Anger simmers in village for a victim who was as 'charming as he was knowledgeable'

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The Independent Online

Shortly after lunchtime yesterday, a green sports car screeched to a halt outside the home of Dr David Kelly. Handing a bouquet of white tulips out of the sunroof, the woman driver said to a police officer standing guard outside the Kellys' flint cottage: "Please hand these to his widow. We are all still very angry.''

That bitterness was still simmering in the Oxfordshire village of Southmoor yesterday - a tragedy that came to a local family and a local community via the deserts of Iraq and a savage row among London's political and cultural élite.

It was in the quiet confines of a stretch of woodland five miles from his family home that Dr Kelly decided that he could no longer endure the "intolerable" pressure of his involvement in the battle between the Government and the BBC over the Saddam dossier.

The scientist, described by friends and neighbours as a man as charming as he was knowledgeable, took a handful of painkillers and slashed his left wrist before lying down and bleeding to death.

Morning prayers were said yesterday in the scientist's two local churches. At St Mary's in Longworth, which Dr Kelly occasionally attended, a small congregation gathered for Holy Communion to hear the Rev Joe Cotterill express the community's collective grief.

Mr Cotterill, a visiting priest from Southmoor, said: "Why should it have to happen this way? There's grief and sadness for Janice Kelly and the children, but particularly Mrs Kelly, who is afflicted with arthritis. It is part of the purpose of the church to express sympathy and love for those who are suffering.''

Dr Kelly was a member of the Baha'i faith, a US-based pacifist religion which forbids its 5 million world-wide members from political affiliations. He converted to the religion four years ago while on a business trip to America.

The Baha'i church denied reports yesterday that its teachings may have encouraged him to take his own life.

Barnabus Leith, leader of the Baha'i church in nearby Abingdon, said: "The true position of our teachings is that we strictly condemn suicide. We believe that the soul of the individual comes closer in life after death.

"Those who take their own life risk damaging their soul. Our members throughout the world are praying for the progress of Dr Kelly's soul.''

The mental pain inflicted upon Dr Kelly during his final days was slowly coming to light yesterday. It emerged that the scientist was left reeling with shock and betrayal after his identity as a source of the BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan was leaked to the press.

In one interview, believed to be his last before he died, Dr Kelly described the pressure he was under.

He revealed how the Ministry of Defence had called him on the evening before his name appeared in the newspapers to warn him that his identity had been unveiled.

"I am shocked", he told The Sunday Times. "I was told the whole thing would be confidential. Questioned about his treatment by the MoD, he said: "For the record? They have been quite good about it. But I feel as though I have been through the wringer."

His spiralling sense of desperation and loss of control were captured in an ominous e-mail to Judith Miller, an American journalist at The New York Times, only hours before he died. Clearly haunted by recent events, he wrote of "many dark actors playing games" - an apparent reference to officials at the MoD.

Shortly afterwards, he left his home for one final walk to the field where he would bring to an end both his life and his association with the unfolding political drama.

The thoughts expressed in Dr Kelly's local pubs were less spiritualthan those in the churches. Regulars were unimpressed with yesterday's confirmation from the BBC that he was the main source of the "dodgy dossier'' story.

Lindsey Atkins, the landlady of the Waggon and Horses, directly opposite Dr Kelly's home, said: "It's all very well for the BBC to come out and say that Dr Kelly was their main source. But they should have done much more to protect him. If they had dug their heels in then all this could have been prevented. Now we'll probably never know who put him under most pressure.''

One regular, John Headley, said: "I heard someone say that Mr Blair will have blood on his hands. I think that's about right.''

Pointing to Dr Kelly's house opposite, he added: "That poor bloke couldn't cope with the way the Government operate.''

At the Hind's Head pub, which Dr Kelly frequently visited to play cards, most customers refused to discuss their friend's fate. But such is the mistrust of the establishment that a conspiracy theory is taking root, expressed by the landlord, Steve Ward. "What I want to know is why he committed suicide and his body was found outside the woods and not in them," he said. "It doesn't make sense to me.''