Special report: David Kelly
Media exposure 'led to Kelly suicide'
Tuesday September 2, 2003
David Kelly committed suicide at "his dismay at being exposed to the media", the director of the centre for suicide research at Oxford University told the Hutton inquiry today.
Professor Keith Hawton said that his conclusion - following a report into Dr Kelly's death - was that the Ministry of Defence scientist suffered "a severe loss of self-esteem".
"His feeling was that people had lost trust in him and he would have seen it as a public disgrace."
Professor Hawton said it was "well nigh certain" that Dr Kelly committed suicide and there were no third parties involved.
That damning testimony makes it more likely than ever that culprits will need to be found when Lord Hutton's report is finally published.
Professor Hawton said Dr Kelly on the last day of his life, as he prepared to furnish the foreign affairs committee with a full list of journalists he had spoken to, "must have begun to fear he would lose his job altogether".
He added: "That filled him with a profound sense of helplessness, and that in a sense his life's work ... had been totally undermined."
Professor Hawton said that risk factors for older suicide cases included people being "perfectionist" or "rigid", two factors which appeared to apply to Dr Kelly.
The professor, a consultant psychiatrist, speculated that Dr Kelly may have decided to kill himself on the morning of Thursday July 17 at the point when he got up and left his study in the middle of work, and went and slumped in an armchair in the family sitting room.
He added that it was "entirely consistent" with Dr Kelly's apparently normal demeanour when he met neighbour Ruth Absalom walking her dog on his fateful walk that he appeared to her to be normal. He said that in suicide cases "having already decided ... leads to a sense of peace and calm".
The professor dismissed Dr Kelly's infamous remark that an Iraq war would see him being found "dead in the woods" as "a pure coincidence and not relevant to understanding Kelly's death".
Earlier this afternoon confused details emerged of a photograph found in Dr Kelly's study.
PC Jonathan Sawyer revealed that one officer believed the photograph, showing Dr Kelly and another man outside the Russian parliament in Moscow in 1993, identified the man as Andrew Gilligan.
Despite gasps in the media marquee he went onto add that another police officer disagreed with the identification, he himself had no opinion, and the photograph will now be presented to the Hutton inquiry as evidence tomorrow.
The BBC today denied that Gilligan had ever been in Moscow.
Earlier the court heard testimony from Barnabus Leith, the secretary of the national spiritual assembly of the Baha'i faith, who denied media reports that Dr Kelly had addressed a Baha'i meeting on the September dossier.
Mr Leith said that the scientist was always "particularly discreet" and that although Dr Kelly did address a meeting in Oxfordshire about his work as a weapons inspector, it was not a Baha'i faith meeting and he neither mentioned the dossier nor was asked about it.
Mr Leith was also keen to rectify any impression that his religion condoned suicide, saying self harm was "an undue curtailment of life" and that the Baha'i was now "praying for the progress of his soul".
Mr Leith revealed that Dr Kelly joined the religion - founded by an Iranian prophet in the 19th century - while in California in September 1999.
After lunch there was puzzling evidence from the two paramedics, Vanessa Hunt and David Bartlett, who both expressed surprise at how little blood there was at the scene of death - in contradiction to police accounts.
Ms Hunt said the "amount of blood seemed relatively minimal" and Mr Bartlett said he was "surprised there wasn't more blood on the body".
However their accounts matched those of the police in terms of Dr Kelly's body position, and the finding of a wristwatch, knife and bottle of water.
But Professor Hawton expressed his confidence that as far as any third person involved in the death was concerned "circumstances suggest that was not the case".
Professor Hawton said there were no signs of violence on the body and no sign of trampled vegetation and he revealed that Dr Kelly had taken approximately 30 tablets of copraximol which would have been difficult for someone to administer to him without signs of violence.
Asked by James Dingemans QC whether a "lay person" could have predicted the outcome of Dr Kelly's stress, he said it was "certainly not an outcome one would have predicted".
©Copyright 2003, The Guardian (UK)
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