David Kelly's mother committed suicide when he was a student, inquiry told

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The weapons scientist whose apparent suicide exposed Tony Blair's Government to unprecedented scrutiny believed that his mother had taken her own life, the Hutton inquiry was told yesterday.

Dr David Kelly told his wife, a friend and government officials his mother died by her own hands after suffering a stroke while he was a university student.

An inquest into the death of Margaret Kelly in May 1964 concluded that the cause of death was bronchopneumonia due to "barbiturate poisoning", and returned an open verdict.

There was no suicide note, but the coroner stated that the balance of her mind was disturbed at the time.

The inquiry was shown an extract from an interview held while the scientist was being vetted for his security clearance in November 1985. "Dr Kelly said his mother died by her own hand," it said. He said that she had suffered from depression for several years.

A friend of Dr Kelly, who acted as a character witness during the vetting, told officials that he believed that one of the reasons they had become close friends was because both their mothers had taken their lives. He said: "While the tragedy distressed him [Dr Kelly], he appeared to ride the period well and at no time when we were together did he display any mental reaction."

According to his general practitioner's records from that time, Dr Kelly began to suffer from insomnia after his mother's death, and may have been prescribed sleeping tablets.

When Mrs Kelly died, coroners were normally unwilling to return verdicts of suicide unless there was a note or other compelling evidence. This was to protect bereaved families from social stigma, as well as to avoid complications over life insurance policies.

Professor Keith Hawton, director of the centre for suicide research in the university department of psychiatry, Oxford, did not raise the matter of the probable suicide of Mrs Kelly when he first gave evidence before the inquiry three weeks ago. But he decided to do so yesterday, he said, after receiving additional files and documents.

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