A group of prominent experts on Friday called for a full inquest into the death of government weapons inspector David Kelly, whose apparent suicide in July 2003 plunged then prime minister Tony Blair into crisis.
The eight senior figures said in a letter to The Times newspaper that the official cause of death in the Kelly case, haemorrhage, was “extremely unlikely” in the light of evidence since made public.
The signatories included a former coroner, Michael Powers, a former deputy coroner, Margaret Bloom, and Julian Bion, a professor of intensive care medicine.
Kelly was found dead in woods near his home in Oxfordshire, in 2003 after he was exposed as the source for a BBC story that alleged that Blair’s government had “sexed up” intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
The then Lord Chancellor, the government’s chief law officer, Charles Falconer, suspended an inquest into the death before an inquiry began, and the inquest was never resumed.
The inquiry by Lord Hutton concluded “the principal cause of death was bleeding from incised wounds to his left wrist which Dr Kelly had inflicted on himself with the knife found beside his body”.
But the letter’s signatories argue that the conclusion was unsafe.
They insist that a severed ulnar artery, the wound found to Kelly’s wrist, was unlikely to be life-threatening unless an individual suffered from problems with blood clotting.
“Insufficient blood would have been lost to threaten life,” they wrote. “Absent a quantitative assessment of the blood lost and of the blood remaining in the great vessels, the conclusion that death occurred as a consequence of haemorrhage is unsafe.”
Kelly was the most experienced British expert involved in UN inspections in Iraq intended to prevent Saddam Hussein from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
Ahead of the March 2003 invasion, Blair’s government published intelligence about Saddam’s purported weapons of mass destruction in a bid to strengthen its case for going to war, including a claim that they could be deployed within 45 minutes.
The government was furious and sought out the source of the claim.
Suspicion fell on Kelly after the BBC’s then defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan said a British official had told him that Downing Street had altered the intelligence dossier to make it “sexier”.
In the wake of the US-led invasion, no such weapons were found.