The attorney-General's refusal yesterday to request an inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly was furiously condemned by campaigners, who are now planning a legal challenge.
Dominic Grieve ruled there was "overwhelming" evidence the scientist – identified as the source for claims the government's case for invading Iraq was "sexed up" – took his own life.
He offered his "sincere sympathy" to the scientist's family, "not simply for their loss, great though that undoubtedly is, but for having to bear that loss in the glare of intrusive publicity over such a long period of time". And he expressed his hope that for the sake of the family "a line can now be drawn under this matter".
But the controversy looks set to continue with campaigners announcing they will seek a judicial review of Mr Grieve's decision. Dr Stephen Frost, who has led a group of campaigning doctors, said the decision was "deeply flawed" with "no basis in law". Calling the continuing "cover-up of the truth" a "national disgrace", he said they were "perplexed and outraged" and called for Mr Grieve to resign.
Dr Kelly's body was found in woods near his Oxfordshire home in 2003, shortly after he had been revealed as the source of a BBC report claiming a government dossier had been sexed up. The respected weapons inspector died aged 59, two days after he had faced MPs' questioning.
His wife Janice and their daughters said he had become desperate and broken-hearted by the entire affair.
They said his life was "made intolerable" by the weapons row and those who placed him under such intense pressure should "reflect long and hard" upon what had happened.
In 2004 a government-ordered judicial inquiry, chaired by Lord Hutton, found Dr Kelly killed himself.
Lord Falconer, then the Justice Secretary, ruled the inquiry could take the place of an inquest. Last month David Cameron suggested a full inquest was unnecessary as the Hutton Inquiry report had been "fairly clear".
But the campaigning doctors, who denounced the Hutton report as a "whitewash", pointed out the inquiry spent only half a day of its 24 days considering the cause of Dr Kelly's death and insisted no "coroner in the land would have reached a suicide verdict on the evidence".
Yesterday Dr Frost added: "It is therefore very surprising and perplexing that the Attorney-General today supports those who wish to deny Dr Kelly a proper inquest. This is clearly a political decision when it should have been a decision based solely on the law. This Government has now revealed itself to be complicit in a determined and concerted cover-up." Mr Grieve said a key focus of the doctors' concerns was the differing descriptions as to how Dr Kelly's body was found and whether it had been moved. He told MPs: "This issue has proven fertile ground for imaginative speculation to take over.
"There is nothing I have seen that supports any allegation that Dr Kelly was murdered or that his death was the subject of any kind of conspiracy or cover-up."
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies