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.


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