View Full Version : Body said to be of scientist who testified in Iraq dispute

07-19-03, 04:09 AM
Warren Hoge with Judith Miller, New York Times

Published July 19, 2003 LEAK19

LONDON -- The arms expert at the center of a dispute about whether the British government doctored its intelligence reports on Iraq's weapons programs to gain public support for going to war was found dead Friday morning near his home in Oxfordshire, his wife said.

The weapons specialist, Dr. David Kelly, left his home Thursday afternoon saying he was going for a walk and never returned, his wife, Jan Kelly, said in a telephone interview.

Jan Kelly said police had confirmed that the body was her husband's and that the cause of death was suicide. She declined to say what led police to that conclusion, saying that they had asked her not to discuss details.

The body was discovered on a footpath 5 miles from the Kelly residence in the village of Southmoor. The acting superintendent of the Thames Valley police, Dave Purnell, said a formal identification would be made today.

Jan Kelly said her husband had worked on Thursday morning on a report he said he owed the Foreign Office and had sent e-mail to friends. She had no indication that he was contemplating suicide, she said. "But he had been under enormous stress, as we all had been."

David Kelly, 59, an Oxford-educated former U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq with a specialty in biological weapons, faced tough questioning Tuesday from the House of Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs about whether he had been the source of an accusation broadcast by the BBC that the British government had doctored intelligence findings in its campaign to gain support for going to war in Iraq.

The implication of the badgering questions from the committee was that the scientist had been set up to rebut reports by the BBC about possible government manipulation of intelligence to exaggerate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

A soft-spoken civil servant in the Ministry of Defense accustomed to working behind the scenes, Kelly was pressed by committee members to say whether he was the "fall guy" in the bitter dispute that has pitted the government against the BBC and has been front-page news in Britain during the past week.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's communications and security director, Alastair Campbell, has conducted a wide-ranging campaign against the BBC, the world's largest public service broadcaster, alleging what he has called "an agenda against the war."

Blair was told about the discovery of the body during a flight to Tokyo from Washington on Friday, and upon his arrival, his spokesman said, "The prime minister is obviously very distressed for the family."

The case that put David Kelly in the public eye arose from a report broadcast May 29 asserting that a high-ranking British official had "sexed up" a government intelligence dossier by inserting a claim that Saddam had chemical and biological weapons that could be deployed in 45 minutes.

The BBC reporter, Andrew Gilligan, who covers military affairs, said the insertion had been made against the wishes of intelligence agencies. The weapons claim was the highlight of the report published by the government to persuade a dubious British public that military action was needed in Iraq.

Gilligan attributed his account to a senior weapons scientist he had met at a downtown London hotel. He did not identify the high-ranking official on the air but subsequently wrote in a newspaper article that it was Campbell.

Campbell reacted with fury and challenged Gilligan to produce his source.