The Treatment of David Kelly

Dr Kelly complained of 'dark actors playing games'

Oct. 16, 2003

The one key figure not present at the Hutton Inquiry was the man whose death prompted the investigation.

Yet by the time the inquiry was complete, observers will have felt they knew a little more about David Kelly.

Individuals spoke of him as a modest, yet highly respected, figure who was one of the foremost authorities on Iraq's weapons capability.

But he broke rules governing civil servants - the significance of which is just one of the issues to be clarified in documents issued during the Hutton Inquiry.

Unfortunately, other issues - such as whether Dr Kelly really did realise his name was likely to become known publicly - remain more obscure.

How Dr Kelly was identified

Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence launched a molehunt almost as soon as Andrew Gilligan's report on alleged concerns about the government's dossier on Iraq was broadcast, on 29 May.

Officials had their suspicions, but the breakthrough came when Dr Kelly wrote to his boss, Bryan Wells, admitting: "Andrew Gilligan is a journalist that I know and have met."

However, Dr Kelly said he believed he was not Gilligan's primary source.

As activity in Whitehall was stepped up, mandarins and minister found themselves in a quandary over whether to make Dr Kelly's name public.

One memo written on 8 July by John Scarlett - chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committe and former head of MI6 - reveals: "If Dr K name becomes public, will government be criticised for putting him under 'wider pressure?'"

Downing Street's media chief, Alastair Campbell, appeared to have no such qualms.

Extracts from his diaries, revealed during the second phase of the inquiry, show he was determined to see Dr Kelly unmasked because he believed it would discredit Andrew Gilligan's story - a view apparently shared by Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, according to the diaries.

Dr Kelly was questioned internally, but there was also the issue of whether to allow him to appear before the two Commons select committees investigating what led to Britain going to war with Iraq.

Meanwhile, Mr Hoon was trying to put pressure on the BBC to confirm that Dr Kelly was the source of the Today report.

The BBC chairman was in no mood to oblige.

As the row between the government and BBC escalated, Mr Hoon wrote to Mr Davies again, by now happy to put Dr Kelly's name to the BBC chairman in confidence - but to no avail.

The Ministry of Defence decided it had to make a statement revealing that an "individual" had come forward to admit that he met Gilligan.

In a riveting final day of the inquiry, the MoD's top civil servant, Sir Kevin Tebbit, revealed that the statement - which he said was linked to the key change in how to deal with press inquiries about the source - was approved at a meeting chaired by prime minister Tony Blair.

A Q&A briefing was prepared for MoD press officers. But it was only the third and final version that instructed them to confirm Dr Kelly's name if it was guessed by a journalist.

Mr Hoon told the inquiry he was not involved in this decision to confirm the name. But his special adviser, Richard Taylor, later confirmed the meeting where it was discussed was held in his office - with the minister present.

Interviews and briefings

As realisation dawned that Dr Kelly could be Gilligan's source, top Whitehall intelligence man John Scarlett became involved.

In a note to his boss, Sir David Omand, he wrote: "The finger points strongly at David Kelly", and a "security-style" interview was required to "thrash out" inconsistencies in what he had said.

Dr Kelly was interviewed on 4 July and again three days later. According to the MoD's Richard Hatfield, Dr Kelly was warned the MoD would have to reveal someone had admitted talking to Gilligan, and that it was "quite likely" his name would come out eventually - an assertion disputed by his family.

As Dr Kelly was grilled, the ramifications were being discussed at the highest level. Intelligence chief Sir David Omand revealed in a letter to Sir Kevin Tebbit that the prime minister wanted "deeper analysis" of what Dr Kelly had said before deciding whether to let him appear before the Foreign Affairs select committee.

Sir Kevin believed Dr Kelly should face the Intelligence and Security Committee, which normally meets in private, but recommended to his boss, Mr Hoon, that he resist requests for him to appear before the Foreign Affairs Committee.

However, the defence secretary overruled him.

The day before his dual ordeal was due to take place, MoD chiefs briefed Dr Kelly, assuring him he should be "free to tell his own story".

Treatment: the media and the MoD

Amid the controversy that followed Andrew Gilligan's report on the Today programme, it began to dawn on Dr Kelly that he might be involved.

As the clamour to identify the source grew, Dr Kelly decided to tell his boss - a move that was to trigger a stream of internal investigations and interviews before his superiors.

While MoD personnel chief Richard Hatfield concluded formal disciplinary proceedings were not appropriate, he sent him a letter of admonishment.

He told him: "These are serious breaches of standard departmental procedure."

The pressure was beginning to tell on Dr Kelly. His daughter, Rachel, told the inquiry: "I was aware that he seemed very gentle, more childlike. I was very concerned that our roles seemed to be reversing. I needed to look after him and he needed to be looked after."

His widow, Janice, said he went "ballistic" when he heard he would have to give televised evidence. She said he was also deeply hurt by what he saw as belittling comments about him.

A psychiatrist told the inquiry his public exposure and feeling that he was being undermined were likely to have contributed to his suicide.

There is little evidence that Dr Kelly was given much support as his identity was revealed as the possible source, although Mr Hoon insisted his department showed concern for his welfare.

He was briefed by MoD chiefs about his appearances before MPs - though senior MoD intelligence official Martin Howard admitted under cross-examination that the prime purpose of checking that Dr Kelly was "all right" was to establish that he was properly prepared for his grilling.

And officials warned him and his wife to leave their home as quickly as possible once they released their controversial statement, saying that an "official" had come forward.

But his family said Dr Kelly was left pretty much to himself to cope with a situation of such magnitude that in just a few weeks his whole appearance and demeanour appeared to have changed.

Mr Hoon admitted Dr Kelly was probably not aware of the proposed question-and-answer approach by the press office, where his name would be confirmed if guessed by a journalist.

And a note of a joint intelligence sub-committee meeting recorded: "Kelly is apparently feeling the pressure and does not appear to be handling it well" - an assertion that Sir Kevin told the inquiry surprised him.

Rachel Kelly said her father was also disturbed by Gilligan's suggestion that he could have been the sole source for his report. He said he did not recognise many of the comments as his.

A number of e-mails between Dr Kelly and some of his friends shed a little light on how he must have been feeling in the moments leading to his death.

He told journalist friend Tom Mangold it was "not a good time to be in touch". And he told a friend he could not tell how his select-committee performances would be judged because there were "many dark actors playing games".

Even on the day he apparently took his life, he had to provide yet more information for his bosses. He also replied to a number of supportive e-mails from friends.

They were to be his last written words.

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