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The David Kelly conspiracy

According to the Daily Mail (ho, ho ho), only one in five of you believe David Kelly committed suicide.

According to an exclusive Mail opinion poll, only one in five people accepts the Hutton Inquiry’s finding that the government weapons inspector took his own life.

The survey also reveals that eight out of ten people want a full inquest. With senior MPs making the same demand, the Coalition is under strong pressure to act.

It comes as a medical report says it was ‘impossible’ that Dr Kelly bled to death in the way described by the inquiry.

The “impossible circumstances” of Kelly’s death are described by the pathologist who examined Kelly in today’s Sunday Times (paywall) as:

“an absolute classic case of self-inflicted injury. You could illustrate a textbook with it. If it were anyone else and you were to suggest there’s something foul about it, you would be referred for additional training.”

Details disclosed from the pathologist report include:

  • Claims that there was little blood at the scene were inaccurate. Hunt found “big clots” on the inside of Kelly’s Barbour jacket and soaked into the ground.
  • Kelly had about a dozen cuts on his left wrist of varying sizes, including “hesitation” cuts — shallow cuts that he made as he tried to summon the resolve to kill himself.
  • Two of Kelly’s main coronary arteries were 70%-80% narrower than normal. His heart disease was so severe that he could have “dropped dead” at any moment.
  • A millimetre by millimetre examination of his body and DNA testing found no evidence of the involvement of a third party.
  • Kelly’s death was caused by bleeding from the cuts to his wrist, severe heart disease and an overdose of painkillers.

Andrew Gilligan also discounts the theories of murder:

Though I’d initially doubted the suicide verdict, that was before I knew quite how badly David had been treated. After learning what he went through at the hands of his employers, it is easier to understand the road that led him to that Oxfordshire hillside. David was placed under great pressure by senior government figures. He was intensively interviewed, forced into televised interrogation, coached in what to say, and then found himself caught in an untruth amid the blaze of publicity – an untruth which, on the morning of his death, his bosses told him they would investigate.

David defined himself by his work, and his reputation for integrity. The fear of losing that work, and that reputation, must have been terrifying to him, even if it was unfounded. Nor had I known (why should I?) of his relationship with his wife – who, we discovered, was not even told he had taken up the Baha’i faith until nearly two years afterwards. All this points to suicide – with only one faint alternative possibility. Not murder, just perhaps a kind of misadventure – a “cry for help” that went wrong.

In today’s Independent, Tom Mangold agrees with Andrew Gilligan, although he makes a point Gilligan omits:

Kelly lied because he had been warned by his MoD bosses that if any other skeletons fell out of the cupboard involving him and unauthorised press briefings, his future would be in doubt. But he had already been betrayed: what the arms inspector never knew was that Andrew Gilligan, in a breach of journalistic ethics, had previously emailed Chidgey, suggesting that Kelly had indeed been the author of those words and the source for Watts’s broadcast. Worse still, Kelly did not know when he gave evidence that Watts had, quite properly, recorded the interview with him for the purpose of record only. She had not warned Kelly.

But how did Gilligan know Kelly was the source? Watts didn’t tell him. He says it was a lucky shot in the dark. But there is an alternative theory. Watts revealed Kelly’s name only to her editor, George Entwistle. It is likely that Kelly’s name reached top BBC bosses who needed to prove Kelly had briefed not only Gilligan but several BBC reporters. In turn, Gilligan, I believe, learned Kelly had been Watts’s source. With this, Gilligan had the ammunition he needed to arm David Chidgey at the hearing.

Kelly was hung out to dry by journalists.

The only conspiracy is the Daily Mail’s campaign. As it has bounced and rolled away from the hills of reality into the forest of wingnuttery, it has accreted additional self-defined experts and a large proportion of the UK population.

(P.S. I recently read David Aaronovitch’s entertaining Voodoo Histories, which debunked the Kelly conspiracy. Much recommended.)

UPDATE: Nick Cohen also weighs in on the BBC’s betrayal of Kelly.

Susan Watts, an honourable reporter on Newsnight, told her editor that she had a tape of Kelly making some of the same criticisms Gilligan said he had made to him. She quickly became so worried about what her superiors were planning to do with her confidence she hired lawyers to protect herself and Kelly from “considerable internal pressure to reveal her source”.

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