Questions Over Kelly

Dr David Kelly is the first British citizen whose sudden, unexpected and violent death has been denied an inquest. Three weeks after Dr Kelly’s body was found, Lord Falconer ordered that the inquest into his death be adjourned indefinitely and subsumed into a public inquiry by invoking section 17a of the Coroner’s Act 1988.

The section is designed to avoid duplication of inquiry in cases of multiple deaths where the cause of death can, to some extent, be assumed from the outset. But Dr Kelly’s was a solitary death coming amid a political storm concerning doubts over the government’s case for war with Iraq, and its cause required rigorous investigation. The Hutton inquiry had no power to call a jury, subpoena witnesses or cross-examine them under oath.

Disquiet expressed recently by paramedics over finding very little blood at the scene of Dr Kelly’s death gives credence to our view that it is highly improbable Dr Kelly died of haemorrhage from a transected ulnar artery. From such a wound he would have lost only about a pint of blood, and for death to occur he would need to have lost some five pints. And co-proxamol levels in his blood were one-third of what is normally regarded as a fatal dose.

In his report, Lord Hutton confirmed that he had seen a photograph of Dr Kelly lying with his head against the base of a tree. Two volunteer searchers stated they found Dr Kelly’s body slumped against a tree. Yet the paramedics who arrived later, and five other witnesses, including the forensic pathologist, reported that the body was flat on its back a foot from the tree. Police photographed the body in this position. Given that there is photographic evidence showing the body in two different positions, it must be determined who moved the body, when and why.

The law requires a verdict of suicide to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. Why should Dr Kelly’s death receive less scrutiny than any other sudden, unexpected and violent death? As things stand, suicide has not been proved, and we still do not know how he died.

Dr Michael Powers QC
Martin Birnstingl
Specialist in vascular surgery
Chris Burns-Cox
Specialist in internal general medicine
C Stephen Frost
Specialist in diagnostic radiology
David Halpin
Specialist in orthopaedic and trauma surgery
William McQuillan
Specialist in orthopaedic and trauma surgery
Andrew Rouse
Consultant in public health
John Henry Scurr
Specialist in vascular surgery
Searle Sennett
Specialist in anaesthesiology