Call lasting 46 seconds told Kelly he had been exposed

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Indy Politics

Dr David Kelly was warned in a telephone call lasting just 46 seconds that the Government had exposed his identity, new documents produced be-fore the Hutton inquiry revealed yesterday.

Jeremy Gompertz QC, counsel for the family of the late weapons scientist, demanded to know why the Ministry of Defence had waited until the penultimate day of the inquiry to disclose the telephone records. But MoD lawyers maintained that the delay had been caused by officials of the inquiry.

They showed that Dr Bryan Wells, the scientist's line manager at the MoD, made the call from his mobile telephone while on a train travelling home from work. Dr Wells told the inquiry that the line had been so bad that Dr Kelly had to call him back. The two calls together lasted one minute 48 seconds.

The officials also told the inquiry that Dr Kelly was not informed that his name was likely to be made public until two days before the MoD press office confirmed it to journalists. He admitted that evidence he gave to the inquiry last month that Dr Kelly had been warned at his first interview with MoD officials that he was likely to be named was wrong.

Dr Wells and the MoD personnel director, Richard Hatfield, conducted an interview with Dr Kelly on 4 July, after he had come forward to admit meeting the BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan. The scientist discussed the possibility that a statement would have to be issued referring to an unnamed official coming forward.

Dr Wells acknowledged yesterday that not until the second interview, on 7 July, was the issue of his name "emerging" raised with Dr Kelly. The inquiry has heard evidence from senior government witnesses - including Tony Blair and the Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon - that by that stage the assumption in Whitehall was it was "inevitable" that he would be named.

By that time MoD officials had also begun working on the "question and answer" material, which gave press officers the go-ahead to confirm Dr Kelly's identity to journalists if they came up with the right name.

James Dingemans QC, counsel for the inquiry, asked Dr Wells if Dr Kelly had ever been informed of the plan. He replied: "At no point did David discuss the mechanics of his name emerging with me."

Mr Dingemans asked: "This is fair, is it not ... at no point did anyone discuss with Dr Kelly the mechanics by which his name might emerge?"

Dr Wells replied: "I can only answer for myself, sir, in that I did not." Dr Wells said that two days later, on 9 July, he was asked by the MoD press office to inform Dr Kelly that journalists had now obtained his name. A schedule of his telephone records submitted to the inquiry showed that he called Dr Kelly twice. The first call, at 7.03pm, lasted 46 seconds, the second, one minute and two seconds.

Dr Wells said he called twice because he was ringing from the train and wanted to be sure Dr Kelly had got the message. He phoned again after getting off the train. "He expressed no concern at all, as if this was going to be inevitable. He had accepted by this stage that his name would emerge," he said.

Dr Wells said he spoke to Dr Kelly again on 11 July to inform him that he would have to give evidence at a televised session of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. "To the best of my recollection ... the words he used were 'If I am asked to do it, I will do it'," Dr Wells said.