David Kelly wrote of "many dark actors playing games" in an email sent just hours before his death.
Dr Kelly, The New York Times reported yesterday, sent the message to an unnamed journalist saying he wanted to wait "until the end of the week" before judging how his appearance before the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee had gone.
When put in the context of earlier conversations with the reporter, the paper concluded the "dark actors" seemed to be a reference to officials from the Ministry of Defence and British intelligence agencies "with whom he had often sparred over interpretations of intelligence reports".
But the government scientist had also sent a "combative" email to Professor Alastair Hay, a friend who had expressed the hope that he was dealing with the pressure, in which he "expressed a determination to overcome the scandal encircling him and an enthusiasm about returning to Iraq". "Hopefully it will soon pass and I will get back to Baghdad and get on with the real job," the email said.
Professor Hay, an environmental toxicologist at Leeds University, told a newspaper today: "I find it absolutely extraordinary that David was identified by the MoD. He was being used as a scapegoat."
Dr Kelly's wife, Janice, confirmed her husband had been working on Thursday morning on a report for the Foreign Office and had sent emails. But he did not return from his habitual afternoon walk. His body was found the next day.
The expert's despair at being pushed into the public eye as the centre of an intense row between the Government and the BBC was also apparent in an interview, possibly his last, which he gave to The Sunday Times, asking for some of his remarks to be treated as off the record.
He said he had been "put through the wringer" during meetings with Ministry of Defence officials. And he spoke of being warned in a telephone call from the MoD that he was going to be identified. "I am shocked," he is reported to have said. "I was told the whole thing would be confidential."
And yet his name did appear in newspapers after a letter naming him was sent by Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence, to the BBC chairman, Gavyn Davies.
The newspaper also claims that Dr Kelly believed himself to be the source for the BBC's allegations that the Iraq dossier, presented as evidence to make the case for war, had been "sexed up" by Downing Street. "It is pretty obvious I was the source," he is reported to have said. "It has been a difficult time, as you can imagine." But he insisted that he had not been reprimanded or pressure by the MoD, which had been "quite good about it".
There were, however, suggestions that Dr Kelly believed failure to co-operate might cost him his pension or even his job.
Adam Ingram, the Armed Forces minister, challenged the BBC to rule Dr Kelly out as the source, saying: "Hopefully, that would allow Dr Kelly to carry on with his career in the MoD."
Mrs Kelly said he had been under "enormous stress".
Despite all of that, the tension between the Government and the BBC continued to intensify. Peter Mandelson, a key ally of Tony Blair, told The Observer that much of the BBC's reporting was "simply not good enough" and that Greg Dyke, the director general, and Mr Davies had staked their reputations on a story that he said was "untrue". And he appeared to draw a clear link between the actions of the corporation and Dr Kelly's death.
He said the BBC had become obsessed with a vendetta against Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's director of communications and strategy. Mr Mandelson said: "It was the BBC's obsession with him [Campbell] that led more than anything to the breakdown in relations between the Government and Britain's public service broadcaster, with the result we have seen."
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies