Discovered in July 2003 slumped against a tree with his left wrist slashed, the consensus was that Dr David Kelly had committed suicide after being pushed to the edge by the MoD. Media pundits concurred that being humiliated in front of a televised government committee was for him, the last straw.
But many of his colleagues were incredulous that this steely weapons expert, highly-respected and at the peak of his career, would have crumbled to the point of taking his own life. Kelly was a man ‘whose brain could boil water’; who had, in the course of his career, dealt skilfully with evasive and threatening Iraqi officials. E-mails written just before his disappearance were upbeat, expressing his strong desire to return to Iraq and get on with the ‘real work‘.
Asked by US translator and military intelligence operative Mai Pederson, if he would ever commit suicide, he had replied, ‘Good God no, I would never do that.’ Immediately after his death, Pederson asserted, ‘It wasn’t suicide’. This, for the establishment’s sensitive apparatus, was an alarming statement that could not be allowed to resonate.
Any intimation of state-sponsored killing on British soil was politically seismic. The notion must be quashed, doubters turned. Additional motives had to be found to account for Kelly’s alleged final act. A simple but ingenious plan was devised: a civil servant, skilled in the art of deception, would convey a startling piece of fiction, and convince the world that this ‘suicide’ had been Kelly’s answer to a thorny predicament.
Two days before he went missing on 17th July 2003, Dr Kelly gave evidence before a Kafkaesque Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC). It had been stated in the government’s September 2002 dossier that Iraq was capable of launching an attack on a British base within 45 minutes. The committee was convened to determine whether the weapons expert had been the source of Andrew Gilligan’s allegation on the BBC’s ‘Today’ programme, that in using ‘the 45 minutes’ knowing it to be false, intelligence and facts were being – in the words of MI6’s Richard Dearlove – ‘fixed around the policy‘.
Dr Kelly admitted that he had met Andrew Gilligan to discuss Iraq. However the crux of the issue – whether Kelly had accused the government of taking military action using shaky intelligence – could not be resolved: Kelly denied it, and the FAC construed it unlikely that Kelly was Gilligan’s source. It appeared he was off the hook.
Three days later the world was stunned when David Kelly was found dead on Harrowdown Hill.
Astonishingly, within hours of his body being found, Lord Chancellor and old flatmate of Blair, Charles Falconer, appointed the establishment’s Brian Hutton, to head an inquiry into his death. Normally Inquiries take months to set up; this one took just five working days.
The remit: ‘urgently, to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr Kelly’ conveniently circumvented the main issue. The ‘elephant in the room’ – whether or not the death was suicide – was skilfully avoided by framing the whole affair in terms of a ‘battle’ between the war-hungry government and Gilligan’s employer, the unrepentant BBC.’
Had there been an inquest, witnesses would have been subpoenaed and cross-examined, their evidence given on oath.
At the Hutton Inquiry, their version of events went unchallenged, no real investigation took place, and at the end of it, no verdict emerged – Hutton merely rubber-stamped the line that Dr Kelly took his own life.
But did he? A detailed analysis of Hutton evidence by the Kelly Investigation Group indicated that Dr Kelly‘s body was moved – twice; and that ‘haemorrhage’, listed as the primary cause of death, was almost certainly a mistake.
It is known that doctors rarely agree. But in this case, nine doctors – four of them surgeons – concurred that from a single transected ulnar artery Dr Kelly would have lost no more than a pint of blood: the tiny artery would have immediately constricted and retracted, and blood-clotting would have ensued. This is consistent with the paramedics‘ observation that there was remarkably little blood at the scene. As for the secondary cause – co-proxamol ingestion – tests revealed that the amount in his blood was only a third of what is normally fatal – and there was no alcohol in his system.
The Coroner nonetheless declared himself ‘satisfied’ with Lord Hutton’s conclusion that the government scientist took his own life.
The Hutton Inquiry was for the most part a pedestrian affair, with civil servants, politicians and reporters obediently recounting their connections to Dr Kelly. But on 21st August 2003 one particular appearance set the proceedings alight.
David Broucher, Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, was relaying an account of a meeting with David Kelly which he declared took place on 27th February 2003.
The court heard how Broucher and Kelly had talked over the problem of achieving Iraqi compliance with the 1972 Convention on Biological Weapons. Resolution 1441 had been passed, putting pressure on the Iraqis to give up their weapons. They discussed the government’s September 2002 dossier, and all the difficulties with ‘the 45 minutes’. It seemed a straightforward account – but one phrase electrified the court.
When Broucher asked Kelly what he thought would happen if Iraq were invaded, Broucher said the weapons-expert responded:
‘I will probably be found dead in the woods’
According to Broucher, Kelly had promised the Iraqis that the West would not bomb, as long as Iraq complied with weapons inspections. The diplomat said he had thought Kelly believed Iraqi intelligence might have him killed if he reneged on his promise. But now, in the light of the scientist’s apparent suicide, Broucher ‘realised’ Kelly meant he might be shamed into taking his own life.
It was a breathtaking piece of courtroom drama: such prescient words from the grave!
But there is a massive problem with Broucher’s story. There is strong evidence that this meeting did not take place on 27th February 2003 – as he claimed – but on 18th February 2002.
Everything hinges on this date. If Broucher’s meeting took place in February 2003 then its content would be plausible. But since, as Hutton concedes in his report, it almost certainly took place in 2002, and not 2003, then none of the following makes sense:
*Resolution 1441 was not passed until 8 October 2002 . So it was not, as counsel Dingemans said, in force at the time,
*‘The September dossier’ was not even at the draft stage in February 2002, and was not published until the September of that year,
*‘the 45 minutes’ with all the problems it incurred, did not exist in February 2002 – it was not introduced until August of that year.
Rather than be mesmerised by the magic phrase, ‘I will be found dead in the woods’, we must question whether the words were ever uttered.
Suspecting the substance of this meeting was invented to exert a particular effect, let us examine how and why it was done.
David Broucher had been a civil servant for nearly forty years – surely he would have kept careful records. Not this time it seems. His meeting with Kelly, he tells us, was convened at short notice, and so was not in his diary.
Doing ‘the best that [he] can’ as Dingemans prompts, he dons the cloak of a gauche amnesiac who must dig into a ‘very deep memory hole’ to dredge up the content of a rendezvous which, he maintains, took place only 5 months before.
He tells the inquiry he had only one meeting with Kelly, and to the best of his knowledge, this took place on 27th September 2002. But then, in trying to work out when the weapons expert could have been in Geneva at the same time as himself, he corrects that to 27th February 2003. Matters are further confused when he says they had tried to meet on 8th November 2002, but that had not proved possible; 27th February 2003 is his final date.
But Broucher’s date is wrong – and he knows it.
According to an entry in one of Kelly’s diaries, discovered afterwards by his daughter Rachel at his home, this meeting did not take place in February 2003, but in February 2002. Could there have been a mistake? All the evidence suggests not. Rachel informs the inquiry that her father painstakingly recorded events in his diary after they happened. She relays a number of examples where her father’s original plans had changed, and the correct entry was made after the event. The one entry in Kelly’s diary mentioning Broucher reads:
‘Monday 18th February 2002, 9.30, David Broucher, US mis’ [mission]
Rachel goes on to say that this entry gives details of her father’s flights both into Geneva on 17th February and out of Geneva on 20th February.
Lord Hutton writes in his report:
‘Therefore it appears to be clear that Dr Kelly’s one meeting with Mr Broucher was in February 2002 and not in February 2003‘.
It can therefore be established with some confidence that Broucher met Dr Kelly not on 27th February 2003, but on 18th February 2002. And the start time was not ‘noon’ as Broucher claims for his 27th February 2003 meeting, but 9.30 a.m.
To tighten this up further, let us see where Kelly was on February 27th 2003 – the day Broucher claims they met.
According to Kelly’s half-sister, Sarah Pape, the day after his daughter Ellen’s wedding on Saturday 22nd February 2003, he flew out to New York. Puzzled by Broucher‘s evidence, Pape remarks to the inquiry, ‘he certainly did not mention he was going to be flying almost straight back to visit Geneva.’
Broucher: … he [Kelly] did not attend a meeting in Baltimore on 28th February that he was due to attend, so my feeling is that he probably returned to Geneva – to Europe early and that he came to Geneva, because I did see him there.’
But according to another of Kelly’s diaries published on the Hutton website, on 27th February he was still in New York on UNMOVIC business. There is no entry to indicate that he had a meeting in Baltimore on Friday 28th February as Broucher claims – the diary entry records that on Friday 28th February he was on leave in New York, and that he did not return to London until Sunday 2nd March.
In the diaries Rachel found, there was no entry for Broucher in 2003, and no mention of any trips to Geneva that year.
In a nutshell, neither Rachel’s diaries nor the Hutton website diaries contain an entry for Broucher or Geneva in 2003, whereas the entry in Rachel’s 2002 diary shows a meeting time, date and flight details. Thus there is convincing evidence that the Broucher/Kelly meeting took place on 18th February 2002.
Let us now review the contents of their alleged conversation.
Had reporters been alert, they might have questioned how, despite Broucher’s poor recall of dates, he was nonetheless able to squeeze from his memory every twist and turn of his professed conversation with David Kelly. If he did not keep a record of the date of the meeting, presumably he did not keep contemporaneous notes. If he had, he would have dated and filed them. So how was he able to provide such a vivid and detailed account?
Broucher claims Dr Kelly phoned him while in Geneva and suggested a meeting at very short notice. But why would Kelly have stopped off in the centre of Europe on the off-chance that Broucher would be free to see him – or that Broucher would even be in Geneva? Curious too that Kelly allegedly instigated this meeting, since it was Broucher who was ‘keen to pick his brains’ knowing him to be ‘a considerable expert on these issues in relation to Iraq.’
According to Broucher, the meeting lasted about an hour. They began by discussing Iraq’s biological weapons capability. Counsel Dingemans then raised the question of Resolution 1441 which ordered Iraq to allow weapons inspections within 45 days.
Dingemans: ‘And at this stage, we know that Resolution 1441 has been passed and there had been further subsequent inspections; Dr Kelly was not part of that team.’
However when this meeting actually took place – February 2002 – 1441 had not been passed by the Security Council; it did not come into force until 8 November 2002.
The alleged discussion then moved on to the possible use of force in Iraq. Broucher ventured he did not understand why the Iraqis were courting disaster by refusing to give up whatever weapons remained.
Kelly said the Iraqis were concerned that revealing too much about their state of readiness might invite an attack, but he had tried to reassure them that if they co-operated with weapons inspectors they would have nothing to fear. However, he also believed that the invasion might go ahead anyway, which would put him in a morally ambiguous position, for the Iraqis would consider he had lied to them.
Thus we are provided with the first new suicide motive: guilt.
The most telling indication that Broucher’s account is a falsehood, is his claim that he and Kelly discussed the dossier and ‘the 45 minutes’. The September dossier was published on 24 September 2002. A paper on WMD capabilities was commissioned in February 2002, and another followed in March; but the early papers were not for public consumption. Broucher’s says his task was to ’sell’ the dossier to the UN – this did not apply to the early papers. The dossier referred to by Broucher and Kelly – in which ‘every judgement… had been closely fought over’ – was clearly the September dossier.
As for ‘the 45 minutes’, according to both Lord Butler and Lord Hutton, this piece of intelligence was submitted to MI6 on 29 August 2002 – 5 months after the date Broucher alleged the meeting took place. Thus there is no way Broucher and Kelly could have discussed it.
We can infer therefore, that the following passage is a complete fiction:
‘We did discuss the dossier. I raised it because I had had to… it was part of my duties to sell the dossier, if you like, within the United Nations to senior United Nations officials; and I told Dr Kelly that this had not been easy and that they did not find it convincing. He said to me that there had been a lot of pressure to make the dossier as robust as possible; that every judgement in it had been closely fought over; and that it was the best that the JIC could do. I believe that it may have been in this connection that he then went on to explain the point about the readiness of Iraq’s biological weapons, the fact they could not use them quickly, and that this was relevant to the point about 45 minutes.’
Broucher reminds us here of Kelly’s concern over the 45 minutes – as would later be conveyed to the BBC’s Andrew Gilligan.
He then throws something else into the mix: he tells us that Kelly felt undervalued at the Ministry of Defence and would have preferred to go back to Porton Down:
‘He felt that when he transferred into the Ministry of Defence they had transferred him at the wrong grade, and so he was concerned that he had been downgraded.’
New suicide motive number two: job dissatisfaction because of unfair downgrading.
Broucher has thus given us two new motives: guilt over a promise Kelly knew might be broken, and unhappiness with his position at the MoD.
The diplomat then introduces the stunningly theatrical line he attributes to Kelly:
‘I will probably be found dead in the woods.’
He terms this a ‘throwaway’ remark, affecting not to have thought it significant at the time. But far from being ‘throwaway’, it was actually designed as the climax of the whole drama: it suggested that Kelly was, in a sense, predicting his own suicide.
Broucher was implanting the idea that 5 months in advance, Kelly would, under certain circumstances, contemplate suicide. However, since the actual date of this meeting was February 2002 (not 2003), it was not 5 months ago, but 17. Are we seriously to believe that way back in early 2002 David Kelly was predicting that a promise to senior Iraqis he had not yet made might have to be broken, possibly driving him to take his own life? He would not have been making any promises to the Iraqis at the time – the previous round of inspections ended in 1998.
While war was secretly on the agenda, it was not officially so. A secret memo to Tony Blair, dated 14 March 2002, revealed that UK Foreign Policy Advisor David Manning reported telling George W Bush at a dinner, that the Prime Minister ‘would not budge in his support for regime change’ in Iraq – an embarrassing revelation for Blair, who was outwardly insisting the reason for invasion would not be regime change, but failure to comply with weapons inspections. Publicly, an invasion of Iraq was barely on the cards in Britain at the time, and weapons inspections did not resume until 18 November 2002.
In summary, Broucher’s ‘conversation’ was a fabrication from start to finish. His ineffectual persona was a cover. The confusion he sowed around dates was to protect him from future ’blowback’. This diplomat was less the bumbling fool, more the conniving fox.
Oxford-educated barrister James Dingemans – Hutton‘s choice – took a soft-glove approach to witnesses, glossing over inconsistencies in their evidence. He and Broucher make an extraordinary duo. Nowhere else in the inquiry do we find such stilted language and tedious repetition.
After a blow by blow account of the alleged conversation, with its ‘memory hole’ and ‘throwaway remark’, we are forced to go back over it when Broucher reads from an e-mail he wrote to press officer Patrick Lamb at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to alert him to the conversation he supposedly had with Kelly.
Once again we are told, absurdly, of Broucher’s ‘straining’ to dig up details of the meeting from a ‘very deep memory hole.’ Six more times we hear that ‘I will be found dead in the woods’ was a ‘throwaway remark’.
By referring to it as an inconsequential throwaway remark, Broucher implies he was under no obligation to report it at the time. The casualness of the phrase belies the fact that this ‘throwaway remark’ was a pivotal part of the psyop; its purpose, to remind us of the primary newly-supplied motive – guilt.
On hearing of Kelly’s death, Broucher ‘realised’ that the scientist had not meant that he might be killed by the Iraqis, but ‘may have been thinking on rather different lines’ – an oblique way of inferring that Kelly was foreseeing he might be driven by his own conscience to take his own life. Thus we are lured into accepting the idea that Kelly had been envisaging suicide for months.
Then, nauseatingly, Dingemans reinforces the ‘throwaway remark‘ and the ‘very deep memory hole’ yet again:
Dingemans: ‘In terms of strength of recollection, you have suggested that it was, as you thought at the time, a throwaway remark, and you have shown on the e-mails a very deep memory hole. Is that reasonable to characterise the way in which you had approached it at the time?’
The hypnotic effect of this deliberate repetition allowed the new message to be implanted within the public mindset.
Given that we now know the actual conversation took place in 2002, it is clear that the whole David Broucher/dead-in-the-woods ‘event’ was staged to offer more persuasive grounds for David Kelly’s ‘suicide‘. The new message: that after the invasion of Iraq, David Kelly, deeply unhappy with his lot at the MoD, and sick with guilt at having betrayed the Iraqis, had finally been driven to take his own life. Thus his ‘suicide’ was not simply a desperate reaction to government pressure, but a response to the dictates of his own conscience.
It was a slick and clever operation, and the world fell for it. But as with most deceptions there was a flaw: the planners had not foreseen that Rachel Kelly would publicly highlight the relevant diary entry at the Hutton Inquiry – and send Broucher’s edifice of deceit toppling like a house of cards.
Since they had met in 1998, Mai Pederson had become Kelly‘s close friend, introducing him to the Baha’i religion. After his death she told her Baha’i associates, ‘There will be more coming out on this… Don’t believe what you read in the papers.’ Her optimism was misplaced. Denied the right to have her identity disguised at the Hutton Inquiry, she was whisked out of sight.
No more came out, no one else ‘talked‘. History had been suitably revised. The ‘dead-in-the-woods’ psyop – in conjunction with MoD silencing tactics – had been a success.
But why take the risk in setting up such an operation? Maybe Pederson was right in saying, ‘It wasn’t suicide’.
At a highly-charged press conference in Asia after Kelly’s death, Blair was stunned by the question: ‘Is there blood on your hands, prime minister?’ We may never know.
But as his plane flew back to Britain, a TV journalist overheard Alastair Campbell ranting:
‘This is what you wanted, you asked for this, so play the game Tony’.
* It has been recently confirmed that this exchange between Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell did take place as described.
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