A friend of David Kelly dramatically claimed last night that the former UN weapons inspector did believe he was the "major source" for the BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan's "dodgy dossier" story.
The revelation by a television journalist Tom Mangold contradicted evidence Dr Kelly gave to the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, when he insisted he was not Mr Gilligan's major source.
But Mr Mangold said Dr Kelly had maintained to him that he had not spoken to Mr Gilligan about the infamous claim that weapons of mass destruction could be activated by Iraq within "45 minutes".
"I guess he couldn't cope with the firestorm that developed after he gave what he regarded as a routine briefing to Gilligan," Mr Mangold told BBC Radio 4's PM programme.
"He felt he was Gilligan's major source. As I recall it, Andrew Gilligan said the man he spoke to was an expert on weapons of mass destruction and they met at a London hotel.
"If that's true that sounds to me like Dave Kelly."
Attempts by the Government to unmask Dr Kelly as the source of the story that the dossier had been "sexed up" by Downing Street to make a more convincing case for war, appeared to have backfired when Dr Kelly gave evidence on Tuesday. Dr Kelly insisted to the committee that he did not believe he was the prime contact for Mr Gilligan's stories, which began appearing on 29 May on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
His testimony led the committee to write to the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to say it was "most unlikely" that Dr Kelly was the major source.
Richard Ottaway, a Tory on the committee, put it to Dr Kelly on Tuesday that he could not be the central source because he did not know that the 45-minute allegation was included late or that it came from a single source. "Correct," he replied.
Mr Mangold said Dr Kelly had maintained that he had not spoken of Alastair Campbell adding the 45-minutes claim.
"He was keen to explain that he felt the JIC [Joint Intelligence Committee] assessment was a little bit hyperbolic for his taste and that it wasn't quite as simple as the assessment appeared to show," Mr Mangold said.
"At the same time he certainly told me he never mentioned 45 minutes and he knew nothing about that."
Asked why Dr Kelly had told the committee that he was not the main source, Mr Mangold said: "I think his famous ... precision let him down there, because what he said to me was that there were parts of the Gilligan transmission that he did not recognise, but that did not mean that he wasn't the main source."
Mr Mangold's statement adds fuel to theories that Mr Gilligan may have "sexed up" his stories. The judicial inquiry may also present further concerns for Mr Gilligan and the BBC if they are asked to reveal his "major source".