Mon, 24 Jul 2006 12:00 CDT
An opposition member of parliament has alleged that a government scientist who cast doubt on intelligence about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction may not have taken his own life.
A judicial inquiry into the death of David Kelly in July 2003 concluded that the one-time UN weapons inspector and expert on Saddam Hussein's weapons programmes committed suicide.
He did so after he was named as the source of a BBC news report suggesting that Tony Blair's government had "sexed up" intelligence in the run-up to the US and British invasion of Iraq four months earlier.
"Today, I challenge that conclusion," wrote Norman Baker, from the Liberal Democrats, in the Mail on Sunday newspaper.
"I do so on the basis that the medical evidence available simply cannot sustain it, that Dr Kelly's own behaviour and character argues against it and that there were serious shortcomings in the way the legal and investigative processes set up to consider his death were followed."
Points raised by Baker -- whose centre-left party opposed the Iraq war -- included the fact that Kelly supposedly cut his ulnary artery in his wrist, a more difficult and painful option than the radial artery.
In 2003, Baker said, Kelly was the only person recorded to have taken his or her own life in this fashion.
Baker also said that paramedics who attended the scene where Kelly's body was found in Oxfordshire noticed that he had lost little blood and was "incredibly unlikely" to have died from the wound they saw.
Police said that 29 tablets of pain-killer coproxamol were missing from a packet in his home, but all that was found in Dr Kelly's stomach was the equivalent of one-fifth of a tablet, Baker said.
Volunteer searchers who found his body said he was slumped against a tree, rather than lying prone, as police stated.
And despite the stress he was under in the days leading to his death, Baker said contacts with friends and relatives showed no sign that Kelly had suicidal thoughts.
Baker also faulted the way Kelly's death was investigated, saying that the pathologist assigned to the case was one of the least experienced in the country, and that Lord Brian Hutton, who conducted the judicial inquiry, had never conducted such a public inquiry before in his long career.
"Many people find it hard to accept that Dr Kelly's death was suicide and the passage of time has only firmed up that doubt," wrote Baker in the Mail on Sunday, which editorially is highly critical of Blair's government.
"I am conscious that some, particularly those who were close to him, will want to put all this behind them, to move on. The reality, however, is that this episode is not going to go away."