Friday, September 24, 2010

Kelly papers to be reviewed

Law chief orders probe into secret files on death of Dr David Kelly

By James Slack and Miles Goslett

Last updated at 8:42 AM on 24th September 2010

Secret files on the death of Dr David Kelly will be handed over to medical experts to see if the suicide verdict can be challenged.

Ministers want independent advice on whether there are any discrepancies or unanswered questions in the post mortem examination report.

Home Office pathologist Nicholas Hunt concluded the weapons inspector died after cutting a small artery in his wrist. But a group of doctors campaigning for an inquest into Dr Kelly’s death claim he would not have lost enough blood to end his life.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve wants to establish whether they have a solid case.

The Mail can reveal the doctors have now begun legal action, calling on Mr Grieve to petition the High Court for an inquest.

Through their lawyers, Leigh Day & Co, the doctors have listed their reasons in a petition document known as a ‘memorial’.

It argues that Dr Kelly’s death was not sufficiently investigated and claims there are a large number of irregularities surrounding it. The decision to call in independent medical experts represents a breakthrough in their campaign.

It shows how seriously the Attorney General is treating their concerns about the official verdict, recorded by the Hutton Inquiry, that Dr Kelly committed suicide.

Last month, the Mail revealed how Mr Grieve had requested Dr Kelly’s post-mortem examination report from Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke.

Lord Hutton had instructed the papers should remain secret for 70 years. But Mr Grieve used special powers he holds to take control of the files – which campaigners believe could hold the key to the case.

He wants a group of entirely independent experts – likely to include doctors and a coroner – to study the documentation for any discrepancies which would justify the holding of an inquest.

The law states the High Court can only agree to hold the inquiry if there is ‘new evidence’ to challenge Lord Hutton’s verdict.

The process of studying the evidence is likely to take several months. In the meantime, Mr Clarke is considering a separate application for the post-mortem examination files to be made available to the public.

Dr Kelly’s family, including his widow Janice, have made it known they are opposed to the release of the files and the holding of an inquest.

Dr Kelly’s body was found in woods near his house in Oxfordshire in July 2003 shortly after he was unmasked as the key source of a BBC report suggesting the government lied to justify Britain’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Unusually, no coroner’s inquest has ever been held. Instead, the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, used an obscure law to appoint Lord Hutton to chair a public inquiry into his death.

In contrast to an inquest witnesses could not be compelled to give evidence to the Hutton Inquiry.

Mr Grieve has said ‘people who have expressed concerns about why Lord Hutton did not tie up every loose end may have a valid point’. But he said he could not order a new probe ‘on a hunch’.

Lord Falconer said it was ‘a matter for others to decide’ if there should be an inquest.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Harrowdown paramedic interviewed

Kelly's body Dr David 'had obviously been moved': Paramedic at death scene reveals concerns over Hutton Inquiry

By Matt Sandy

Last updated at 1:41 AM on 12th September 2010

The paramedic who confirmed the death of Government scientist Dr David Kelly has claimed his body had ‘obviously been moved’ in the minutes after it was found.

David Bartlett was one of two medics called after the corpse of the weapons expert was discovered in woods near his Oxfordshire home seven years ago. They were among the first on the scene.

The testimony by the experienced paramedics once again brings into doubt the thoroughness of the Hutton Inquiry – in particular raising questions about why police officers were not asked whether they had touched or moved the body.

The former weapons inspector was found dead a week after he was outed as the source of BBC claims that the Government had ‘sexed up’ a document claiming Saddam Hussein’s Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes.

In his interview, 59-year-old Mr Bartlett discloses a further series of irregularities about that day’s events, putting yet more pressure on the Government to agree to a full inquest into the scientist’s death.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Dominic Grieve requested to see the report of Dr Kelly’s post-mortem. He said he would need to see ‘new evidence’ before applying for a full inquest.

Like many of the witnesses expressing doubts about the Kelly case, Oxfordshire-born Mr Bartlett is far from a conspiracy theorist. A father of three, he has been a dedicated paramedic for 24 years.

His testimony – the first time he has talked in such detail – is crucial, as the civilian volunteer searchers who first found the body said it was leaning against a tree. He said: ‘If earlier witnesses said that, then the body had obviously been moved’ by the time he got there.

Mr Bartlett backs up claims made by DC Graham Coe – the first policeman on the scene – about how little blood there was around the body. The paramedic said: ‘I’ve seen more blood at a nosebleed than I saw there.’

However, the Hutton Inquiry said that Dr Kelly had bled to death after cutting a small artery in his wrist.

A bizarre meeting with Kelly 'friend'

Mr Bartlett also said that after the body was found the police threw a ‘blackout’ around the scene – even banning him from speaking to his control room by radio. He says this is the only time it has happened in his long career.

The paramedic also reveals that, a year after the death, he was approached by a stranger in Oxford, who said he was a close friend of Dr Kelly. The man said he recognised Mr Bartlett from media coverage.

Mr Bartlett said: ‘He said to me he’d known David Kelly since he was a boy. There was nothing to doubt about him. He told me how Dr Kelly had been a member of the Baha’i faith, and that suicide was against their religion.

‘He said, “I’m telling you now, there’s no way in the world that guy committed suicide.” ’

Mr Bartlett refuses to elaborate any further or reveal the man’s identity but says he has no doubt he was genuine.

The paramedic gave evidence to the Hutton Inquiry, but said: ‘I thought they’d already decided the outcome and wanted someone to confirm it for them. They’d decided it was going to be suicide and that was all cut and dried.

‘I wasn’t impressed with how it was conducted. It should have been under oath, the photographs of the scene should have been released and they shouldn’t have sealed the documents for 70 years.’

Dr Kelly, 59, who was one of the world’s leading experts on biological and chemical weapons, left his home in the village of Southmoor, Oxfordshire, on the afternoon of July 17, 2003, saying he was going for a walk. The next morning his body was found by volunteer Louise Holmes and a search dog, in nearby Harrowdown Hill woods.

Mr Bartlett and his professional partner, Vanessa Hunt, also a paramedic for many years, had just started their shift at Abingdon ambulance station when they got the emergency call at 9.40am on July 18.

As they arrived they found the area swarming with police – some in blue combats and others in plain clothes. ‘You could tell immediately it was something high profile,’ he said.

They were met at the scene by Sergeant Alan Dadd and several other officers.
He led them up a bridle path towards the woods, as they carried heavy oxygen cylinders and the equipment needed to treat cardiac arrest.

Eventually, the police led them off the path and into the woods, constructing a ‘common approach path’ with posts and blue police tape as they accompanied the paramedics.

'I asked the police if he'd fallen out of a tree'

Mr Bartlett said: ‘As we approached the scene, it was obvious he was dead. He was lying flat out in the clearing with his bottle of water, knife and watch in line right next to his left arm.

‘His left sleeve was rolled up and you could see a wound with some dried blood around it.’

The paramedics checked for a pulse and shone a light into his eyes to check for any pupil reaction. Then – as the police took photos – they unbuttoned his shirt and placed four electrodes on his chest to check his heart.

Having pronounced him dead at 10.07am, they made their way back to their ambulance. But in just a few minutes at the scene Mr Bartlett noted many things that have troubled him ever since.

He said: ‘He was lying flat out some distance from the tree. He definitely wasn’t leaning against it. I remember saying to the copper, “Are you sure he hasn’t fallen out of the tree?”

‘When I was there the body was far enough away from the tree for someone to get behind it. I know that because I stood there when we were using the electrodes to check his heart. Later I learned that the dog team said they had found him propped up against the tree. He wasn’t when we got there. If the earlier witnesses are saying that, then the body has obviously been moved.’

Ms Holmes told the Hutton Inquiry: ‘He was at the base of the tree with almost his head on his shoulders, just slumped back against the tree.’

Paul Chapman, who was searching with Ms Holmes, also said: ‘He was sitting with his back up against a tree.’

The next man on the scene – DC Coe – told the inquiry: ‘The body was laying on its back by a large tree, the head towards the trunk of the tree.’

In an interview with The Mail on Sunday last month, DC Coe added that he thought the head and part of the shoulders were leaning against the tree.

However, the next two police officers, PC Andrew Franklin and PC Martyn Sawyer, both said that when they arrived – just before the paramedics and after DC Coe had guarded the body alone for 25 minutes – Dr Kelly was on his back.

This was also the view given by Dr Nicholas Hunt, the pathologist who examined the body at the scene.

How did Kelly's upright bottle of water remain upright?

Despite the discrepancies, none of the three police officers were asked at the inquiry whether they touched or moved the body, although DC Coe has since denied doing so.

Lord Hutton made no mention of the contradictory evidence in his report’s conclusions.

PC Franklin and PC Sawyer would not comment when approached by The Mail on Sunday.
Mr Bartlett has another concern. The Evian water bottle was standing upright no more than six inches from Dr Kelly’s left upper arm, and he is amazed that he would have not knocked it over while dying.

He said: ‘I said to the copper at the time, “Who stood the bottle of water up or has it been moved?” They said it hadn’t been moved. ‘For someone lying like that on leaf mould with a bottle of water there, he would have knocked it over while dying, I would have thought. It seemed very odd to me.’

Another point – and one that the two paramedics tried to raise at the Hutton Inquiry – was the lack of blood. Some experts have said for someone to die in the way Dr Kelly is said to have done, they would have to lose several pints of blood, which would most probably spray in all directions.

Mr Bartlett said: ‘I’ve been to loads of slashed wrists and you always get loads of blood. I would have thought he would have got more blood over him. If he’s going to bleed to death, you’ll get a fair old bit.

‘To me, people rarely commit suicide by slitting their wrists. They’ll usually do it and end up in hospital.’ But that was not the scene they found. He said: ‘There was some [blood] on his left wrist, a few specks on his shirt and a spot the size of a 10p on his trousers. There was a bit on the nettles and grass but not a lot at all.

‘We said at the time we doubted very much he would have died from that wound we saw. When it came out that the autopsy was from blood loss, we were really surprised. I’ve seen more blood at a nosebleed than I saw there.

‘I’m not saying he didn’t commit suicide. But there was very little blood for someone who allegedly bled to death.’

Dr Nicholas Hunt, the pathologist who carried out the post-mortem, broke his silence last month to claim there were clots of blood inside the sleeves of his jacket and that much blood soaked into the ground.

Mr Bartlett says he is not in a position to question those claims but said in the case of a slit wrist – even when the victim does not die – there tends to be blood ‘everywhere’.

After leaving the woods, the paramedics found the police had implemented a ‘news blackout’ – meaning they were not even allowed to radio their control room for fear it would be intercepted.

In addition, they were told that as they had been near the body, they would have to wait for a machine to arrive that was able to take their boot prints so they could be ruled out of any future inquiry.

He was later surprised to hear at the inquiry that no footprints at all had been found at the scene.

Mr Bartlett said: ‘It was only when we were walking back to the ambulance that we were told who the body was. One of the coppers told us it was going to be front-page news once it got out.

‘We were there for an hour under a news blackout. We weren’t able to radio our control or anything. That was the only time that happened to me in my 24-year career as a paramedic.’

Mr Bartlett has no doubts there should be a full inquest. He said: ‘There are more than enough doubts surrounding the case. It would be interesting to see the photographs from the scene. If they had been shown at the inquiry it would have answered a lot of questions.

‘It would have shown there was no blood on the top of him. It would have shown the position of him. It would have shown the distance of the tree from him.’

Kelly: vital report ‘is lost’



The controversy over the death of Government scientist Dr David Kelly has deepened after ambulance chiefs admitted that a vital medical record relating to the case has vanished.

The South Central Ambulance NHS Trust has lost the Patient Report Form (PRF) completed by paramedic Vanessa Hunt, who attended the scene of the former weapons inspector’s death in 2003.

The disclosure will inevitably fuel demands for a full inquest into his death.

A leading coroner yesterday said that the form is one of the key documents at an inquest as it provides a record of any incident, as recorded at the time. Ambulance crews called upon to give evidence would normally rely only on the information contained in the document.

Dr Michael Powers QC, who is leading the group of doctors campaigning for an inquest into Dr Kelly’s death, described the loss of the paperwork as ‘quite frankly astonishing’.

He said: ‘The fact that such an important document has gone missing simply strengthens the case for an inquest.

‘It was clear to everyone at the time that Dr Kelly’s death was a very significant event and the value of all contemporaneous documents should have been recognised. All documents should have been carefully copied.’

However, the trust says it can’t find either the original document or a copy scanned into its computer system, even though it has a policy of storing such documents for ten years.

And Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, who has long maintained that Dr Kelly was murdered, last night described the loss of the file as ‘unfortunate to say the least’.

At the Hutton Inquiry into Dr Kelly’s death, Ms Hunt and her colleague David Bartlett confirmed that they examined Dr Kelly’s body. They said they lifted his eyelids, felt his neck for a pulse and applied a heart monitor to his chest.

All ambulance crews have to fill out the form for every call-out, irrespective of whether a patient is alive or dead. They record a wide range of medical information including pulse rates, blood pressure and any skin condition.

At the time, the paramedics worked for the Oxfordshire Ambulance Trust, which has since merged with three others to form the South Central Ambulance NHS Trust. A spokeswoman for the trust yesterday confirmed that a form was completed for Dr Kelly, but subsequently lost.

The admission follows a year-long wrangle over a Freedom of Information request for documents concerning Dr Kelly’s death.

They included communications between the trust and the paramedics, minutes of any relevant meetings, and all correspondence with the coroner.

After waiting more than the statutory 20 working days deadline for replies, the trust eventually claimed it held no relevant information. A complaint was then lodged with the Information Commissioner. During the course of these follow-up inquiries the trust admitted it had mislaid the PRF.

In his ruling, which will be made public this week, the commissioner states: ‘[The trust] explained that it would have expected to have had a PRF. It explained that this form would only include clinical assessment information about Dr Kelly and would not contain any other information. It explained that this form had been mislaid.

It explained that the information was usually digitised and held electronically by date in its PRF archives.

‘However, having checked its system for all the entries on the date of the incident, and the dates one day either side to ensure it was not misfiled, it could not find the relevant form. It was supposed to keep this form for ten years in line with its policy. The Commissioner has checked what this form would contain and is satisfied that it would only contain clinical assessment information.’

The loss of the documents will increase pressure for an inquest into Dr Kelly’s death. This week, campaigners will make a formal application to the Attorney General to go to the High Court and demand such an inquest.

The PRF was not listed in the register of evidence supplied to the Hutton Inquiry into Dr Kelly’s death. The 2004 report, which concluded that Dr Kelly killed himself by slitting his wrists, was immediately branded a whitewash.

Unanswered concerns include the lack of blood at the scene, even though the inquiry concluded that Dr Kelly bled to death after slashing his wrists. It also recently emerged that Lord Hutton asked the Ministry of Justice to ensure documents relating to the case – including a post-mortem report – stay secret for 70 years.

A spokeswoman for the South Central Ambulance Trust said a PRF for Dr Kelly had been completed but she was under the impression it had been handed to Thames Valley Police. If that was the case the trust should still have kept a copy.

A spokesman for Thames Valley Police was unable to comment last night.

The ambulance spokeswoman said about 500,000 PRFs were completed each year, but it was impossible to say how many went missing.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Justice Secretary considers Kelly case

8 September 2010 Last updated at 14:21

Ministers consider case for David Kelly death inquest

Ministers have met to discuss whether to release information about the death of government scientist Dr David Kelly and to hold a formal inquest.

It is understood Justice Secretary Ken Clarke is considering whether to release papers on Dr Kelly's autopsy.

The weapons expert's body was found in 2003 near his Oxfordshire home after he was exposed as the source of a BBC story on the grounds for war in Iraq.

In his 2004 inquiry, Lord Hutton found that Dr Kelly had committed suicide.

But several legal and medical experts have questioned the official cause of death, given as a haemorrhage, and called for an official inquest to take place.

The then Prime Minister Tony Blair asked Lord Hutton to conduct an investigation into Dr Kelly's death instead of an inquest.

'Under consideration'

Mr Clarke met Lord Hutton on Tuesday and Attorney General Dominic Grieve on Wednesday to discuss the case.

BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said it was understood that no decision has been reached on whether to release medical papers or to ask the High Court to order a fresh inquest, and that further discussions were required.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said a request for the release of medical papers was "currently under consideration".

Lord Hutton's inquiry found 59-year-old Dr Kelly died from blood loss after slashing his wrist with a blunt gardening knife.

But several legal and medical professionals have questioned the verdict as "extremely unlikely" in the light of new evidence.

In a letter to the Times earlier this year, former coroner Michael Powers, a former deputy coroner Margaret Bloom, and Julian Bion, a professor of intensive care medicine, claimed Lord Hutton's conclusion was unsafe.

They argued the wound to Dr Kelly's wrist was unlikely to be life-threatening unless an individual had a blood-clotting deficiency as "insufficient blood would have been lost to threaten life".

But the pathologist who performed the post-mortem examination on Dr Kelly's body has insisted that his was a "textbook case" of suicide.

In August, Nicholas Hunt said the scientist's death was a "classic case of self-inflicted injury" and he believed an official inquest would confirm this.

Ministers consider releasing Kelly details

Sep 9 2010 by Tomos Livingstone, Western Mail

SENIOR government ministers met last night to discuss the possible release of information about the death of government scientist Dr David Kelly in 2003.

The weapons expert’s body was found near his Oxfordshire home after he was exposed as the source of BBC reports on a Government’s dossier on the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
Although an inquiry into the affair by Lord Hutton concluded that Llwynypia-born Dr Kelly committed suicide, there having been growing calls for an inquest into his death.

Lord Hutton, who met Justice Secretary Ken Clarke earlier this week, ruled at the time that his inquiry superseded an inquest.

Mr Clarke is considering whether to release papers on Dr Kelly’s autopsy, and whether to ask the High Court to order an inquest. Mr Clarke met Attorney General Dominic Grieve yesterday, but it is understood no decisions had yet been reached.

Lord Hutton’s inquiry found 59-year-old Dr Kelly died from blood loss after slashing his wrist with a blunt gardening knife.

A group of former coroners claimed earlier this year that there were question marks over that conclusion, although the pathologist who performed the post-mortem on Dr Kelly’s body has insisted it was a “textbook case” of suicide.

In August, Nicholas Hunt said the scientist’s death was a “classic case of self-inflicted injury” and he believed an official inquest would confirm this.

Barrister Michael Powers QC, who is acting for the former coroners in their bid to force an inquest, said: “We can’t wait indefinitely for the Government to make a decision. The doctors’ argument is that there has been insufficient inquiry into the death.

“It has been insufficient because so many people without axes to grind but wanting to see the system of justice operate recognise that it has not provided answers to perfectly proper questions which were never asked, challenged or cross-examined at the Hutton Inquiry.”

Dr Kelly’s body was found in July 2003 after he was identified as the source of a BBC story claiming the Government “sexed up” its now notorious dossier on Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction.

Lord Hutton concluded Dr Kelly took his own life and that 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”.

He also found the scientist took an overdose of co-proxamol tablets – a painkiller commonly used for arthritis – and that he was suffering from an undiagnosed heart condition.

But there have been a number of calls for another examination of the case and earlier this month Mr Grieve said: “We would like to resolve this in a way that can give the public reassurance.

“People who have expressed concerns about why Lord Hutton did not tie up every loose end may have a valid point.”

But he said he could not apply to the High Court for an inquest on a “hunch” and would have to take account of the feelings of the scientist’s close family, who have not asked for a new investigation into his death.

“I have been given no evidence to suggest an alternative cause of death,” Mr Grieve said.

In his memoir, published last week, former prime minister Tony Blair wrote: “I will never know precisely what made Dr Kelly take his own life. Who can ever know the reason behind these things? It was so sad, unnecessary and terrible. He had given such good and loyal service over so many years.

“Probably, unused to the intensity of the pressure which the [BBC] broadcast generated, he felt hemmed in and possibly vulnerable to internal discipline if his role emerged.”

He added: “The awful irony was that for all the controversy caused, Dr Kelly himself had long been advocate of getting rid of Saddam.”

Saturday, September 04, 2010

High Court inquest judgement sought

Doctors demand David Kelly inquest

A group of leading doctors will go to the high court next week in an attempt to force an inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly.

By Nick Collins

Published: 8:20AM BST 04 Sep 2010

The six doctors claim it is not possible to prove that Dr Kelly committed suicide based on the medical information available.

They want to obtain a court ruling that would require Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General, to seek a new inquest. Mr Grieve's request would also need High Court approval.

The doctors, who began their legal action last December, argue an inquest should take place because the medical evidence into the government weapons inspector's death has never been discussed publicly. Although an inquest was opened, it was adjourned due to the Hutton inquiry and has never resumed. Lord Falconer, then the Lord Chancellor, decided not to resume it, arguing that the Hutton Inquiry was sufficient.

Hopes an inquest would finally take place were raised after Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General, asked to review medical documents relating to the death of Dr Kelly.

Mr Grieve said an inquest would only be allowed to take place in the event that new evidence is found.

The doctors appealing for an inquest, all experts in trauma and vascular surgery, are Dr Stephen Frost; Dr Martin Birnstingl; Dr David Halpin; Dr Andrew Rouse; Dr Christopher Burns-Cox; and Dr Michael Powers QC.

Frances Swaine, a solicitor representing all of the doctors except Dr Powers, insisted they were motivated by "professional integrity" and that the Hutton inquiry's verdict that Dr Kelly bled to death after cutting his wrist was not sufficiently proved.

The inquiry, commissioned by then Prime Minister Tony Blair and led by Lord Hutton, found that Dr Kelly committed suicide in woods near his home in Oxfordshire in July 2003.

His death followed the disclosure that he was the source behind claims that the Government "sexed up" a dossier on potential weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Ms Swaine said: "They think it outrageous that this view has simply been accepted without examination.

"We have not seen any evidence that Dr Kelly bled to death in the way Lord Hutton thought likely."

In a separate move, the doctors have also requested permission to examine medical documentation related to Dr Kelly's death.

Lord Hutton initially ruled that medical documents relating to the death would be kept secret for 70 years, but has indicated he will not block their publication.

Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, is expected to give the doctors an answer next week.

Ms Swaine claimed the arrival at a verdict of suicide without proper examination of the medical evidence was uncommon, adding: "The post-mortem report was seen by Lord Hutton but so far as we know, never considered, at least not at the inquiry."

Last month a separate group of nine doctors voiced concerns that Dr Kelly could not have died from cutting the small ulnar artery in his wrist.

The Attorney General's spokesman confirmed legal papers had been submitted to the Ministry of Justice.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Reading the papers

Send me the secret files on Dr Kelly: Attorney General WILL study papers that could finally lead to an inquest

By James Slack

Last updated at 10:29 PM on 1st September 2010

Attorney General Dominic Grieve has made a dramatic U-turn and taken possession of secret files which could trigger an inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly.

The Mail can reveal that Mr Grieve and his officials will shortly begin poring over post-mortem reports which Lord Hutton controversially ruled should be kept under lock and key for 70 years.

It is a highly unusual step which means that, for the first time, Mr Grieve is actively seeking the evidence required to hold a new inquiry into the weapons inspector's death.

He previously insisted he had no 'investigative function' and that he could only view the documents if they were released to the public by Justice Secretary Ken Clarke.

Whitehall sources say the fact that Mr Grieve has requested the files does not mean an inquest will definitely take place.

However, it will speed up the decision-making process, they said.

Campaigners say Dr Kelly could not have taken his life by cutting a small artery in his wrist - the verdict reached by the Hutton Inquiry.

Tony Blair appointed Lord Hutton in 2003 to head a public inquiry into his death.

But, unusually, no inquest was held because the then Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer ruled the inquiry would suffice.

Sceptics hope the opening of the previously secret medical reports - including a controversial postmortem by the pathologist Nicholas Hunt - will unearth sufficient concerns to justify holding a fresh investigation.

Mr Grieve has said 'people who have expressed concerns about why Lord Hutton did not tie up every loose end may have a valid point'.

But he said he could not order a new probe 'on a hunch', and that he must first gain access to the secret papers.

After repeatedly saying it was down to Mr Clarke to release the documents, Government sources say he changed his mind last week and asked the Ministry of Justice if they could be sent to his department.

He took possession of the files earlier this week, according to Whitehall insiders. The Mail revealed last month that, as Attorney General, he was entitled to see the papers, regardless of whether Mr Clarke rules they are suitable for public release.

The Justice Secretary has yet to reach a decision on whether they should be made available to anyone other than Mr Grieve.

Lord Hutton instructed they should be kept hidden for 70 years to protect the Kelly family - who do not want a new investigation - from further distress.

Mr Grieve will wish to establish whether there are any discrepancies between the post-mortem report and Lord Hutton's official verdict of how Dr Kelly died.

The weapons expert's body was found in a wood near his Oxfordshire home in July 2003, shortly after he had been exposed as the source of a BBC report which said the government had exaggerated the grounds for going to war in Iraq.

Lord Hutton concluded that he had taken his own life by severing the small ulnar artery in his wrist with a blunt garden knife.

But nine doctors have written an open letter casting grave doubt that Dr Kelly could have died from loss of blood in the way described.

Mr Grieve has also been sent a medical report by a group of eminent doctors suggesting it would have been 'impossible' for Dr Kelly to lose sufficient blood through the artery to kill him.

The Attorney General will also wish to check whether there are any differences between the pathology reports and recent public remarks made by Dr Hunt.

The pathologist insisted Dr Kelly's death was a 'textbook' case of suicide and that he had found nothing to indicate the weapons expert was murdered, despite an eight-hour examination of the body.

Dr Hunt contradicted claims that there was not enough blood and added that there was 'nothing to suggest' the body had been moved, another claim from critics of the investigation.

The doctors campaigning for an inquest have written to Mr Clarke saying Dr Hunt was wrong to publish confidential evidence that the Government is still refusing to release and that has not been placed before a coroner.

In their letter, they say Dr Hunt's comments appear to be part of an officially sanctioned attempt to silence the clamour for an inquest.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Tony Blair's Journey

Tony Blair on Andrew Gilligan, Dr Kelly and WMDs

1 September 2010

By Dominic Ponsford

Tony Blair blames former Radio 4 Today journalist Andrew Gilligan for dealing a permanent blow to his own integrity with his infamous report about the “sexing-up” of the dossier making the case for war with Iraq.

In his memoirs published today, former Prime Minister Blair talks in detail about the BBC’s reporting of the “45-minute” claim on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the creation of the September 2002 dossier.

He admits that the intelligence on WMD was wrong, and that this was a “real story”. But he denies Gilligan’s implication of deceit which turned a “difficult situation” into one which “remains an ugly one” and "set the pattern for interaction between ourselves and the media in the years that followed".

Blair quotes at length from one of Gilligan’s Radio 4 Today Programme reports on 29 May, 2003.

In it Gilligan said: “What we’ve been told by one of the senior officials in charge of drawing up that dossier was that actually the government probably knew that that 45-minute figure was wrong even before it decided to put it in…Downing Street, our source says, a week before publication ordered it to be sexed up, to be made more exciting and ordered more facts to be discovered.”

Blair writes: “There could hardly have been a more inflammatory or severe charge. Mistaken intelligence is one thing. Intelligence know to be mistaken but nonetheless still published as accurate is a wholly different matter. That is not a mistake but misconduct.”

Blair says that as a result of the story “the division over the war became not a disagreement but a rather vicious dispute about the honesty of those involved. A difficult situation became and remains an ugly one.”

Blair says: “The intelligence was wrong. We admitted it. We apologised for it. We explained it, even. But it was never enough, in today’s media, for there to have been a mistake.

“The mistake is serious; but it is an error. Humans make errors. And, given Saddam’s history, it was an understandable error. But it leads to a headline that doesn’t satisfy today’s craving for scandal.

“A mistake doesn’t hit the register high enough. So the search goes on for a lie, a deception, an act not of error but of malfeasance. And the problem is, if one can’t be found, one is contrived or even invented.”

Blair says that the 45-minute claim was put in the dossier by the Joint Intelligence Committee.

He adds that Gilligan made the situation worse by claiming in a Mail on Sunday story that Alastair Campbell was the author of the 45-minute claim.

The death of Dr David Kelly

Blair says: “It was never clear if Dr Kelly, who though he admitted talking to Gilligan denied making the allegation, really did brief him in terms that justify the story.

“But what followed set the pattern for the interaction between ourselves and the media in the years that followed. Relations between myself and the BBC never really recovered; and parts of the media were pretty off limits after it."

Blair says that the public naming of government advisor Dr David Kelly as Gilligan’s source was “the subject of brutal media allegations, particularly against Alastair”.

“It was suggested that he had leaked the name in breach of instructions from the Ministry of Defence. He hadn’t. It was simply that once we knew it was Dr Kelly, and since the Foreign Affairs Committee was engaged in investigating the 45-minutes claim and broadcast, we would have been at risk of a charge of concealment from them had we known the source of the leak and refused to say."

Blair said the “whole thing was handled by Dr Kelly’s line management” leading to the release of Kelly’s name on 10 July.

Noting that the BBC then refused to say whether Kelly was their source, Blair writes: “It was all very well for them to hold to the traditional journalistic practice of not revealing their source, but this was patently an exceptional case. Here was someone being described as the source. They could confirm or deny his involvement.”

Blair describes being woken in the middle of the night after addressing Congress in the United States 17 July to be told the news that Dr Kelly had apparently taken his own life.

“Of course in the rational world, it would be a personal tragedy. It would be explained by the pressure on him. It would be treated as an isolated event. I knew there was not the slightest chance of that happening in our media climate.

“It would be treated as a Watergate-style killing. It would provoke every manner of conspiracy theory. It would give permission for any and every fabrication of context, background and narrative. The media would declare it was a scandal. They were absolutely capable of ensuring there was one.”

Talking in general about the reporting of the Dr Kelly affair and the subsequent Hutton Report, Blair says: “The Gilligan broadcast led the news because it alleged misconduct, a lie, in effect. He thought he had a source, but an allegation that serious should at least, you would have thought, be put to the people against whom it was made.

“We were never even contacted before it was broadcast. In any event, a mere mistake was never going to lead the news.

“Now, in actual fact, it should do. The intelligence was wrong and we should have, and I have, apologised for it. So the real story is a story and a true one. But in today’s environment, it doesn’t have that sensational, outrage-producing ‘wow’ factor of scandal. Hence the error is made into a deception.

“And is this relationship between politics and media which then defines the political debate.”