David Kelly was not murdered
Quote:Every few months comes the same little media brush fire, the same apologetic calls from the television news people. And just as a lawyer at a dinner table will usually be asked for free legal advice, there is one question I can predict will come up when dining among strangers. With varying emphasis, and varying degrees of subtlety, what my questioners always ask is whether David Kelly was murdered. My answer – no – is seldom popular. I remember giving it to a young colleague of the Parliament Square peace camper, Brian Haw, as we talked in front of what Hello! magazine would call Mr Haw's lovely tent. She instantly produced a megaphone and denounced me to the passing traffic as a despicable Establishment sell-out.
Last week saw a slightly larger brush fire than usual. A new group of doctors echoed what some other medics have said: that the principal cause of death given by the Hutton inquiry, haemorrhage from a severed ulnar artery, was "unsafe". This has put new wind in the murder party's sails – though the doctors themselves, significantly, are careful to avoid direct challenge to the finding of suicide. As the man at the heart of the story, and one of the only people in this debate who has actually met David Kelly, let me explain why I think that David probably did take his own life, and why that finding was one of the few things which Lord Hutton – probably – got right.
I should start, though, by admitting that as well as being horrified at David's death, I was very, very surprised. He didn't strike me as the suicidal type, if there is such a thing. He was well used to confrontation and pressure: he'd been a weapons inspector in Iraq, for goodness' sake. By the day he died, the worst of the pressure was essentially over: Parliament was about to break for the summer, I and the BBC, which I was reporting for at the time, had refused to confirm whether David was my source for the Iraq "dodgy dossier" story, and the battle between Downing Street and the Corporation had reached stalemate.
As well as the doctors' point that David could not have bled to death from cutting an ulnar artery – a small artery which retracts if severed – there were several other apparently suspicious factors about the case. The paramedics who found his body noticed little blood. The pathologist who pronounced the cause of death later had a change of heart. The police found no fingerprints on the knife that David supposedly used to kill himself. The cause of death was rare – David was reportedly the only person in England to die in that way the whole of that year. Operation Mason, the police investigation into his death, started nine hours before he was even reported missing. There was no full inquest, almost unheard of in cases of this kind, and the papers on the death have been sealed for 70 years.
Yet most of these facts turn out to have seemingly plausible explanations.
The pathologist did change his view as to the precise cause of David's death, but still ruled out the possibility that foul play was involved. Thames Valley police have said that the start time of Operation Mason was chosen in retrospect to reflect the period of interest. The absence of fingerprints on the knife may be explained by the fact that the knife handle was reportedly covered in gaffer tape, which does not easily hold fingerprints, or by the fact that it spent the night in the open. Importantly, the knife itself was one that David kept in his study and which had belonged to him from boyhood.
The fact that a cause of death is rare does not mean that it is unheard-of, or impossible. The severing of the ulnar artery, as the doctors concede in their letter, was in fact only one cause of death. The full stated cause of death is actually the combination of the severed artery with two other things: David's long-standing heart condition of coronary artery atherosclerosis, and his swallowing 29 co-proxamol tablets.
There are just as many, if not more, experts who state that this cause is entirely plausible, including, for instance, Professor Robert Forrest, a toxicologist and former president of the Forensic Science Society, who stresses that it was the "interaction" of the three factors that led to the death. Even if the latest set of doctors are right, and the ulnar artery explanation is wrong, it is, as they implicitly concede, a narrow point which does not necessarily cast fresh doubt on the suicide verdict.
Over Iraq, I was shocked, even as an un-illusioned journalist, at the behaviour of which the British Government showed itself capable. And I have made a successful career, including winning the top award in the profession, from being sceptical of official explanations. But the central reason why I accept these particular official explanations, and do not believe that all who make them are engaged in an Establishment cover-up, is this. Even if you believe that the British Government murders its own staff in cold blood – which I don't – what motive could they possibly have had for killing David Kelly? In whose interest could it possibly have been to murder him?
By the time he died, David was no longer an obscure official. He had been at the centre of a national row. His death plunged the last government into its greatest crisis from which it never fully recovered. Killing him was guaranteed to create such a crisis, as anyone with an iota of sense would have known.
Norman Baker, the Lib Dem MP, has proposed alternative candidates for the murderers: the groups run by the Iraqi exiles Ahmed Chalabi and Ayad Allawi, main peddlers of the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) nonsense to Western governments, keen not to have their fantasies exposed before they could consolidate their control of Iraq. But David believed there were some WMD in Iraq, and was keen to find them.
The idea that Chalabi or Allawi, fighting far more urgent battles in postwar Baghdad, would have bothered about a British political row is just silly. In any case, neither man can run a bath, let alone a sophisticated hit in a foreign country. Why do it in such a complicated, melodramatic way – the knife from the desk drawer drawn across the wrist, the 29 pills stuffed down his throat? And could they really have managed to rope in the entire British state – pathologists, police forces and the rest – to their grand design? Even as I type, it is clearly beyond preposterous.
Though I'd initially doubted the suicide verdict, that was before I knew quite how badly David had been treated. After learning what he went through at the hands of his employers, it is easier to understand the road that led him to that Oxfordshire hillside. David was placed under great pressure by senior government figures. He was intensively interviewed, forced into televised interrogation, coached in what to say, and then found himself caught in an untruth amid the blaze of publicity – an untruth which, on the morning of his death, his bosses told him they would investigate.
David defined himself by his work, and his reputation for integrity. The fear of losing that work, and that reputation, must have been terrifying to him, even if it was unfounded. Nor had I known (why should I?) of his relationship with his wife – who, we discovered, was not even told he had taken up the Baha'i faith until nearly two years afterwards. All this points to suicide – with only one faint alternative possibility. Not murder, just perhaps a kind of misadventure – a "cry for help" that went wrong.
I'm often surprised at the enduring interest in this one man's death. If you seek government culpability, the deaths of 150,000 Iraqis would seem, to me, rather more the point. David's was a mainly personal tragedy – and the reason Lord Hutton circumvented the inquest, and sealed the evidence, was not some conspiracy, but because his family wanted it. Among those calling for an inquest, David's widow and daughters have been notable by their absence.
Now, however, I believe that more harm and distress may be being caused by the endless tide of junk speculation than by holding a proper inquest. We should have one, if only to stop the nonsense once and for all.
The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall. - Che Guevara
Resistance Films Youtube Channel