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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 September, 2003, 13:04 GMT 14:04 UK

Kelly inquest may be reopened

The coroner will make his decision based on Lord Hutton's report

The inquest into the death Dr David Kelly may have to be reopened because some witnesses have refused to allow their statements to be passed to the Hutton inquiry.

The original inquest was adjourned under a section in the Coroners Act which allows a public inquiry conducted by a judge to fulfil the function of an inquest.

But Oxfordshire coroner Nicholas Gardiner said he may ask Thames Valley Police to hand over the evidence if he is not satisfied with Lord Hutton's findings.

Dr Kelly apparently killed himself after being named as the suspected source of a BBC report claiming the government "sexed up" a dossier on the threat from Iraq.

Mr Gardiner said: "I shall in due course have to decide if grounds exist to resume the inquest, but I can't do anything until I see Hutton's report.

Nothing pertinent

"I may ask the police to see the reports if necessary and then I will decide whether to reopen the inquest.

"That's what it boils down to. Why these witnesses did not want their evidence to go forward to the inquiry I do not know."

Thames Valley Police confirmed that a number of witnesses did not allow their statements to go to the inquiry, but insisted there was nothing "pertinent" in them.

A spokesman refused to confirm reports that one of the individuals was Mai Pederson, the American linguist who introduced Dr Kelly to the Baha'i faith.

The coroner will read it and can make a decision about whether he wishes to reopen the inquest or whether he is satisfied with the findings
Spokesman for Hutton Inquiry

Earlier this week the force's assistant chief constable, Michael Page, told the Hutton Inquiry that Ms Pederson had given a statement to police but that it contained nothing of relevance.

It is understood there was a clause on the statement form asking if witnesses agreed to their statements going forward to the inquiry.

Unlike a coroner's inquest, the Hutton Inquiry did not have the power to compel people to appear or hand over evidence.

The police interviewed some 500 people and took 300 witness statements during the investigation, but fewer than 70 were handed over to Lord Hutton.

Avoiding trauma

Most of the others were not deemed relevant by officers.

A spokesman for the Hutton inquiry said the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, would provide Mr Gardiner with a copy of Lord Hutton's report after receiving it himself.

"The coroner will read it and can make a decision about whether he wishes to reopen the inquest or whether he is satisfied with the findings," he said.

"Lord Falconer directed that the inquest should not go ahead at the same time as the inquiry to avoid causing more trauma for the Kelly family. After the inquiry it will be up to the coroner."

The spokesman added: "The Hutton inquiry does not have any statutory powers and so witnesses were perfectly entitled to withhold their statements."

©Copyright 2003, BBC News (UK)

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