Foul play vs suicide: Ten years on, the row still rages over the death of Dr David Kelly

The weapons expert's body was discovered in lonely woodland – wrists slashed – but journalist Miles Goslett has always pushed for an inquest. He goes head-to-head with John Rentoul of The IoS, who insists that Dr Kelly killed himself, as Lord Hutton found, and that to think otherwise is to believe a ridiculous and tasteless fairy story

Dear John

We have never met, but I know that articles I have written in the past about the death of Dr David Kelly have prompted you to inform your Twitter followers that I am a "Daily Mail conspiracy theorist".

That's a lazy cliché if ever there was one.

I simply believe it is necessary to have a full coroner's inquest into Dr Kelly's death. The law decrees that any sudden or violent death should be examined by a coroner ... it has been this way for hundreds of years.

A coroner must satisfy themself "beyond reasonable doubt" that the suicide was the result of an intended act. The standard of proof required is deliberately high.

In the case of Dr Kelly, the then Oxfordshire coroner Nicholas Gardiner opened an inquest on 21 July 2003, but on 13 August 2003 the then Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer ordered it to be adjourned indefinitely.

Falconer used an obscure law to suspend proceedings, and in a very unusual – perhaps unique – move he replaced the inquest with a non-statutory public inquiry. Lord Hutton, a 72-year-old Law Lord with no coronial experience, was asked to chair the inquiry... within two hours and 40 minutes of Dr Kelly's body being found on Harrowdown Hill on 18 July, long before it had even been established officially whose body it was.

The inquest into his death was replaced by a politically appointed examination of the "circumstances surrounding" his death.

This was improper.

Experienced doctors and senior legal figures – including Appeal Court judges – remain uneasy about the lack of an inquest.

Questions have also been raised about the safety of the police investigation.

Best wishes


Dear Miles

I understand that anyone should be concerned about David Kelly's death, and I think it was reasonable at the time to consider the possibility of foul play. However, any reasonable person would have ruled out such a possibility after a cursory review of the facts, let alone a months-long public inquiry.

So when you say you "simply believe it is necessary to have a full coroner's inquest", you are not "simply" doing any such thing. You are saying that there was a serious possibility that Dr Kelly was murdered. If you are not saying that, then let us agree that he took his own life and we can close this correspondence without intruding further into this sad story.

The only reason you want an inquest is that you think that the Hutton inquiry dealt unsatisfactorily with the cause of death, and the only reason this could matter would be if Dr Kelly had been murdered. This would have involved kidnapping him in his home, where his wife was, stealing his wife's painkillers, releasing him again so that he could greet a neighbour on the way to the woods, and then killing him to make it look like suicide.

This is preposterous, offensive and probably disturbing to Dr Kelly's family, who have not asked a bunch of conspiracy theorists to poke their noses into their business. I suggest you desist.

Best wishes


Dear John

Despite the circumstances in which the late Wales football manager Gary Speed was found in 2011, when a coroner investigated his death he refused to reach a suicide finding because he could not prove intent.

In short, coroners – not Law Lords – pronounce on deaths because they are independent and willing to bare their teeth if necessary.

You seem to reject this centuries-old precedent in the case of Dr Kelly. Why is it "offensive" to raise questions when they arise? How do you know that the Kelly family is content that there has not been an inquest? For whom do you speak?

Your position is illogical because if you "know" that Dr Kelly killed himself, you presumably also "know" what the outcome of an inquest would be. In which case, what do you fear?

Since I began working on this story in 2008, I have discovered that all medical and scientific records relating to Dr Kelly were secretly sealed for 70 years; that six personal items found with his body were tested by police for fingerprints and DNA but none was found – yet this fact was not mentioned at the Hutton inquiry and Dr Kelly was not wearing gloves when found. Foul play cannot be ruled out.

All the best


Dear Miles

Foul play cannot be ruled out? Of course it can, as I have explained, and to say otherwise puts you in the company of cranks. As usual with conspiracy theorists, you adopt the device of saying, "I am only asking a question". Indeed, you ask several, one of them personal and offensive. If you would like to tell me for whom you think I speak, I should be happy to deal with specifics rather than insinuation.

A public inquiry serves all the purposes an inquest could. The burden is on those who want an inquest to explain why they think it is required. The reason the post-mortem report was closed for 70 years was to protect the family from "further and unnecessary distress", as Lord Hutton explained, but he then asked that it be published so that conspiracy theorists would stop pretending that there was something secret about it. You appear not to know about this; others of your fellow conspiracy theorists have given up and gone home; others still have done what conspiracy theorists usually do and changed the question.

As for the fingerprints, I don't know and I don't care. The only reason you have for mentioning them is, as I have explained, that you think it a serious possibility that Dr Kelly was murdered. Perhaps you will now supply some evidence to support this fantastic notion.

Best wishes


Dear John

Examining evidence is the key to exploring any theory.

Dr Kelly was last seen at about 3pm on 17 July; his body was found about 18 hours later. No one knows exactly what happened in between. You say you "don't care" about the fingerprint matter I raised. Why so dismissive? Not only is the lack of prints of interest, so is the fact of their absence never being mentioned at Hutton.

You suggest I'm being "offensive". All I have done is ask for whom you speak. Why are you so reluctant to explain why your mind is closed to the idea of an inquest? If you speak for nobody but yourself, surely you can say so.

The point about the 70-year classification is that Hutton never mentioned it in his 2004 report. It was revealed six years later. He advised that the PM report be published only because he was forced to.

Finally, you suggest it is up to me to provide evidence that Dr Kelly was murdered. That is absurd. It is up to the state to treat Dr Kelly's death as all other unnatural deaths are treated and hold an inquest. I'd have thought anyone who really wanted to settle this matter properly would have seen that long ago. Yet successive governments have been resistant. In opposition, Attorney General Dominic Grieve was sympathetic to an inquest. In government, a year later, he rejected the idea.

Inquests and public inquiries have very different standards. I know which is more rigorous.

The catalogue of lies and cover-ups from so many organisations in recent years surely suggests we should all be sceptical of "official" findings.


Dear Miles

I am sorry that you continue to make a fool of yourself, and should point out that you have not responded to the point I made in my first response that your theory requires David Kelly to have been abducted from his home, where his wife was, released to greet a neighbour and then murdered. All the rest of your detail that "may be important" is irrelevant until you can get past that first barrier to credibility.

The death of Dr Kelly has been investigated, in public, in far more detail than most suicides. All the circumstances are consistent with suicide. A private man had put himself in the public eye, having caused the BBC to publish a report that he knew was wrong; he had denied the words of an interview with another BBC journalist, Susan Watts, which had been tape recorded; and he felt his career was at an end.

As I explained in our previous correspondence, of course I speak only for myself. For whom do you think I speak? I have dealt with the 70-year point, about which you did not know the basic facts and have now changed the question.

Until you can explain why any reasonable person should suspect foul play in the death of Dr Kelly, I suggest that you should join the big names who have tiptoed away in embarrassment from this ridiculous and tasteless fairy story.

Best wishes, as ever


Dear John

The ridiculous "abduction" scenario you propound is not worthy of response. But do reread Janice Kelly's evidence to Hutton carefully. It is revealing. People used to think Hillsborough had been investigated properly. This case still needs a coroner.

You call Dr Kelly a "private man". But he invited a TV crew into his home to give an interview the month before he died, so he wasn't that private.

I broke the 70-year story. I know all about it.

Many people have doubts about this affair and would simply like an inquest to be held.

All best


Dear Miles

I have indeed reread Mrs Kelly's evidence. It is very sad. She described her husband as "desperate", "distracted and dejected", and said: "I just thought he had a broken heart." I would hope that you would show more respect to Dr Kelly's family, who have not said that they are unhappy with the findings of the Hutton inquiry.

You say you would "simply like an inquest to be held". There is nothing simple about it: the only reason for wanting an inquest is that you think Dr Kelly might have been murdered, and that Lord Hutton, Tony Blair, Mrs Kelly and the present Attorney General, who refused the request for a new inquest, are all involved in a huge cover-up. I am disappointed that I cannot bring you to see how silly that is.

Best wishes


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