Dr Kelly ‘exterminated’ by agents: true or false?
Robert Fox on the growing suspicion that the Iraq inquiries are meant to pull the wool over our eyes
The ghost of Dr David Kelly, the British government scientist who died in mysterious circumstances shortly after Britain and America went to war in Iraq seven years ago, continues to haunt the corridors of power in Whitehall, and no doubt the postmodern Disneyland fortress HQ of MI6 just across the Thames.
The Mail on Sunday claimed yesterday that Dr Kelly, a former inspector of Iraq's biological and chemical weapons with the UN, was "exterminated" by British government agents "for his reckless behaviour".
Dr Kelly's death in 2003 came after the Blair government's ubiquitous cheerleader and town-crier Alastair Campbell, in a burst of self-righteous indignation, charged that he had spoken out of turn to journalists, Andrew Gilligan of the BBC in particular. As a result, Kelly was hounded publicly and mauled in a House of Commons committee hearing.
Days later he was dead, apparently after taking drugs and slashing his wrist with a pruning knife on Harrowdown Hill near his home at Southmoor in Oxfordshire. The special inquiry into the affair led by Lord Hutton found that he had died by his own hand, and that Gilligan's BBC Radio report had distorted what he had actually said.
Rumours and doubts about the Hutton verdict have persisted, with doctors, military officers and former Ministry of Defence officials questioning the findings.
Now, in a report as strange and contorted as the affair of Kelly's death itself, the Mail on Sunday has interviewed a former KGB agent, Boris Korpichkov, who came to Britain in 1998 and then teamed up with a former MI5 man, Peter Everett, in a company called Global Intelligence Services.
In a series of conversations, Everett allegedly told Korpichkov that Kelly had been "exterminated" by a "rival firm" - meaning a rival British agency to MI6.
Despite all the inverted commas round the word "exterminated", the charge is little short of sensational. Yet the Mail on Sunday buried the story on its inside pages. Why?
The Kelly affair, and the startling one-sidedness of the Hutton inquiry, continue to worry an increasingly vociferous and growing number of highly placed professional experts.
On July 17, the seventh anniversary of Dr Kelly's death, Dr Peter Fletcher, former Chief Scientific Officer at the Home Office, told the Daily Express of his grave doubts about Hutton's conclusions. He said the circumstances of the inquiry "stink".
First, he said, Hutton didn't have the technical competence of a coroner to carry out a proper inquest, yet the inquiry was used by the government in place of a formal inquest. "Dr Kelly did not lose enough blood to cause his death," said Dr Fletcher.
On top of this, there has been recent evidence that, owing to an injury, Kelly did not have the strength to slash his wrist effectively – he even had to have his meat cut up for him at the table. His dentist was dismayed to find that his medical records had vanished from her office at the time of the death.
The fact that Special Branch officers were the first on the scene, that the body was moved, and fingerprints wiped, has also caused public consternation.
The first question is why did Dr Kelly, a renowned scientist whose contract with the government had allowed him to talk to journalists, so upset the Tony Blair government, in particular his kitchen cabinet? That he did, there is no doubt – just look back at the Mr Punch rantings of Alastair Campbell at Channel 4's Jon Snow and others.
Why did the MoD, from its senior management to its information department, act with such lack of care to one of its senior staff – with some of the very highest officials whispering to journalists that Kelly was "a Walter Mitty fantasist"?
Furthermore, why was Lord Hutton allowed to order that the full detailed postmortem medical report should not be published for 70 years?
My cynical French and Italian colleagues like to point out that in their languages the word 'suicide' can be transitive as well as intransitive. A person may be "suicided", as well as "commit suicide".
Like the Roma lawyer, we then have to ask, cui bono? Who does this benefit?
The Kelly affair is all of a piece with the succession of skewed inquiries into Tony Blair's Great Adventure in Iraq - the current Chilcot inquiry as well as those by Hutton and Butler.
Chilcot has been trying to keep away from the crucial matters of intelligence, the law, and mismanagement by civil servants. Yet by straight-talking, witnesses such as Elizabeth Wilmshurst, the FCO lawyer, Carne Ross, the diplomat at the UN and in Baghdad, and Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller, the former MI5 chief, have done their best to rip away the mask of what looks at times like a cover-up exercise.
For all the caveats, the Mail on Sunday allegation that Dr Kelly was killed adds to the growing suspicion that the succession of inquiries into Iraq and WMD set up by Blair and Brown were to pull the wool over our eyes. It will be a real test of the present government, and subsequent journalistic investigation, to ensure that they don't succeed. ·
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