They took just 10 minutes to pack and leave their home, driving off like fugitives on the advice of the Ministry of Defence. Their ultimate destination was the holiday home in Cornwall of an old friend. Having reached Weston-super-Mare by 9.30pm, Dr David Kelly and his wife Janice spent the night in a hotel.
The next morning they looked distractedly at the newspapers, before they travelled on to Cornwall. Here, after a brief stay, Mr Kelly had to leave his arthritic partner to make her own way back home, while he went to London to appear before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. They had hoped that after his public ordeal was over, attention would quickly wither away.
Mrs Janice Kelly did not say much in her evidence to the Hutton inquiry yesterday about the nature of this awful journey she undertook so suddenly with her husband. But it was plain to see that the couple's flight must have been terribly traumatic. Dr Kelly himself showed all the symptoms of a man in great shock.
"I could not comfort him," his widow told the court. "He seemed to withdraw completely into himself."
The intimate tension that must have been generated during this long car journey is difficult to imagine, as is the loneliness the couple must have felt as they were catapulted away from the comforts of home and family, and into a period of transience and uncertainty. On the drive, Mrs Kelly became sure of only one fact. Her husband felt "totally let down and betrayed" by the Ministry of Defence because "they were the ones that effectively let his name be known in the public domain."
Janice Kelly yesterday told the Hutton inquiry how her husband became alerted to the fact that his name was about appear in the media by a journalist he knew, Nick Rufford, who had turned up at their home and offered free hotel accommodation for the couple in return for an exclusive interview.
Mr Rufford was refused, and told to leave the premises. But shortly afterwards, a call from the MoD press office advised the Kellys "to leave the house, and quickly, so that we would not be followed by the press". Whether the Ministry of Defence offered any other support to Mr Kelly, his wife was unable to say. She did know, though, that he had found it difficult during the journey to make contact with his managers at the Ministry of Defence.
For those who had anticipated finger-pointing testimony from a widow able to communicate her husband's opinions from beyond the grave, Mrs Kelly's evidence must have been a disappointment.
Dr Kelly's widow spent much of her time during the lead-up to the drama that resulted in her husband's death no wiser than anyone else about his involvement. She knew that something was wrong. The whole family had noticed that Dr Kelly "became much more taciturn, more difficult to talk to, more tense, more withdrawn." But he discussed his suspicions about his meeting with the BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan, and his concern that he may have been the source for the controversial stories that followed, with no one in his family.
One of the most shocking aspects of the testimony Mrs Kelly gave, therefore, was the realisation of the sudden speed with which she had been caught up in the firestorm around her husband's fateful briefing with Mr Gilligan. She knew he had met the BBC journalist, but explained that "he would never tell me about the nature of his meetings."
Dr Kelly may have spoken freely to journalists about his work, but he seems to have kept his family life entirely separate from his working life and from the tragic tensions that arose in the final months of his career. Far from being a confidant of Dr Kelly's, as he wondered to himself whether he might have been the source for Mr Gilligan's sensational reports on Radio 4's Today programme and later in the Mail on Sunday, Mrs Kelly knew nothing of her husband's worries. She was not even aware that he had made the decision to write to his superiors at the MoD, suggesting that it was possible that he was the source generating so much trouble.
Mrs Kelly only found out about her husband's involvement when the two of them watched a bulletin on the evening news on 8 July. "The main story," Mrs Kelly testified, "was that a source had identified himself, and then immediately David said to me, 'It's me.' "
From this moment of revelation, matters developed very quickly. But despite his family's complete support, Dr Kelly seems to have found himself no more able to confide in his wife. After his appearance before the Select Committee, Mrs Kelly talked of having had difficulty getting details from her husband of his feelings and opinions about the process. He had told her "very little, he felt he had not done good justice to himself."
By 17 July, the day that Dr Kelly committed suicide, communication had not improved. Mrs Kelly explained that her husband had joined her for a coffee that morning but that "they did not really talk." Nevertheless, Mrs Kelly had no reason to believe that her husband was suicidal. She avoided alerting the police for many hours after her husband had not come home from the walk he had taken that afternoon, for fear of over-reacting and causing a fuss.
In the whirlwind of events that had filled the time - less than a fortnight - from Mrs Kelly's first insight into the mess her husband was in, it seems he had wanted to protect her, although he could not even protect himself.
Again, from Mrs Kelly's evidence, the horrible realisation that the death of her husband was every bit as great a surprise to Mrs Kelly as it was to the nation at large, is unavoidable. The poignancy with which Mrs Kelly pointed out that the knife which Dr Kelly used to slash his wrist was "a knife he had had, what, from childhood I think, probably from the Boy Scouts," is unbearable.
Yet while Mrs Kelly may have not had much material evidence of her husband's thoughts, opinions or feelings, her evidence spoke volumes about the terrible isolation her husband suffered, and the shockingly brief time she herself had to adjust to his troubles before it was too late.
What her husband's reticence has ensured is that there is not much political power in what Mrs Kelly has to say. The human dimension of the tragedy is all too apparent from Mrs Kelly's description of the change in her husband over the months of tension alone. Even before she knew what was behind it, Mrs Kelly had noticed that "he was tired and looking his age. He seemed to have aged quite a bit." Later, after he had appeared before the Select Committee, Mrs Kelly explained that "I felt he was very tired, he was used up."
But any insight into Dr Kelly's thought processes and his beliefs about how Mr Gilligan had represented him, or his opinions about how much culpability officials, ministers and government should feel, is entirely missing.
The irony is that, for the Government, in this respect, Dr Kelly has remained a good and faithful servant to the end. But if he had talked more about his plight to his family, instead of trying so hard to shoulder his burden alone, he might now be alive to tell his own tale of how he became a central figure in this tawdry drama. Instead, Lord Justice Hutton will apportion blame. And Mrs Janice Kelly will remain a widow.Reuse content