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Conspiracy Files: Was Iraq Weapons Inspector Dr David Kelly Murdered And It Made To Look Like Suicide in 2003?

Last update: 18th April, 2016

The official view of the Hutton Inquiry into his death:

"I am satisfied that Dr Kelly took his own life and that the principal cause of death was bleeding from incised wounds to his left wrist which Dr Kelly had inflicted on himself with the knife found beside his body. It is probable that the ingestion of an excess amount of Coproxamol tablets coupled with apparently clinically silent coronary artery disease would have played a part in bringing about death more certainly and more rapidly than it would have otherwise been the case. I am further satisfied that no other person was involved in the death of Dr Kelly and that Dr Kelly was not suffering from any significant mental illness at the time he took his own life." [Source: Hutton Inquiry]

Dr David Kelly

Summary: Dr David Kelly, a weapons inspector who worked for the Ministry of Defence, became the centre of a media storm in the UK following a broadcast by Andrew Gilligan on the Radio 4 Today program, the full transcript is below.

Gilligan quoted unnamed sources (but those sources must have been Dr David Kelly) that claimed that Tony Blair's government knowingly included a claim that they knew to be wrong that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) that could be used within 45 minutes in a report urging Iraq's invasion.

Dr Kelly wrote to his line manager on 30 June 2003 to inform them of a meeting with Gilligan that had taken place on 22nd May 2003, although he said he did not think he was the primary source of the information.

Dr Kelly was ultimately named by the Ministry of Defence as the source of the comments after the Ministry of Defence gave enough information for a journalist to work out his identity.

Dr David Kelly appeared at the Foreign Affairs Select Committee on 15 July 2003. Dr Kelly denied he was the source of Andrew Gilligan's story. Kelly was also questioned about a similar story given to BBC Newsnight reporter Susan Watts, which he also denied giving quotes to.

On the 16 July 2003, Kelly gave evidence to the Intelligence and Security Committee. He told them that he liaised with Operation Rockingham within the Defence Intelligence Staff.

17th July 2003 at 3pm Dr David Kelly went for a walk as he normally did every day. His body was discovered 18 July 2003 in Harrowdown Hill, about half a mile from his home. He was 59 years old.

The conspiracy theories:

There has never been a formal inquest into Dr David Kelly's death. There is a legal requirement for an inquest into a sudden or unnatural death in the UK

A helicopter landed at the scene of Dr David Kelly's death at Harrowdown Hill in Oxfordshire at 10.55am on July 18, 2003, within 90 minutes of his body being found. The helicopter had been hired by Thames Valley Police. It was on the ground only for 5 minutes, suggesting it was picking up or leaving something or somebody. The helicopter was not mentioned at the Hutton Inquiry. [Source: Daily Mail]

Why did the detective (DC Graham Coe of Thames Valley Police) who guarded Dr Kelly's body for 25 minutes after it was discovered, not tell the Hutton Inquiry that there were two other people with him? A man in a suit and his partner. [Source: Telegraph, TheWeek, Daily Mail]

According to Dr David Kelly's widow, as reported in the Daily Mail, police stripped wallpaper from their sitting room on the night of his disappearance. Why? [Daily Mail]

How did Dr Kelly cut his left wrist if, as friends said (said to be including Mai Pederson - Daily Mail), he had previously damaged his right arm to such a degree that he struggled to cut steak? Mai Pederson also is said to have told police that that Kelly had a 'pills phobia'. [Telegraph, Daily Mail]

Nine doctors, including doctors with experience in vascular surgery and forensic medicine, say that Dr Kelly couldn't have died from cutting the ulnar artery which is the 'width of a matchstick'. To die from blood loss Kelly would have had to have lost 5 pints of blood (2,700ml), which would be impossible through this small artery. Other doctors have disputed this assertion. [Independent]

Why was the ulnar artery severed rather than the radial, which is how the cut would "naturally" have been made, from left to right, with the right hand? [Telegraph]

Why were there no fingerprints on the knife, pill bottle, water bottle or glasses when Dr Kelly was not wearing gloves? [Sources:Telegraph, Daily Mail ]

Why did the helicopter which passed over the scene with heat-seeking equipment not detect the body soon after his death? [Telegraph]

According to the Daily Mail Lord Hutton says that there is photographic evidence that Dr Kelly was propped up on a tree when he was found. However the first paramedic to arrive said he was flat on his back. Why was his body moved?

Why did Paul Weaving, supposedly the last person to see David Kelly alive not give evidence to the Hutton inquiry? Why did the head of the investigation into Dr Kelly's death, Detective Constable Shields, not give evidence to the Hutton inquiry? Also, Dr Eileen Hickey, the forensic biologist who attended Dr Kelly at Harrowdown Hill, was not called to give evidence at the Hutton inquiry. [Telegraph, Daily Mail]

As reported in the Daily Mail, former MP Robert Jackson claims that Dr Kelly's GP, Dr Malcolm Warner, told him he saw the body immediately after it's discovery. Dr Warner did not report this to the Hutton Inquiry, it is said.

A 110ft communications mast was erected outside Dr David Kelly's house on the 18th July after he was reported missing. Was this used to communicate with Prime Minister Tony Blair, or head of communications Alistair Campbell? asks the Daily Mail.

Dr David Kelly was writing a tell all book. But following his death this has disappeared, claims the Daily Mail.

Where are Dr Kelly's computers? [Telegraph]

11 months after the Hutton inquiry the paramedics who attended Dr Kelly's body gave a press conference. Dave Bartlett and Vanessa Hunt said that the scene was unusually free of blood. [Conspiracy Files, BBC]

Richard Spertzel - fellow wmd inspector and colleague of Dr Kelly - thought the suicide verdict sounded funny. Unlikely he would have abandoned his family, he says. [Conspiracy Files, BBC]

Before Dr Kelly died he wrote emails to friends saying he would be back in Iraq soon. [Conspiracy Files, BBC]

Michael Shrimpton, a barrister says his contacts told him Dr david Kelly was murdered. Coproxamol tablets a cover, the slashed wrists to cover up injection marks of a poison. [Conspiracy Files, BBC]


What started it all: At 6.07am on May 29 2003 Andrew Gilligan reported on radio 4's prestigious Today programme:

(Some of the hesitations edited out of the first report) Source: [BBC Transcript - Guardian - includes next interaction with modified comments]

John Humphrys: The government is facing more questions this morning over its claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Our defence correspondent is Andrew Gilligan. This in particular, Andy, is Tony Blair saying they'd be ready to go within forty five minutes? Andrew Gilligan: That's right, that was the central claim in his dossier which he published in September, the main case, if you like against Iraq and the main statement of the British government's belief of what it thought Iraq was up to and what we've been told by one of the senior officials in charge of drawing up that dossier was that, actually the government probably, erm, knew that that forty five minute figure was wrong, even before it decided to put it in. What this person says, is that a week before the publication date of the dossier, it was actually rather erm, a bland production. It didn't, the, the draft prepared for Mr Blair by the Intelligence Agencies actually didn't say very much more than was public knowledge already and erm, Downing Street, our source says, ordered a week before publication, ordered it to be sexed up, to be made more exciting and ordered more facts to be er, to be discovered.

John Humphrys: When you say `more facts to be discovered', does that suggest that they may not have been facts?

Andrew Gilligan: Well, erm, our source says that the dossier, as it was finally published, made the Intelligence Services unhappy, erm, because, to quote erm the source he said, there was basically, that there was, there was, there was unhappiness because it didn't reflect the considered view they were putting forward, that's a quote from our source and essentially, erm, the forty five minute point er, was, was probably the most important thing that was added. Erm, and the reason it hadn't been in the original draft was that it was, it was only erm, it only came from one source and most of the other claims were from two, and the intelligence agencies say they don't really believe it was necessarily true because they thought the person making the claim had actually made a mistake, it got, had got mixed up.

John Humphrys: Does any of this matter now, all this, all these months later? The war's been fought and won.

Andrew Gilligan: Well the forty five minutes isn't just a detail, it did go to the heart of the government's case that Saddam was an imminent threat and it was repeated four times in the dossier, including by the Prime Minister himself, in the forward; so I think it probably does matter. Clearly, you know, if erm, if it, if it was, if it was wrong, things do, things are, got wrong in good faith but if they knew it was wrong before they actually made the claim, that's perhaps a bit more serious.

John Humphrys: Andrew, many thanks; more about that later.

The second report:

John Humphrys: Twenty eight minutes to eight. Tony Blair had quite a job persuading the country and indeed his own MP s to support the invasion of Iraq; his main argument was that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction that threatened us all. None of those weapons has been found. Now our defence correspondent, Andrew Gilligan, has found evidence that the government's dossier on Iraq that was produced last September, was cobbled together at the last minute with some unconfirmed material that had not been approved by the Security Services. Now you told us about this earlier on the programme Andy, and we've had a statement from 10 Downing Street that says it's not true, and let me just quote what they said to you. `Not one word of the dossier was not entirely the work of the intelligence agencies' . Sorry to submit you to this sort of English but there we are. I think we know what they mean. Are you suggesting, let's be very clear about this, that it was not the work of the intelligence agencies.

Andrew Gilligan: No, the information which I'm told was dubious did come from the agencies, but they were unhappy about it, because they didn't they think it should have been in there. They thought it was, it was not corroborated sufficiently, and they actually thought it was wrong, they thought the informant concerned erm, had got it wrong, they thought he'd misunderstood what was happening. I mean let's, let's go through this. This is the dossier that was published in September last year, erm, probably the most substantial statement of the government's case against Iraq. You'll remember that the Commons was recalled to debate it, Tony Blair made the opening speech. It is not the same as the famous dodgy dossier, the one that was copied off the internet, that came later. This is quite a serious document. It dominated the news that day and you open up the dossier and the first thing you see is a preface written by Tony Blair that includes the following words, `Saddam's military planning allows for some weapons of mass destruction to be ready within forty five minutes of an order to deploy them'. Now that claim has come back to haunt Mr Blair because if the weapons had been that readily to hand, they probably would have been found by now. But you know, it could have been an honest mistake, but what I have been told is that the government knew that claim was questionable, even before the war, even before they wrote it in their dossier. I have spoken to a British official who was involved in the preparation of the dossier, and he told me that until the week before it was published, the draft dossier produced by the Intelligence services, added little to what was already publicly known. He said, `It was transformed in the week before it was published, to make it sexier . The classic example was the statement that weapons of mass destruction were ready for use within forty-five minutes. That information was not in the original draft. It was included in the dossier against our wishes, because it wasn't reliable. Most things in the dossier were double source, but that was single source, and we believed that the source was wrong'.

Now this official told us that the transformation of the dossier took place at the behest of Downing Street, and he added, `Most people in intelligence weren't happy with the dossier, because it didn't reflect the considered view they were putting forward' . Now I want to stress that this official and others I've spoken to, do still believe that Iraq did have some sort of weapons of mass destruction programme. `I believe it is about 30% likely there was a chemical weapons programme in the six months before the war and considerably more likely, that there was a biological weapons programme We think Hans Blix down-played a couple of potentially interesting pieces of evidence, but the weapons programme's were small - sanctions did limit the programme's. The official also added quite an interesting note about what has happened as a result since the war, of the capture of some Iraqi WMD scientists. `We don't have a great deal more information yet than we had before. We have not got very much out of the detainees yet.'

Now the forty five minutes really is, is not just a detail, it did go to the heart of the government's case that Saddam was an imminent threat, and it was repeated a further three times in the body of the dossier, and I understand that the parliamentary intelligence and security committee is going to conduct an enquiry in to the claims made by the British Government about Iraq, and it is obviously exactly this kind of issue that will be at the heart of their investigation.

John Humphrys: Andrew Gilligan, many thanks.


The Hutton inquiry, an investigation into Dr Kelly's death, found that:

1) The dossier, which included the 45 minutes claim, was issued by the Government on 24 September 2002 with the full approval of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC).

2) The 45 minutes claim was based on a report which was received by the SIS (Secret Intelligence Service, aka MI6) from a source which that Service regarded as reliable.

3) The reason why the 45 minutes claim did not appear in draft assessments or draft dossiers until 5 September 2002 was because the intelligence report on which it was based was not received by the SIS until 29 August 2002 and the JIC assessment staff did not have time to insert it in a draft until the draft of the assessment of 5 September 2002.

4) The allegations reported by Mr Gilligan on the BBC Today programme on 29 May 2003 that the Government probably knew that the 45 minutes claim was wrong or questionable before the dossier was published and that it was not inserted in the first draft of the dossier because it only came from one source and the intelligence agencies did not really believe it was necessarily true, were unfounded.

5) The allegations that Mr Gilligan was intending to broadcast in respect of the Government and the preparation of the dossier were very grave allegations in relation to a subject of great importance and I consider that the editorial system which the BBC permitted was defective in that Mr Gilligan was allowed to broadcast his report at 6.07am without editors having seen a script of what he was going to say and having considered whether it should be approved.


Update on 13th July 2013: Daily Mail alleges that a Tony Blair 'fixer' arranged for Lord Hutton to head an inquiry into the death of the weapons inspector within 3 hours of Dr Kelly's death. The inquiry was used as the reason for having no formal inquest, something that still has not happened. The significance of this is that within the first three hours following his death the body had not been officially identified and no cause of death had been given. The conclusions of the Hutton Inquiry have never been accepted by many conspiracists. [Daily Mail Revealed: How a Blair fixer picked the judge for the David Kelly Inquiry just three hours after the weapons inspector's suicide 13th July 2013]

The BBC's Conspiracy Files report on the death of Dr Kelly: