Weapons Expert at Centre of Row Found Dead

The man at the centre of the row over claims that Downing Street had ‘sexed up’ a report on Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) has been found dead near his home in Oxford.

Dr David Kelly had been caught up in the row over claims that the Government had misused intelligence reports in the run up to the war with Iraq.

His family say that he left home yesterday afternoon and, when he did not return, they reported him missing at 11:45pm, July 17. The following morning Dr Kelly’s body was found close to his home in Oxfordshire, a police spokeswoman said. He was subsequently pronounced dead and police investigations are now underway.

Police are treating his death as “unexplained”, until the results of a post-mortum are delivered, although Britain’s Ministry of Defense has announced that it will conduct its own official inquiry.

However, the mainstream news media are already at work. The results of the autopsy on Dr. Kelly’s body have yet to be announced, but one of Britain’s main TV news programs, ITV News, has already described his death as an “apparent suicide”. Despite the fact that neighbours who saw him leave home on the afternoon he was last seen, described him as “smiling”.

July 19, 2003 Update: Suicide? Or Suicided

Reports now speak of Dr Kelly having “slashed his wrist”. A senior officer said a knife and a packet of painkillers had been found close to where his body was discovered in woodland near his home in Oxfordshire. While police have now confirmed that Dr Kelly bled to death from a slit wrist.

Whether Dr Kelly actually committed suicide or his death was made to look like a suicide, the fact remains that it puts tremendous pressure on Prime Minister Tony Blair, at a time when growing numbers of people are questioning the reasons behind Britain’s involvement in the war with Iraq.

Although Tony Blair is currently in Japan for talks with Asian leaders, his tour has been overshadowed by news of Dr Kelly’s death and questions over Iraq. During a press conference in Hakone, Japan, he was asked whether Dr Kelly’s death was on his conscience.

“Have you got blood on your hands Mr Prime Minister?” One reporter shouted “Are you going over this?”

The BBC’s political correspondent Guto Harri said the prime minister looked under “enormous emotional strain”.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrives at Tokyo's Haneda airport July 18, 2003, shortly after being told of Dr Kelly’s death.