Published July 20, 2003
SOUTHMOOR, England – British police said Saturday that the death of former weapons inspector David Kelly (search) was apparently self-inflicted.
Kelly hemorrhaged to death after slitting his left wrist, said acting superintendent David Purnell of Thames Valley Police. A knife and pain-killers were found near where his body was recovered.
"Whilst our inquiries are continuing, there is no indication at this stage of any other party being involved," Purnell said. "The painkiller found at the scene was coproxamol (search), which often figures in overdose deaths in England.”
Kelly, a Defense Ministry (search) expert and former weapons inspector, was suspected of being the source of news reports that the government hyped a dossier on Saddam Hussein's weapons program to justify the invasion of Iraq.
"Events over recent weeks have made David's life intolerable, and all of those involved should reflect long and hard on this fact," his family said in a statement police read to reporters.
His wife said Kelly felt enormous pressure when he was called before a Parliamentary committee where he denied that he was the source the government was vigorously trying to smoke out.
The death overshadowed the start of Blair's five-day visit to Asia. The prime minister launched the trip Saturday amid calls for him to return home to deal with the crisis.
At a tense press conference in Hakone, Japan alongside Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Blair stood stony-faced, when a journalist asked if he had "blood on your hands" and would resign. He said nothing before shaking hands with Koizumi to end the press conference.
Earlier, Blair reminded reporters that he had ordered an inquiry, and "I think we should make our judgments when we get the facts."
The death was a dramatic development amid an ongoing controversy over the government's use of Iraqi intelligence — and it is likely to raise questions why it unmasked Kelly as the possible source of the leak.
The furor started with a May 29 report by the British Broadcasting Corp. citing an unidentified intelligence source saying a government file on Iraq was "sexed up" to make a more convincing case for military action.
Called before Parliament for an inquiry, Kelly, a U.N. weapons inspector between 1991 and 1998, denied being the source.
Kelly's wife told police that he was stressed and "very, very angry" about being caught up in a public controversy.
Janice Kelly reported her husband missing Thursday night when he failed to return from an afternoon walk. The body was found Friday morning on the edge of a clump of woods within a mile of Kelly's home in the village of Southmoor, 20 miles southwest of Oxford.
Comments by politicians and friends of Kelly on TV news broadcasts suggested the pressure of the case might have led to his death. No one has suggested foul play and police refused to speculate.
A headline in The Independent on Saturday called Kelly "a casualty of war." The Daily Telegraph said "Death of the dossier fall guy," while the Daily Mail ran photos of Blair, Campbell and Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon under the headline, "Proud of Yourselves?"
Opposition Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith urged Blair to return to London. "There are very many questions that will need to be asked over the coming days," Duncan Smith said. The death was a sensational development in a controversy threatening the government's credibility.
Labor lawmaker Glenda Jackson, a vehement critic of the war in Iraq, called for Blair to resign. "I don't see how the government is going to be able to function adequately," she said Saturday in a radio interview.
Kelly, a soft-spoken, gray-haired scientist with a white beard and eyeglasses, was grilled in a nationally televised committee session over the BBC report.
Kelly told the House of Commons committee that he had met BBC defense correspondent Andrew Gilligan, but did not think he was the source of the report.
In his story, Gilligan quoted an unidentified intelligence source saying the government had ignored experts' doubts in claiming Iraq could deploy some chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes.
Gilligan later said his source had accused Blair's communications chief, Alastair Campbell, of insisting the claim be included.
Campbell denied that in testimony to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee.
Asked if he believed Campbell had interfered in drafting the dossier, Kelly responded: "I do not believe that at all."
Andrew Mackinlay, a legislator from Blair's Labor Party, asked Kelly if he was being used by the Defense Ministry to divert attention.
"Have you ever felt like the fall guy? You have been set up, haven't you?"
Kelly replied, "I accept the process that is happening."
The BBC refused to bow to government pressure to reveal its source.
Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon — Kelly's boss — said the weapons adviser had come forward to say he had had an unauthorized meeting with the BBC reporter and had not mentioned Campbell.
The BBC has not denied that, but did say that its source did not work for the Ministry of Defense.
An Oxford-educated microbiologist, Kelly, 59, has been the senior adviser to the Proliferation and Arms Control Secretariat in the Ministry of Defense for more than three years.
Kelly was in Baghdad briefly in June where he met with troops involved in the weapons hunt. And he was scheduled to return to Baghdad and take up a post with the Iraq Survey Group, a Pentagon-led effort taking over the search for suspected weapons of mass destruction
The Associated Press contributed to this report.