Widow tells of Kelly's hurt at being described as 'junior official'

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Dr David Kelly's widow spoke publicly for the first time yesterday of the death of her husband, telling the Hutton inquiry how he was "totally let down" and "betrayed" by the Ministry of Defence. Dr Kelly felt isolated and desperate in the days before his death because his superiors had "effectively let his name be in the public domain", in breach of assurances he had been given, Janice Kelly said.

The last time she saw him, on their 36th wedding anniversary, "he had a broken heart" from the relentless pressure he has been subjected to. He was "deeply hurt" by hearing Jack Straw had called him a "junior official" after he appeared alongside the Foreign Secretary at a committee hearing.

Mrs Kelly described how instead of helping her husband, the Government had belittled him. Mrs Kelly said when she heard that Tony Blair's official spokesman, Tom Kelly, had described her husband as a "Walter Mitty" character, "I was devastated. That was totally the opposite. He was a very modest, shy, retiring man ... very courteous, very laidback if you like, but he kept to his brief. He did not boast at all. He was very factual and that is what he felt his job was to be, very factual."

Yet the same Government, Mrs Kelly said yesterday, was considering Dr Kelly for a knighthood. She had found an official letter, dated May 2003, suggesting he be considered for an honour in the 2004 New Year Honours List.

Mrs Kelly said her husband told her he was being linked to the BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan's report, that the Government had "sexed up" the Iraq arms dossier, while they were watching the news on television. She said: "My reaction was total dismay, my heart sank and I was terribly worried because the fact that he said that to me ... I knew that he was aware that his name would be in the public domain quite soon."

She said her husband had seemed "desperately unhappy about it, really, really unhappy, totally dismayed. He mentioned that he had had a reprimand at that stage from the MoD but that they had not been unsupportive, were his words."

Mrs Kelly said she had had difficulty getting details from her husband, that she had asked if it could cause problems for his pension or mean he would have to leave his job. He said he might have to leave if it got worse. She said: "He said in his own mind he knew from that point that the press would soon put two and two together. We have an amazing press in this country, it doesn't take them long to find out details of this sort."

Mrs Kelly described a visit from the Sunday Times journalist Nick Rufford, who had an offer "from Rupert Murdoch" to put Dr Kelly and her up at a hotel in return for an article by the scientist. Mr Rufford left after a "three or four-minute" conversation when told to by Dr Kelly, but he warned that the scientist's name was likely to appear and other members of the media were on their way down.

Dr Kelly then had a phone call from the MoD. When he came out, he told her: "I think we will be needing that house after all. The MoD press office have just rung to say we ought to leave the house, and quickly, so we would not be followed by the press."

The couple packed and left within 10 minutes. She said: "There didn't appear to be anything in the way of support. I was surprised that no one rang him and offered to come down and talk to him."

They decided to get a hotel for the night, she said. Dr Kelly had been very tense on the drive and she had asked him not to try to take phone calls while he was driving. He had tried to contact his line manager, Bryan Wells, but reached an official named only as Kate.

The couple subsequently saw in newspaper articles how the MoD had described Dr Kelly as just a "middle-ranking technical expert". Mrs Kelly told the hearing Dr Kelly had accompanied Mr Straw, at an earlier hearing of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

Mrs Kelly told the inquiry her husband was "deeply hurt" to learn Mr Straw was not satisfied with the technical support the weapons expert had given him. Mr Straw said he was upset that at the committee meeting "he had been accompanied by somebody so junior", she said. Dr Kelly laughed on hearing this, but "he was deeply, deeply hurt", she said. Mrs Kelly said her husband felt "he was being treated rather like a fly, I think was the phrase he used".

Dr Kelly's death followed questioning by the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee in public and by the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee in private. Mrs Kelly said her husband had been upset at the way the MPs had questioned him.

Asked by James Dingemans QC, counsel for the inquiry, about the television footage of her husband's evidence to the FAC, Mrs Kelly said: "He looked very uncomfortable, very hot, very stressed." She added that her husband "felt that he had not done good justice to himself. He felt they had been, I think it was [Labour MP] Andrew Mackinlay's comment, he had misunderstood it initially and felt it was an insult."

Dr Kelly had asked his line manager, Dr Wells, if he thought Mr Mackinlay's comment about the weapons expert being "chaff" was an insult. Mr Wells had told him it was a military term but his wife said it "upset him".

She said her husband had been placed in "a nightmare position". When she met him after the hearing, "he looked totally exhausted. He was able to converse a little but it was very, very strained, I felt he was very tired, used up," She added: "He only said it had gone all right and that was not a phrase he would usually use. He was obviously very stressed."

On their last day together, Mrs Kelly had been physically sick because he looked "so desperate". But she "had no idea of what he might do later". He said he would "probably go out for a walk". When he did not return, she became increasingly anxious. "I was in a terrible state myself at this time, trying not to think awful things and trying to take each moment as it came."

She said her daughter Sian phoned and said she was coming round. Mrs Kelly said the police were told of her husband's position and "it seemed to immediately go up to chief constable level". She said she was told on 18 July, the next day, that a body had been found, with a knife Dr Kelly had owned since boyhood.