Officials tell how pressure grew in Kelly's last hours

Click to follow
Indy Politics

A graphic picture of the pressure mounting on David Kelly in the final hours before his apparent suicide was painted yesterday by colleagues in the Ministry of Defence.

As officials, acting on orders from the office of Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence, were pressing him for more information on his contacts with journalists, Dr Kelly's wife was growing increasingly upset at the family being thrust into the spotlight. On top of it all, Dr Kelly complained of a headache on 17 July, when he vanished.

Wing Commander John Clark, who shared a Whitehall office with Dr Kelly, told the inquiry that he had seemed "tired but in good spirits'' when they spoke the day before. But he said Dr Kelly was worrying about how to get his wife, who was in Cornwall, back to their home in Oxfordshire without attracting publicity.

The following day, Dr Kelly said he "was holding up all right but it had all come to a head and his wife had taken it really very badly. Whether that was in association with the additional pressure of having to get back the day before under her own steam, I do not know, but he did say that his wife had been very upset on the morning of the 17th.'' Dr Kelly had appeared before the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee (FAC) and the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee in the previous 48 hours.

He told Wg Cdr Clark, who accompanied him to the hearing, that they were the most stressful interviews he had faced. Dr Kelly said he had been taken by surprise when asked in the FAC about his contacts with Susan Watts, science editor of BBC2's Newsnight.

Dr Kelly denied being behind a report in which she said the intelligence community had serious reservations on the Government's September dossier on the risk from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

But the inquiry has been told that the BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan had told a Liberal Democrat MP that the scientist was Ms Watts' source.

The MoD then turned its attention to answering parliamentary questions on Dr Kelly's meetings with journalists over the previous two years.

Bryan Wells, the scientist's line manager, was drafting the structure of replies with Dr Kelly supplying the detail. Wg Cdr Clark, who was acting as a go-between,told the inquiry that he last spoke to Dr Kelly six or seven minutes before 3pm to discuss the wording of the answers and where Ms Watts' name should appear. He later received a call from Mr Hoon's private office raising an article by Nick Rufford four days earlier that recounted a meeting with Dr Kelly. Wg Cdr Clark was asked to check whether that meeting had taken place and called back at 3.20pm. But Mrs Kelly answered and said her husband had gone for a walk at 3pm. The wing commander Clark said he tried every 15 minutes to reach him by mobile phone, but without success. The following morning Dr Kelly was found dead in woods near his home.

James Harrison, who also shared an office with Dr Kelly, wrote a note after failing to contact him. It read: "Rang Mrs K [Kelly] around 17.50 or so having tried mobile, no answer, to see if back yet. Gone for a walk by the river, has a headache, had intended to go about 2pm, but delayed by phone calls. Sometimes go on a long route ... rang Mrs K 18.40 to say leaving, do not ring back, will speak in the morning. Mrs K OK.''


30 JUNE David Kelly calls Bryan Wells, his line manager, to say he has written to him about his dealings with the BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan.

1 JULY Dr Kelly's letter reaches Dr Wells.

3 JULY Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, alerts the Downing Street chief-of-staff, Jonathan Powell, that an unnamed official has come forward.

4 JULY Dr Kelly is warned that further unauthorised contact with journalists will lead to disciplinary action.

5 JULY Dr Kelly travels to RAF Honington, near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, for weekend training in preparation for the dispatch of a team of weapons inspectors to Iraq.

7 JULY Called back for more meetings at the MoD where he is asked about discrepancies between his version of events and Andrew Gilligan's. It is described as a "proper security-style interview".

8 JULY MoD announces that an official believes he is Mr Gilligan's source but does not recognise some of the contents of his report.

9 JULY Dr Kelly tells a reporter he feels he has been "through the wringer" and claims the MoD has not helped him at all. Aware that his name is about to become public, he travels to Weston-super-Mare to escape media attention.

10 JULY Dr Kelly is named in newspapers as the official who spoke to Mr Gilligan. Now in Cornwall, he is asked to appear before the Foreign Affairs Committee.

14 JULY Receives a letter from the MoD personnel director, Richard Hatfield, saying his meetings with Mr Gilligan were "ill-judged" and accusing him of a serious breach of procedure.

15 JULY 3PM Dr Kelly makes 50-minute appearance before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. MPs become convinced he is not the source of Mr Gilligan's claims that the Government manipulated its September arms dossier. He is caught off guard by questions over his contacts with Newsnight's science editor, Susan Watts.

16 JULY Foreign Affairs Committee writes to the MoD asking for details of Dr Kelly's meetings with journalists. It also says he has been badly treated by the MoD. Dr Kelly arrives late at work because he is trying to make arrangements for his wife to return from Cornwall.

EARLY AFTERNOON: Appears in private before the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. Appeared calm and afterwards told colleagues he was relieved his appearances were over. Agrees to supply information about his contacts with journalists to MoD.

APPROX 5PM Goes home to Oxfordshire.

17 JULY, 9.22AM Sends e-mail to the MoD. Says he has compiled information on journalists "as best I can".

9.45AM Dr Kelly rings Dr Wells to say he has e-mailed his response on his contacts.

APPROX 10AM Rings a colleague, Wing Cdr John Clark, with the same information. Also tells him of his wife's distress over events. They agree that Dr Kelly can return to Iraq on 25 July.

1PM Dr Wells calls again to say he wanted to check his answers.

2.53/2.54PM Changes to answers - including reference to Ms Watts - discussed by Wing Cdr Clark and Dr Kelly.

APPROX 3PM Goes out for walk. Complains of a headache.

3.20PM Wing Cdr Clark makes first of regular attempts to contact him on his mobile phone. Other MoD officials also fail.

11.45PM Kelly family contacts police.

18 JULY Thames Valley Police discover body, later identified as Dr Kelly.

Downing Street says an independent judicial inquiry will be held into the circumstances of Dr Kelly's death

19 JULY A post-mortem examination concludes cause of death was haemorrhaging from a wound to his left wrist.

Nigel Morris


On the final day of the third week of the inquiry, Lord Hutton will hear evidence from the following witnesses:

Tony Blair, the Prime Minister

Gavyn Davies, the chairman of the BBC board of governors

Tom Mangold, a BBC journalist and a friend of David Kelly