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September 21, 2003

Seven steps of despair that led to Kelly death

David Leppard and Jonathon Carr-Brown

A CONFIDENTIAL report by detectives investigating the death of Dr David Kelly has identified the “chain of events” that led to the government scientist’s apparent suicide.

The report, due to be handed to Lord Hutton this week, is understood to identify key incidents as the row between the BBC and the government over Kelly’s secret briefing to Andrew Gilligan, the reporter on the Today programme, spiralled out of control.

The Thames Valley police report is being submitted to Hutton in his additional role as coroner investigating the immediate causes of Kelly’s death.

More than 30 detectives have spent the past two months trawling over every detail of Kelly’s final weeks. They have scrutinised all his personal papers, including the contents of seven computers on which he kept documents and thousands of e-mails. Sources say the police report reflects the account given by his wife Janice in her public evidence to Hutton.

Janice Kelly told Hutton how her husband’s demeanour had changed towards the end of June and highlighted key events: oJune 30: Kelly wrote to his manager confessing to meeting Gilligan, the BBC Radio 4 reporter who broadcast the allegation about the government dossier. He told his wife at the time he was worried about “something professional”. oJuly 8: While watching a Channel 4 news report about how an unnamed Ministry of Defence (MoD) official had admitted speaking to Gilligan, he said that he was Gilligan’s source. “He was desperately unhappy about possibly being named,” she said. oJuly 9: Nicholas Rufford, a senior reporter at The Sunday Times, called at the scientist’s Oxfordshire home. After he left, Kelly told his wife he felt “totally let down” by the MoD. oJuly 10: While hiding from the media in Cornwall after being named in that morning’s daily newspapers, Kelly went “totally ballistic” when the MoD said he was to appear before the foreign affairs select committee. oJuly 14: The scientist’s mood became blacker when he was told that Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, had described him as a junior official. Kelly reacted with “hysterical laughter”. He was deeply hurt, according to his wife. oJuly 15: His appearance before the foreign affairs select committee turned into “a total nightmare”. Kelly was forced to run a media gauntlet and faced aggressive questioning. oJuly 17: He was forced by the MoD to admit his contacts with Susan Watts, another BBC correspondent. Janice Kelly said it “appeared he had a broken heart”. She added: “He looked as though he had shrunk. He couldn’t put two sentences together.” That afternoon he went for his last walk.

Police have already told the inquiry that they are satisfied there is no evidence that any third party was involved in his death. They also found no foundation for suggestions that any close friendships he may have had with female colleagues contributed in any way to his death.

The report comes as Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary, is preparing to admit that he did play a role in exposing Kelly to the media. In evidence earlier this month, Hoon said that he had played “no part” in drawing up the strategy.

Asked specifically by James Dingemans, counsel to the inquiry, if he had any knowledge of question-and-answer papers telling press officers how to confirm Kelly’s identity to the media, Hoon replied: “Can I make it clear that I did not see either of these documents. They were not submitted to my office. That would not be something I would normally deal with.”

However, last week Pam Teare, director of news at the MoD, told Hutton that she thought Hoon “may have already seen” the material. Richard Taylor, Hoon’s special adviser, earlier claimed that Hoon did attend a meeting which discussed confirming Kelly’s name to the media.

Hoon will be at his most vulnerable when he is cross-examined by barristers acting for the Kelly family, which believes that the MoD betrayed Kelly by placing him in the spotlight.

However, last week MoD officials took a harder line when quizzed on this issue, saying they had done everything by the book and that Kelly had put himself in the spotlight by briefing the BBC without authorisation in the first place.

Two other central figures in the drama will also be exposed to cross-examination this week. Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former director of communications, is likely to be asked whether he exaggerated the presentation of intelligence in the dossier.

Brian Jones, a former senior member of the defence intelligence staff, has testified that in recommending changes to the dossier’s language, Campbell acted no differently from intelligence officials.

This point is also likely to be raised with John Scarlett, chairman of the joint intelligence committee. Scarlett has insisted that he — rather than Campbell and the Downing Street spin machine — had “ownership” of the Iraq dossier.

New details have also emerged of Dr Kelly’s friendship with Mai Pederson, a US military linguist who served with him as a United Nations weapons inspector in 1998 and later introduced him to the Baha’i religion.

Pederson was his mentor when he converted to the faith in Monterey, California, in September 1999. This weekend Lee Steinmetz, chairman of the Baha’i chapter in Monterey, recalled conversations that he had held with the couple when he hiked with them in 1999 to Point Lobos, a beauty spot on the Pacific coast.

Steinmetz dismissed suggestions that Pederson’s faith was simply a pretext to extract intelligence from Kelly. He said that he saw nothing which suggested that they were involved in a romantic relationship.

Gilligan told friends this weekend that reports that he had been abandoned by the BBC were wrong. He is said to have received personal messages of support from the corporation’s senior management and he has no intention of resigning, although one source said: “He understands that if it is a choice between him and the renewal of the BBC charter, he will be thrown overboard.”

©Copyright 2003, Times (UK)

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