could not understand how Gilligan could make such forceful claims from the conversation that they had had," she said.
She then said that Dr Kelly had described the Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay as an "utter b*****d" because of the manner of his questioning.
The MP had told Dr Kelly he was "chaff" and a "fall guy" for the government.
The portrait of a man on the brink of emotional collapse was confirmed by Ms Kelly who described her father's mood once he had been outed as the source of the BBC story.
"He just seemed under an overwhelming amount of stress, that is the only way I can describe it, that there was something on his mind. I would guess he was contemplating the day ahead of him the next day, but he also seemed to be finding it almost painful to think about it. He was just very withdrawn, and I was just very, very concerned about him," she said.
The inquiry will today hear from doctors and paramedics and from Barney Leith, co-ordinator of the Baha’i faith of which Dr Kelly was a member.
Writing exclusively for The Scotsman two weeks ago, Mr Leith said that his faith explicitly condemns suicide as it curtails the opportunity for self-improvement.
©Copyright 2003, The Scotsman (UK)
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