Scientist threatened with stop to pension, says former inspector

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Dr David Kelly was threatened by the Ministry of Defence with having his pension stopped and his senior-level security clearance taken away after he discussed the Iraq weapons dossier with the BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan, a friend claimed yesterday.

Olivia Bosch, a former weapons inspector for the United Nations, told the Hutton inquiry that the scientist had expressed fears about his future earnings and job prospects after meeting his superiors. "He said something about his pension and security clearance might be taken away.

"I did not know the meaning," she said.

Dr Kelly, 59, was due to retire next year, and had been considering taking up a post in America. The inquiry had heard that he was desperate to get back to Iraq to continue the search for Saddam Hussein's supposed arsenal of weapons of mass destruction before leaving his job.

Due to the fact that his role as a biological weapons expert led to him working for a number of government departments, Dr Kelly's earnings had fallen into a "black hole", and he was unhappy with the salary he was getting and the pension he would receive, the inquiry has been told.

Any threat to his pension would have been of great concern; losing his security clearance would have stopped him going back to Iraq and was bound to have tainted his reputation when seeking work after retirement. The Government has consistently denied that Dr Kelly was ever warned about either his pension or security clearance.

Ms Bosch, a senior research fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, also claimed that Mr Gilligan had sought to play a "name game" while questioning the scientist about allegations that the Government had "sexed up" last September's dossier. She maintained that Dr Kelly told her that Mr Gilligan had written notes on a paper pad, rather than a palm-top personal organiser as the journalist had claimed.

According to Ms Bosch, Dr Kelly told her that Mr Gilligan demanded to know who was responsible for inserting the claim that Iraq could launch chemical and biological attacks within 45 minutes. Mr Gilligan suggested the name of Alastair Campbell, Downing Street's departing director of communications.

Ms Bosch told the inquiry: "Gilligan had quickly put up Campbell. It didn't give David time really to think about what was going on in that way. He said 'maybe'."

She told the inquiry that she understood Dr Kelly needed authorisation from the MoD to talk to journalists, whereas the Foreign Office was more relaxed about his media contacts.

Dr Kelly had told her that he was particularly concerned about the meeting with Mr Gilligan in May 2003.

She said: "He told me he had an unauthorised meeting with Andrew Gilligan, someone he had met a couple of times before but did not know all that well. He said he was taken aback by the way Andrew Gilligan tried to elicit information from him.

"He said he had never experienced it in the way that Gilligan had tried to do so, by a 'name game'. The first name he mentioned, and very quickly, was Campbell."

Dr Kelly said he could neither confirm nor deny this name but felt obliged to give some form of answer and so said "maybe".

Ms Bosch said she had asked Dr Kelly about a newspaper article on 10 July that reported a lunchtime meeting between Dr Kelly and Mr Gilligan at which the reporter had used a Palm Pilot.

Dr Kelly was insistent that the meeting was later in the day and that the reporter had taken only handwritten notes.