Timeline: Dr David Kelly
July 18, 2003
At 5.55pm the government issues a statement saying a Ministry of Defence official has come forward and admitted meeting BBC defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan on May 22. The official said he met Gilligan, whom he had known for "some months", at a central London hotel, and that he had been asked about weapons of mass destruction and Alastair Campbell.
"He says that when Mr Gilligan asked about the role of Alastair Campbell with regard to the 45 minute issue, he made no comment and explained that he was not involved in the process of drawing up the intelligence parts of the dossier," the statement said.
"He made no other comment about Mr Campbell. When Mr Gilligan asked him why the 45 minute point was in the dossier, he says he commented that it was 'probably for impact'. He says he did not see the 45 minute intelligence report on which it was based."
The government says the official is not one of the senior officials involved in drawing up the September dossier, but an expert who has advised ministers on weapons of mass destruction.
The BBC responds, saying the description issued by the government does not match Gilligan's source in important ways - "Mr Gilligan's source does not work in the Ministry of Defence and he has known the source for a number of years, not months," the BBC says in a statement.
Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary, writes to BBC chairman Gavyn Davies asking him to confirm or deny whether Dr David Kelly, a renowned microbiologist and advisor to the Ministry of Defence, was the original source of Gilligan's story. The BBC steadfastly refuses to reveal any information about its source, saying it will not be drawn into a trap.
Tony Blair's spokesman says the approach is "not an assault on journalistic sources, this is not an assault on the BBC, it is not a vendetta". He insists it is a "genuine attempt to get at the truth behind what is one of the most serious allegations you can make against a government".
The BBC responds by saying the story has descended into farce. "The MoD has lost all credibility on this issue. It completely changed its story overnight for spurious reasons, and we intend to draw a line under the matter. We are not going to discuss our source," the corporation says in a statement.
The MoD issues a statement saying it has named the official who has come forward in a letter to the BBC, but not naming the source. However, by the end of the day some lobby journalists have mysteriously learnt of his identity.
When the Times political reporting team contacts the MoD and put Dr Kelly's name to the department, his name is confirmed. By 11.40pm he has been named as Gilligan's source on the Press Association newswire.
Downing Street categorically denies being the source of the leak. In its report on July 10, the Times says Downing Street is "99% convinced" that Dr Kelly is Gilligan's source.
Dr Kelly is called to give evidence before the foreign affairs select committee. Asked by MPs whether he thinks he is the main source for Gilligan's story he says: "No." He admits meeting Gilligan on three occasions since September 2002, including a meeting on May 22 at the Charing Cross hotel in central London.
Dr Kelly says that while certain aspects of Gilligan's report tallied with their conversation, his account of Campbell's intervention in the September dossier was not "a factual record of my interaction with him". "From the conversations I had with him, I don't know how he could have had the authority to make the statements he is making," Dr Kelly told the committee.
He also admits meeting with Newsnight science correspondent Susan Watts after a talk he had given on November 5 last year, and to speaking to her in several telephone conversations subsequently.
MPs on the committee back Dr Kelly's denial, issuing a statement saying he was "most unlikely" to have been the source behind the "sexed up" dossier claim and criticising the government's treatment of him. The committee says Dr Kelly has been "poorly treated" by the defence minister, and Labour member Andrew Mackinlay says he had been used as a "fall guy".
Donald Anderson, the chairman of the committee, writes to foreign secretary Jack Straw demanding an apology for the way Dr Kelly was treated.
Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith calls on Tony Blair to apologise for the treatment of Dr Kelly. Speaking at prime minister's questions, Mr Blair refuses to apologise and once again calls on the BBC to name Gilligan's source.
"The Ministry of Defence made it clear that of course they don't know who the source is. There's only one body that does - the BBC. All they have to do is say yes or no - why don't they?" asks the prime minister.
At 3pm Dr Kelly leaves his home at Southmoor, near Abingdon in Oxfordshire, telling his wife he is going for a walk. Although he is accustomed to walking for several hours at a time in the footpaths near his home, he is dressed inappropriately for the wet weather, wearing only a shirt and not taking a coat with him. When he fails to return home by 11.45pm, his family contacts the police.
Dr Kelly is reported missing by Thames Valley Police. Around 9.20am, police find the body of a male at Harrowdown Hill near to Dr Kelly's home. There are no other reported missing persons in the area, and Dr Kelly is known to have enjoyed walking near the hill, about 45 minutes to an hour from his home.
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