Embarrassing Misprint on BBC News

The BBC has a headline on its news ticker that reads:

Doctors call for fresh inquest into death of government scientist Dr David Kelly

Clicking on the link takes you to this story. It turns out that the “Doctors” in question are, principally, a man called David Halpin. The names of the other doctors who agree with Halpin are not given, but I believe he has a couple. There are, needless to say, a larger number of doctors who do not believe that there is any mystery in David Kelly’s death: but who have not made this issue one of their hobbyhorses.

David Halpin is most certainly a doctor. However, he is far better known as a crank of the first order, who passes his time writing loopy letters to the BBC and national newspapers. Here is an example of one such letter of complaint, to the Today Programme:

I have met Ishmail Haniyeh, the PM, in March 2007 with fellow doctors, and other Hamas ministers since. I would judge them to be trustworthy men who are doing what is right for their tormented people, unlike the collaborator Abbas and his friends. Insight into Hamas, and the literal crucifixion of these people…

I think we can all see where Halpin is coming from. Have a look through his website, and you will too.

Halpin has his own loopy theories about David Kelly’s death. They are dealt with well by David Aaronovitch in his book, Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History.

The BBC ought to be savvier than this. Halpin has been banging this drum for years. The fact that he has issued a new press release on his kooky theory is no more a news event, than the publication of yet another article “proving” that the Earl of Oxford or Sir Francis Bacon really wrote Shakespeare’s plays.

A much better headline for this article would have been:

Nutter calls for fresh inquest into death of government scientist Dr David Kelly

That epithet is not only factually accurate: it also has the advantage of conveying to the BBC’s readership, just how seriously this latest piece of agitation by a very disturbed old man ought to be taken.