Doctors Seek to Reopen Inquest into Death of U.K. Weapons Expert

By Chris Dade | Dec 5, 2009

Six doctors, convinced that the man said to have revealed how the government of Tony Blair exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction did not commit suicide, are pressing for a new inquiry into the man's death.

In July 2003, 59-year-old Dr. David Kelly, the head of microbiology at the Porton Down biowarfare research laboratories near Salisbury, Wiltshire in the Southwest of England, was found dead in woods near his home in the neighboring county of Oxfordshire.

Dr. Kelly had cuts to his left wrist and three packets of a painkiller known as co-proxamol, there was only one tablet remaining out of the 30 that would have been contained in three packets, were found on or near to his body.

As the London Times reports the discovery of Dr. Kelly's body came only three days after he had appeared before the U.K. Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee. His appearance before the committee was linked to accusations, which he denied, that he provided information that was used in the making of a program for BBC Radio 4, broadcast two months earlier.

During the program it was suggested that the U.K. government, then led by Ton Blair, had "sexed up" a dossier which contained information on the weapons of mass destruction in the hands of then leader of Iraq, Saddam Hussein. The purpose of the 2002 dossier was to justify the invasion of Iraq that had taken place in March 2003.

An inquiry in to Dr Kelly's death, chaired by Lord Hutton, was subsequently held and in early 2004 the inquiry concluded that the man who, says the Daily Express, had visited Iraq on 37 occasions, with another trip due around the time of his death, to ascertain how many weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein did actually possess, bled to death from the cut on his wrist and also overdosed on co-proxamol.

However the suicide verdict reached by the Hutton inquiry, which Sky News notes was suspended before it had even begun, by Lord Falconer, at the time the Lord Chancellor, has always been disputed by a number of people within the medical profession.

Dr. Michael Powers QC, a former assistant coroner, is adamant that the cut to the ulnar artery in Dr Kelly's left wrist could not have caused death by bleeding. Furthermore toxicology reports allegedly indicated a level of co-proxamol in Dr Kelly's body consistent with him having taken a normal dose of the painkiller and inconsistent with him having taken 29 tablets.

And Dr. Powers, who has confirmed that Dr. Kelly suffered from heart disease that was not severe enough to have killed the weapons expert, and is unhappy that the inquiry, classed by Lord Falconer as "fulfilling the function of an inquest" by invoking the Coroners Act, was conducted by a person who is not a coroner, namely Lord Hutton, is one of six doctors taking legal action in an attempt to have the inquest in to Dr. Kelly's death reopened.

The London Times quotes Dr. Powers - joined in the legal action by trauma surgeon David Halpin, epidemiologist Andrew Rouse, surgeon Martin Birnstingl, radiologist Stephen Frost, and internal general medicine specialist Chris Burns-Cox - as saying of the death of Dr. Kelly, who said in a phone conversation just prior to his death that it would be no surprise if his body "was found in the woods":

Suicide cannot be presumed it has to be proven. From the evidence that we have as to the circumstances of his death, in particular the aspect of haemorrhage, we do not believe that there was sufficient evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he killed himself.

There are many times in political life that the country needs to have an answer and the desire to have an answer overwhelms the desire to get the right answer. There is that pressure to find a conclusion.

I have no doubt that many of us when we read about this thought that he had killed himself. But you cannot be certain.

Everyone’s death is significant. This death had a significance which was greater and I feel that the process of the investigation of death ought to have been a thorough one. That was not provided for him

The aim of the legal action is to force the matter before the High Court and Attorney General Baroness Scotland will being contacted with a view to achieving that aim.

There are those who believe that Dr. Kelly was murdered.

Richard Spertzel, responsible for the 1994-1999 search for any biological weapons held by Iraq and the head of a UN inspection team that cooperated with Dr. Kelly, is one individual who believes that his erstwhile colleague was indeed murdered.

According to a report in the Daily Express in July Mr Spertzel has asserted that he and Dr. Kelly were both on an assassination list compiled by the regime of Saddam Hussein and that it was Iraqi agents operating in the U.K. who killed the British weapons expert.

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